JetBlue set to Launch Transcontinental A321 Operations in May 2014

US carrier JetBlue Airways will shortly announce the entry into service plans of its new ‘premium’ version of the Airbus A321, but a recent update of the airline’s GDS inventory has given a sneak peak at its initial plans for the new aircraft.  According to our blog, Airline Route, the dual-class aircraft will make its debut on the New York JFK – Los Angeles route from May 15, 2014, although before that its ‘core JetBlue Experience’ version of the aircraft is scheduled to operate at least once daily on the New York – Los Angeles and New York – Las Vegas routes from May 1, 2014 and New York – Seattle link from May 15, 2014.

JetBlue has already confirmed a December 19, 2013 debut for its ‘core JetBlue Experience’ version of the aircraft, a 192-seat version of the A321 which will have 150 Economy and 42 ‘Even More Space’ seats, on routes from New York to Barbados, Fort Lauderdale and San Juan.  However, it is the arrival of its ‘premium’ version of the aircraft that has got the most attention as the carrier introduces a premium operation to help it compete in the US domestic transcontinental market.

The airline has confirmed that following the arrival of an initial four 190-seat A321s from the end of this year, it will introduce the new premium arrangement with 16 lie-flat seats, four of which are private suites, and 143 core JetBlue Experience seats (Economy and ‘Even More Space’ seats) from 2014.  From the latest GDS update it will seem to suggest the first of these aircraft will arrive late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter of the year.

At the launch of the new aircraft configuration earlier this year, Dave Barger, chief executive officer, JetBlue, said:  “Our customers have requested more premium options on our transcontinental flights and we listened.  We decided to enter the premium transcontinental market in a way that only JetBlue can: with an intense focus on offering the best possible product for the best possible price.”

American Airlines will also be offering flat-bed seats in both First Class and Business Class on the A321s it will use on similar routes while Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have flat-bed Business Class seats and have revealed their own plans to enhance their produce offering in what is sure to remain one of the most competitive air corridors in the US domestic market.

On an industry-wide basis, revenue from the New York JFK - Los Angeles and New York JFK - San Francisco markets is more than 50 per cent higher than any other route in the United States, as airlines have dedicated more premium seats and charged much higher fares on these routes on a per-mile basis.  There are more than 6,000 passengers each day on the two routes combined, independent Diio data shows.

In 2012 an estimated 2.32 million bi-directional O&D passengers flew between New York and Los Angeles, a market that was dominated by American Airlines (29.5 per cent).  JetBlue was the fourth largest carrier on the route with a 15.4 per cent demand share, behind Virgin America (22.3 per cent) and Delta (19.2 per cent) but above United (4.1 per cent).

Click here to find out more about JetBlue’s planned A321 operations and the flights the new two-class ‘premium’ aircraft is initially scheduled to fly.