JetBlue’s Recent Network Changes Show Promise – Cranky Flier (2024)

Once the JetBlue and Spirit merger died, the two airlines took different paths. Spirit has been pretty steady, not releasing many details on what it is going to do the fix the airline. JetBlue, on the other hand, blue up its management team and has started to make some fairly hefty network changes as well. I continue to like what I’m seeing.

There are really three parts to this most recent shift as I see it.

  • Put Mint to Better Use
  • Remember San Juan is a Focus City
  • Return LaGuardia to Where It Was

Let’s tackle these one at a time.

Put Mint to Better Use

At the end of the first quarter, JetBlue had 287 airplanes. Of those, 52 had Mint business class onboard. And of those, 35 were A321s and 8 were A321neos, both in a configuration of 16 Mint seats and 143 in coach. There are the additional 9 A321LRs with Mint that are meant for Europe service. Those have 24 Mint seats and a mere 114 in the back.

These airplanes require those Mint seats to be full with decent fares. There just aren’t enough coach seats to make a living otherwise. But in winter in particular, it has proven very hard to fill those seats. Look at this monthly load factor for European departures:

JetBlue European Departure Load Factor by Month

Data via Cirium

These aren’t just premium seat load factors, but consider how empty some of these airplanes are and it’s hard to imagine them making enough money to be profitable. So, JetBlue is going to pull some of these airplanes out of Europe. Gatwick won’t operate, at least not during winter. And Paris will lose a frequency. This means the normal Mint A321neos that were doing Europe last winter are free to do other things.

On top of this, JetBlue has made the wise decision to cut back the LA focus city. It will end both LA – Miami and Newark flights, both of which were operated by Mint aircraft.

With all this free aircraft time, where should JetBlue put the airplanes? Here’s the plan:

  • Phoenix – Boston and JFK 2x daily on Mint (doubled from 1x daily on non-Mint airplanes)
  • Phoenix – Fort Lauderdale 1x daily on Mint (new route)
  • Las Vegas – Fort Lauderdale 2x daily upgraded to Mint
  • New York/JFK – Vancouver 1x daily upgraded to Mint
  • New York/JFK – San Juan 1x daily upgraded to Mint

I’m not so sure how I feel about Vancouver, but the rest of these are good winter seasonal markets that are long enough to capture premium demand. At the very least, JetBlue should be able to put a lot more butts in seats on these airplanes compared to what Europe is able generate. And when summer comes around, Europe will be waiting.

That San Juan flight…

Remember San Juan is a Focus City

San Juan is a focus city for JetBlue. Is that a surprise? It’s hard to remember it, actually, because it has been a stagnant market for the airline.

When JetBlue went in to take over what American abandoned, it was a big move. But since then, Spirit and Frontier have both made strides in growing that market. Frontier in particular is even finding success in intra-Caribbean flying from there. It’s been a boon, and JetBlue has watched it happen.

Just look at what we put together for Cranky Network Weekly a couple weeks ago on intra-Caribbean:

JetBlue’s Recent Network Changes Show Promise – Cranky Flier (2)

Since that time, Frontier added Port-of-Spain to the route map. Even Caribbean Airlines filed San Juan – Barbados. Everyone was taking notice except for the largest incumbent in San Juan.

Now, JetBlue is waking up. In addition to putting a Mint flight into San Juan from JFK, it will add this new flying:

  • Cancún 3x weekly
  • Providence 1x daily
  • Medellín 4x weekly
  • St. Croix 1x daily
  • Santiago (DR) 1x daily
  • White Plains 1x daily

It’s a bonanza of new service, including smart links to the Northeast where JetBlue has a good presence along with that intra-Caribbean flying that suddenly seems in vogue.

Remember, JetBlue isn’t growing in the near-term, so where area all these airplanes coming from? Certainly a big part of it is the pulldown at New York/LaGuardia.

Return LaGuardia to Where It Was

JetBlue had been building up LaGuardia as part of its Northeast Alliance (NEA) with American. American didn’t have a good use for those slots, so it gave them over to JetBlue to operate with bigger aircraft. Once the courts shot down the NEA, the unraveling began.

JetBlue had nearly 50 daily flights in March 2023 which was the absolute peak. Once the IATA summer season ends in late October, this will drop closer to 15 daily.

What’s interesting here is that JetBlue doesn’t seem to have found any great new markets as part of the NEA. With the same number of slots it had pre-pandemic (and pre-NEA), it has gone right back to the same four markets it served then: Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, and West Palm Beach. I guess if that works, don’t bother fixing it.

In general, seeing Mint move in winter to routes where there is more premium leisure to be found is a good thing. Putting more in San Juan is going to be better than LaGuardia as well, especially without the NEA. It’s clear more is coming, but this is a welcome start.

    JetBlue’s Recent Network Changes Show Promise – Cranky Flier (2024)

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