JetBlue Confirms Boston-London Entry, Makes Move For Spirit

JetBlue has firmed up plans to enter the Boston-London market at the same time as making an unsolicited $3.6 billion bid for Spirit Airlines.

Credit: Joe Pries

Competition between Boston and London is set to further intensify from July when JetBlue Airways begins the first of two daily routes between the cities.

The airline’s long-awaited entry to the market will see it open a Boston Logan (BOS)-London Gatwick (LGW) route on July 19, followed by a nonstop service between the US city and London Heathrow (LHR) on Aug. 22. Flights on both the Gatwick and Heathrow routes will use the carrier's new Airbus A321LR aircraft featuring 24 redesigned Mint suites.

JetBlue initially announced plans for its first transatlantic routes in April 2019, saying growth into Europe was a “next natural step” in its focus city expansion strategy. After being delayed because of the pandemic, service between New York John F Kennedy (JFK) and Heathrow began in August 2021, followed by JFK-LGW in September.

The airline then leased additional Heathrow slots from Qatar Airways earlier this year, sparking rumors that flights from Boston were imminent.

In the BOS-LHR market, JetBlue will provide competition for American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. The daily United route is set to launch on April 14 using Boeing 767-300s. BOS-LGW is currently unserved and has been without an operator since the onset of the pandemic when Norwegian suspended flights.

Sets Sights On Spirit

Confirmation of JetBlue’s new Boston-London services came hours before the New York-based carrier made an unsolicited $3.6 billion offer to acquire Spirit Airlines in a move that may scupper the proposed deal between Frontier Airlines and Spirit.

JetBlue said its “superior” offer amounts to $33 per share of Spirit stock, an approximately 50% premium over Spirit’s roughly $21 share price on April 4, and a 37% premium to the value implied by the Frontier proposal.

A potential merger between JetBlue and Spirit would create a combined entity offering more than 1,700 daily flights to over 130 destinations in 27 countries. Areas of particular dominance would include cities like Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, focus cities for both carriers. The combined airline would also have a fleet of 455 aircraft with 312 Airbus aircraft on order. 

“When we grow and introduce our unique value proposition onto new routes, legacy carriers lower their fares and customers win with more choice,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said in a statement.

“While JetBlue and Spirit are different in many ways, we also have much in common, including a focus on keeping our costs low so we can profitably expand and offer an attractive alternative to the dominant ‘Big Four’ airlines.”

Denver-based Frontier’s bid to merge with Spirit was announced by both ULCCs on Feb. 7. The deal would create the fifth largest airline in the US based on capacity.

A statement issued by Spirit said its board would evaluate JetBlue’s proposal and “pursue the course of action it determines to be in the best interests of Spirit and its stockholders.”