Thursday 20 May 2021 2:43 pm

New York-London travel bubble vital for JetBlue: Its CEO is certain US will get on UK green list

The New York-London travel route got a vote of confidence yesterday with the announcement of budget carrier JetBlue joining the market, but its CEO has indicated that the US must be added to the UK’s green list for it to succeed.

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes joined other industry executives such as BA boss Sean Doyle and the leaders of Heathrow and Gatwick pushing for a quarantine-free travel bubble between the US and UK.

Hayes agreed that it was vital for the US to go on the green list but thinks it’ll be the case by the time the first flights leave New York’s JFK in August.

“We see it as extremely likely that the travel between the two countries is open up, we think in the UK, the US can move from amber to green just based on the data,” Hayes told CNN last night.

Hayes put that down to declining case rates and a successful vaccine rollout on both sides of the Atlantic.

The aviation boss pointed to the surge in seat bookings on flights to green list countries when questioned on the timing of the August launch.

The UK’s green list of countries where arrivals back into the country don’t have to quarantine or self-isolate is effectively limited to Portugal, Iceland and Gibraltar.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps today said he’s looking to expand the list.

Confusion grew over whether Brits should even travel to amber countries such as Spain and the US for non-essential reasons such as holidays.

Eyes on a business travel revival

In his pitch to the lucrative business travel market, Hayes yesterday set out why those used to business class should opt for the newcomer:

“JFK-LHR, the single largest international air travel market from the US, has long suffered from outrageously high fares for far too long, especially in premium cabins.

“We’re ready to change that with a price point and experience that will impress even the most discerning transatlantic flyers.”

The low-cost carrier airline will launch daily flights between New York’s JFK airport and London Heathrow from 11 August, expanding to Gatwick from 29 September.

While the Covid-19 pandemic has largely stalled travel between the US and the UK, especially financial capitals New York and London it opened the door for JetBlue to secure coveted slots at the two UK airports, where it hopes to build a larger presence over time and expand the success of its business-class service.

For now, JetBlue has the slots for daily Heathrow service secured until October but is selling flights as far out as March next year because it believes it can secure slots through the winter while it works to obtain longer-term access.

The airline thinks Heathrow and Gatwick bosses will be wowed with what the New York upstart can do to increase competition with legacy carriers BA, United and American Airlines now that Norwegian Air Shuttle has retreated.