April 10, 2019 / 9:25 PM / 15 days ago

JetBlue targets low-fare transatlantic travel with 2021 London launch

April 10 (Reuters) - JetBlue Airways Corp hopes to break into the low-fare, transatlantic travel market beginning in 2021 with multiple daily flights from New York and Boston to London, its first European destination, the carrier said on Wednesday.

To service the routes, the sixth largest U.S. carrier will convert 13 Airbus A321LR aircraft from its existing order book with a fresh version of its Mint business product.

The idea is to offer customers a fresh choice on routes where JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty said current competitor fares "are enough to make you blush."

New York-based JetBlue, which unveiled the long-awaited launch at an employee event at John F. Kennedy International Airport, said it is still evaluating which London airports it will serve.

The company, which has built a reputation in the United States for more coach legroom than competitors and free broadband internet, has argued for regulators to force slot divestitures at high-traffic airports like London's Heathrow to create a level playing field for new entrants.

A handful of Europe-based budget carriers have tried to penetrate the transatlantic market in recent years, but only cash-strapped Norwegian Air is still standing.

Iceland's WOW, PrimeraAir Nordic, Britain's Flybmi and Monarch Airlines and Cypriot carrier Cobalt have all ceased operations in a sector grappling with over-capacity and high fuel costs.

JetBlue said it will raise the bar on what travelers can expect from a low-cost carrier, particularly in Europe.

The carrier has argued in the past that its version of business class, Mint, has driven a 50 percent decline in premium fares on some competing U.S. routes, a reduction it believes it can also deliver for premium travel between the United States and Europe.

"JetBlue's Mint product suits the Atlantic market as they will likely come in with stimulative fares to drive customer awareness and loyalty," Cowen analyst Helane Becker said in a recent note to clients.

The main issue will be whether JetBlue is able to gain access at major international airports, she said, like London Heathrow and Amsterdam Schiphol. (Reporting by Tracy Rucinski, editing by G Crosse)

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