JetBlue Airways wants to launch a transatlantic service to Amsterdam but is struggling to secure slots at Schiphol Airport.
JetBlue entered the transatlantic market in August 2021 with its fleet of Airbus A321LRs. At first, it launched flights from New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to both London Heathrow (LHR) and London Gatwick (LGW). It followed these up with nonstop services to both London airports from Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) the following summer.
The airline will add a second European destination to its network this summer—with direct flights from Boston and JFK to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)—and hopes to add a third if regulators approve it.
Reportedly, JetBlue is now seeking permission to launch flights to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) in the Netherlands but is facing significant obstacles.
According to the airline, an initial application was submitted to the Dutch aviation regulator to take the slots that Aeroflot freed when it was banned from flying into E.U. airspace following the Ukraine conflict. However, instead of assigning Aeroflot’s slots to another airline, the Dutch regulator eliminated them, leading to an apparent rejection of JetBlue’s takeover bid.
Furthermore, JetBlue also attempted to take over slots freed up by the defunct carrier, FlyBe. The British regional airline—which ceased operating in January—also held some slots at Schiphol that the Dutch regulator dissolved.
JetBlue responded by filing a complaint against the government of the Netherlands. The New York-based carrier is now calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to negotiate with the Dutch government to try and negotiate on behalf of the U.S. carrier.
“The Dutch Government is pursuing a capacity-reduction plan that provides no pathway for a new entrant such as JetBlue to begin service at AMS,” said JetBlue in its formal complaint.
“Although both the WASG and E.U. Slot Regulation provide for 50% of the slot pool to be set aside specifically for new entrants, that accommodation is illusory where, as here, the slot coordinator and foreign government concerned have committed to a policy of retiring slots that would otherwise be returned to the pool while simultaneously drastically reducing the level of operations at the airport.”
JetBlue suggested that should their request for slots at Schiphol be further denied, Dutch flag carrier KLM should provide it with at least two of its own slots.
KLM is part of the Blue Skies joint venture along with Delta Air Lines, Air France, and Virgin Atlantic. These carriers dominate the Amsterdam market, holding over 60% of available slots at Schiphol and operating around 85% of direct flights between the U.S. and the Netherlands.
“If the Dutch authorities do not grant JetBlue the slots (such as the ones recently made available through Aeroflot’s and FlyBe’s discontinuation of service at the airport) necessary for JetBlue to access AMS and enter the U.S.-Netherlands market, the Department should require KLM to provide such slots (at least two slots) to JetBlue.”
JetBlue Eyes Massive Expansion in Fort Lauderdale
In addition to eyeing new transatlantic flights to Amsterdam, JetBlue is also planning a massive expansion from its hub at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, including long-haul flights from its South Florida hub.
The airline presents that should its merger with Spirit Airlines be approved, it will grow its schedule from 170 to a combined operation of 250 daily departures by 2027.
“From Fort Lauderdale, JetBlue, and Spirit currently serve 66 of the top 100 markets available from Miami. After completing its planned expansion, JetBlue would serve from FLL approximately 90 of the top 100 Miami markets,” said the airline.
With a more robust and extensive hub operation in Fort Lauderdale, the airline believes that launching nonstop flights to Europe would come next. “With a more competitive position in South Florida, JetBlue would plan to launch service between Fort Lauderdale and Europe with its game-changing transatlantic Mint and core experiences that have brought down high fares for European travel,” said the airline.
However, offering transatlantic flights from Florida with its fleet of single-aisle Airbus A321LR would raise the stakes in a market that is already heavily congested.
Just recently, Norse Atlantic announced the introduction of a new, nonstop flight between London Gatwick and Fort Lauderdale, set to launch on May 26. Operated with a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, this new service would undoubtedly stress JetBlue’s potential flights to Europe from South Florida.
However, the airline’s CEO, Robin Hayes, believes JetBlue’s product is far superior to low-cost carriers. “As a customer-centric alternative to the high-fare legacy airline that dominates South Florida, we have achieved rapid growth in Fort Lauderdale and are ready to turbocharge further expansion once we combine with Spirit,” he said.
“You shouldn’t have to choose between a low fare and a great experience. JetBlue offers both, and that’s why we are uniquely positioned to challenge the Big Four airlines and boost competition in Florida and across the country.”
JetBlue’s potential transatlantic launch from Fort Lauderdale would likely be orchestrated with a major traffic feed from the airline’s incoming/outgoing connecting traffic—something Norse Atlantic will undoubtedly lack.
– Written by Fergus Cole and Enrique Perrella