Last updated: 03:30 PM ET, Fri April 29 2016

JetBlue Considering Purchase of Long-Haul Aircraft

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | April 29, 2016

JetBlue Considering Purchase of Long-Haul Aircraft

PHOTO: A JetBlue A321. The carrier recently hinted it aims to add the A321LR to the fleet for long-haul flights. (Photo courtesy of JetBlue)

JetBlue has been expanding its international route menu recently. The airline has broadened its horizons over the past year, adding flights to Quito to a Latin American lineup that includes three cities in Colombia, two in Costa Rica and one in Peru.  

Now, there is a sign that the New York-based carrier could be looking East as well as South. On a conference call during which he announced JetBlue’s first quarter profits, CEO Robin Hayes also hinted that his airline could add new long-haul planes to its fleet. He made a specific reference to a proposed extended-range Airbus model: “The A321LR is something we are looking very seriously at. We think the incremental amount of complexity that provides is very manageable.” 

The A321LR is a proposed version of the new A321neo. The design calls for extra fuel tanks that would greatly increase the range. The plane’s reach would be similar to that of a Boeing 757. (Airbus claims that it will be able to fly 100 nautical miles further than the 757-200). 

READ MORE: Is It Possible To Fly around The World on Low-Cost Carriers?

If JetBlue was to purchase some of these new extended range aircraft, what would it mean for the type of routes that it could offer?

Having more miles to play with could lead to new flights to farther corners of South America. It seems more likely, however, that JetBlue would use the LRs to travel across the Atlantic. 

There is an increasing demand for long-haul low-cost flights to Europe. Norwegian, WOW and their peers have proved that this market is still in its infancy. 

Yes, JetBlue could certainly sign some sort of code-sharing or interlining deals with these airlines in the short term, but judging by the way it has expanded to Latin America and the Caribbean in recent years, flying to Europe itself would be a logical next step in its evolution. 

As Hayes suggested on the conference call, the A321LR would be the perfect entry point into the transatlantic market. JetBlue already has standard A321s in its fleet, so maintenance and operations would not have to change much. 

READ MORE: JetBlue CEO: Our Growth Is Tied To The Caribbean

Also, 'Blue would not have to risk purchasing a wide-body aircraft like the A330. It could build its transatlantic network with the smaller planes and only spring for two-aisle planes if and when the routes became profitable. 

Obviously, Airbus would not have even proposed a smaller, single aisle long-range plane if it didn’t think there was a significant market for it. Other low cost carriers would probably also be interested in this kind of single aisle long haul model. easyJet and Ryanair, for example, could use such a plane to start their own (long-rumored) transatlantic service. If JetBlue wants to get into the market early on, now is the time to order the aircraft and make transatlantic plans. 


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