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JetBlue set for transatlantic debut to London in August

CHICAGO, May 19 (Reuters) - JetBlue Airways said on Wednesday it plans to enter the transatlantic market with low-fare flights from New York to London in August, disrupting what is normally one of the world’s busiest international routes.

The airline will launch daily flights to London’s Heathrow Airport on Aug. 11 and to Gatwick on Sept. 29, it said in a statement.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has largely stalled travel between the United States and Britain, it opened the door for JetBlue to secure coveted slots at the two London airports, where it hopes to build a larger presence over time and expand the success of its Mint domestic business-class service.

For now, JetBlue has the slots for daily Heathrow service through October but is selling flights through March 26, 2022 because it believes it can secure slots through the winter while it works to obtain longer-term access.

“We expect Heathrow is going to want us to stay once they see what we can do in terms of driving competition,” JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty told Reuters.

JetBlue is launching the London flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on its new Airbus A321LR jets, a longer-range variant of the A321neo, with roundtrip Core cabin fares starting at $599 for U.S.-based travelers and 329 pounds for those based in the U.K.

Fares for Mint class, which features 24 lie-flat private suites, will start at $1,979 and 999 pounds.

By comparison, a roundtrip flight from JFK to Heathrow on American Airlines or partner British Airways between Aug. 11 and Aug. 18 is selling at $2,573 in business class and $5,489 in first class, according to a web search.

JetBlue is among airlines calling for a speedy reopening of U.S.-Britain travel, something Geraghty was “cautiously optimistic” would happen before its London flights begin in August.

Once that happens, JetBlue expects demand patterns to mirror those within the United States, where leisure travel is quickly climbing toward pre-pandemic levels as COVID-19 restrictions ease and more Americans get vaccinated.

JetBlue plans to launch a London service from Boston in the summer of 2022 and continues to seek other European destinations, Geraghty said. (Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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