JetBlue Slashes its Winter Transatlantic Schedule — A Sign of Weakness or Strength?

Skift Take

Almost a third of the airline’s long-haul European capacity is being cut as it redeploys aircraft and resources to routes in the Americas.

JetBlue is making big cuts to its transatlantic network for the coming winter season. Analysis of new schedules shows almost one-third of its European capacity will be removed by the end of October. Notably, the changes are in addition to flights that were already due to be operated seasonally.

Three routes are affected, with London Gatwick hardest hit. The carrier’s daily service from Boston will be suspended from the end of September. Another casualty is New York JFK to Gatwick. The daily route is being cut from October 26. This will leave the British airport without any JetBlue service this winter.

Continental Europe is also facing reductions, with capacity between JFK and Paris being halved. From the end of October, the route will be operated once a day, down from its previously scheduled twice-daily frequency.

JetBlue confirmed to Skift that all of the above services are due to return at the end of March 2025. Operations to and from London Heathrow are unaffected.

Speaking at the Skift Global Forum in September 2022, Joanna Geraghty – then in her role as JetBlue president and COO – said transatlantic operations had been performing strongly. “Load factors have been through the roof, and I’d say it’s pretty tough to get a Mint seat flying across the pond.”

An Airline in Transition

Many airlines choose to offer seasonal routes, particularly to secondary airports. For example, Delta Air Lines operates its own JFK to Gatwick service, but only between late March and October. Other JetBlue flights to Dublin and Edinburgh were already due to end for the winter on September 30.

The pros and cons of seasonal flying are not the main issue here. The bigger question is this: Are cuts to JetBlue’s previously advertised year-round flights a sign of weak bookings, or an agile company that isn’t afraid to make bold decisions?

One thing isn’t in doubt – the changes come as the airline grapples to restore its profitability.

Speaking earlier this year, Geraghty described the company’s “renewed focus”, adding that the carrier is “bringing more data-driven rigor, intensity and creativity than ever before.” Loss-making domestic routes have been cut and fleet renewal programs expedited.  

The change in strategy has seen movement in the boardroom too. In February, activist investor Carl Icahn gained two seats on JetBlue’s board after acquiring a nearly 10% stake in the company. Long-time executive Marty St. George also made a surprise return to the airline, taking on the role of president. 

JetBlue Transatlantic Cuts in Context

According to data from Cirium Diio, the reductions across the three routes will see a net loss of more than 6,000 seats every week from the JetBlue transatlantic network this winter. Before these latest changes, the airline was due to offer an average of 19,628 weekly seats between inbound and outbound services. 

Despite, or perhaps because of, the deep cuts across the Atlantic, JetBlue is expanding elsewhere. The company is ramping up capacity to the Caribbean by launching flights from its JFK hub to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

It is also adding Flamingo International Airport in Bonaire to its route map. JetBlue described these destinations as “markets with limited competition but high demand.” The airline will be the only operator offering nonstop flights from JFK to the islands. 

Other notable additions in the region include a return to St. Croix – a destination JetBlue previously served from 2011 to 2019. This is one of six new routes from Puerto Rico for the coming winter season. 

Elsewhere, JetBlue is rolling out its popular Mint premium cabin on more routes. Canada will see the carrier’s flagship product for the first time on daily departures between New York and Vancouver. Phoenix and Fort Lauderdale are also set to welcome more Mint flights. The airline described the changes as “strategic network and product moves.”

Shaking Up the Schedules

JetBlue said it was adding the new routes and services by “redeploying capacity within its network.” The company also confirmed that it will “scale back flying” at New York LaGuardia. The carrier said this was a result of the end of its Northeast Alliance with American Airlines. 

JetBlue previously partnered with American to offer flights at New York and Boston airports, but a federal judge struck down the partnership because it was anti-competitive in its current form. American appealed the decision, but JetBlue decided not to join, focusing its efforts at the time on the failed merger with Spirit Airlines.

JetBlue’s transatlantic routes are typically flown with Airbus A321LR aircraft with 24 Mint business class and 114 economy seats. It also uses a smaller number of standard A321neos to serve select European destinations, although this has not been without controversy.

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