JetBlue to add new European destinations amid Schiphol ruling

Only last week, American premium low-fares carrier JetBlue announced the addition of two new European destinations to its growing portfolio: both Dublin and Edinburgh will now see direct services with the carrier from New York’s JFK airport. The two airports are to receive daily Airbus A321neo flights for Summer 2024, with Dublin starting in March whilst Edinburgh will run from May until September. 

Edinburgh Airport’s Chief Executive, Gordon Dewar, said that, “It’s extremely important to us, as Scotland’s airport, that we continue to build on the momentum of 2023 and offer fantastic choice for our passengers. The arrival of this route allows us to do that – enhancing leisure travel, business links and allowing people more chance to reunite with family and friends across the pond.”

On these two routes, JetBlue will be competing with existing operators such as United, which flies daily services from Newark to Edinburgh and also operates twice-daily to Dublin – having increased the frequency on this route in mid-2022. Whilst on the topic of these competitors, JetBlue’s Robin Hayes noted that, “The success of our transatlantic service proves customers don’t have to choose between great service and low fares and can have them both with our award-winning Mint and core products.”

However, whilst JetBlue has been loudly celebrating the impending launch of these services – which are its first to both Ireland and Scotland – the carrier has also been trapped in a PR battle with Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) over its prized slots at the Dutch capital. This has come to a head in the past 24 hours with JetBlue now being denied slots for Summer 2024 having previously petitioned to the American Department of Transportation against the Netherlands and the European Union, saying that the EU’s plan to impose slot restrictions at AMS is in direct violation of the US-EU Open Skies agreement.

JetBlue operates a split A321 fleet comprising the CEO and NEO variants, with the latter used on transatlantic routes. Photo: JetBlue

The AMS slot coordinator has claimed that carriers with historic rights will teceive 3.1% fewer slots than previously, whilst those without historic rights will not be allocated any slots. JetBlue falls into the latter category – its slots at the highly-congested airport were only granted in March 2023 following the dissoluton of British regional carrier Flybe.

Flybe had originally held Amsterdam slots until March 2020, when it was driven to collapse by the pandemic; the slots were later transferred to new entity Thyme OpCo in 2021, with this company taking over the Flybe business and resuming the carrier’s operations. They were then used on services to Belfast City, Birmingham, East Midlands and London-Heathrow from April 2022 until the airline’s ‘second’ collapse in January 2023 – following a failed attempt to sell the carrier’s assets, the slots were returned to the coordinator and allocated to JetBlue, which had previously been denied slots for ‘up to a year’.

With JetBlue’s exit from Amsterdam having come after its other European route announcements, questions remain over where the carrier may target for future expansion. Whilst the airline is reportedly suffering GTF engine-related setbacks on some of jts A320neo family aircraft, it will still retain the potential for additional transatlantic capacity, with further new aircraft due for delivery in 2024. One possibility is a service from New York to Bristol, which recently lost (albiet on a temporary basis) its long-haul services from leisure carrier TUI.

Previously, Continental Airlines operated a direct service from Newark to Bristol – when this opened in 2005, it was dubbed as the first transatlantic route from the south-west of England. The flights were operated with Boeing 757-200s in a 172-seat configuration, whilst JetBlue’s A321neo fleet operates with a less dense 138 seats – 24 of which are the airline’s Mint business product. The Continental route lasted for five years, and was said to be popular in the region as an alternative to far less accessible London airports – whilst flights did come to an end in 2010, this was largely blamed on the recession, and not on poor load factors.

As such, Bristol could certainly be a viable destination for JetBlue in the future. The airline already flies to two UK airports – Gatwick and Heathrow – and would be unlikely to see a connection to the south-west as a duplication of these services.