The UK Civil Aviation Authority has issued regulatory approval to New York-based JetBlue, allowing the airline to operate transatlantic routes between London, New York, and Boston, the agency confirmed on Monday.
All non-UK air carriers that want to undertake commercial services to, from, or within the UK must hold a Foreign Carrier Permit. The approval marks the first such permit issued to a new operator since the UK's exit from the European Union.
JetBlue in April 2019 announced its intention to start transatlantic service this year using Airbus A321LRs, calling it the next natural step in its focus city expansion strategy. London remains the largest destination not served by JetBlue from both New York and Boston, the airline said.
Although JetBlue has expressed confidence in the commercial viability of low-fare transatlantic service, the recent departure of Norwegian Air Shuttle—due largely to the Covid crisis—and the previous bankruptcies of Wow Air and Primera Air have illustrated the difficulty of sustaining profits on such routes. In fact, many of the same challenges that entrants faced in the past remain: such as the seasonality of markets like the North Atlantic where summer traffic typically doubles that of the winter, access to business traffic, and distribution of travel segments.
JetBlue, however, will follow Aer Lingus in launching narrowbody service this summer between the U.S. and Europe, and both believe the A321LR—with its specially designed interiors featuring lie-flat seats for long-haul flights—will prove more suitable than any previous single-aisle airplane from a cost, range, and comfort perspective. Upon announcing its transatlantic plan, JetBlue said it converted previous orders for 13 A321s to A321LRs for delivery in 2021. Two months later, at the 2019 Paris Air Show, it inked a deal with Airbus to convert another 13 A321s to A321XLRs—featuring still more range and fuel burn improvements—for delivery in 2023.