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A jetBlue A321 departs while another one lands at New York’s JFK Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Mateen Kontoravdis)

JetBlue, Bamboo Airways, WestJet Secure London Heathrow Slots

On Friday, the Airports Council of the United Kingdom released its latest slot allocation report on its airports, including London Heathrow. The report listed multiple airlines that secured slots including JetBlue, Bamboo Airways and WestJet, amid a slowdown in air traffic at the busiest airport in the United Kingdom.

JetBlue

JetBlue secured 270 slots to London Heathrow, with 180 slots designated for New York-JFK service and 90 slots for Boston service. With its New York-JFK slots, the New York-based carrier can commence daily service as soon as August 2. Meanwhile, its Boston services can commence daily flights as soon as Sept. 16. Additionally, in the filing, it is shown that JetBlue will fly out of Terminal 2.

It is unknown whether these slots are temporary due to the COVID-19 pandemic or permanent. The slot allocations apply for service through October 30, known as the end of the “summer season.”

The airline has the option of pursuing 270 slots to the less preferable London Gatwick. In exchange, JetBlue returned its slots for flights to London Stansted. Whichever airport JetBlue chooses, it will operate its brand-new A321LR, featuring its new Mint business class in a premium-heavy configuration. In a statement, per The Points Guy, JetBlue stated, “We can’t wait to launch transatlantic service later this year and love all the enthusiasm and speculation for where JetBlue will touch down. We can only expect this speculation will increase as we get closer to an announcement, and we won’t comment on our specific plans until we have made a final decision on our initial London airport.

We have always said that we have a viable path into more than one London airport and that over the long term we expect to serve multiple airports in London – just as we do in New York, Los Angeles, South Florida, and Washington, D.C. JetBlue has applied for multiple slots at various airports and we are discussing the availability of various permanent and temporary slots with the slot coordinators. Those discussions are continuing and we will evaluate what each London airport is proposing before making a final decision that best supports our transatlantic strategy.  We believe JetBlue’s incredible service and low fares would be welcomed in all of London’s area airports, and we look forward to sharing official news once we have completed the process with each airport.”

In previous weeks, rumors of London Heathrow service for JetBlue left aviation enthusiasts speculating. For example, the airline loaded London Heathrow into its booking engine as a destination. However, JetBlue denied this as “routine IT testing.” Furthermore, eagle-eyed aviation enthusiasts spotted the service in the airport’s “Terminal Finder” tool, with the corresponding start date of Aug. 2. If the tool is correct, JetBlue would arrive at London Heathrow at 10:05 a.m. and 10:10 a.m. and depart London Heathrow at 6:00 p.m. and 6:10 p.m. for its Boston and New York services, respectively. 

Earlier in January, JetBlue filed complaints to the Department of Transportation about not having access to Gatwick and Heathrow after the U.K’s first round of summer slot allocations.

Bamboo Airways

Additionally, Bamboo Airways received slot allocation to fly six times a week to London Heathrow. Specifically, the Vietnamese low-cost carrier secured slots to fly to Ho Chi Minh City three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and Hanoi three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. At the start of May, the airline is eligible to utilize its slots.

Based on Heathrow’s Terminal Finder tool, both flights will arrive at 3:30 p.m. and depart at 5:40 p.m. Similarly, Bamboo Airways will fly out of Terminal 2. 

The flight would operate using the airline’s only long-haul aircraft, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The aircraft features a 26 seat business class in a 1-2-1 configuration, a 21 seat premium economy class in a 2-3-2 configuration and a 247 seat economy class in a 3-3-3 configuration.

If Bamboo Airways were to operate the flight, it would face no competition. However, in the future, if it were to retain the slot, the airline would face competition from Vietnam Airlines. In the past, Bamboo Airways had stated intentions to fly to London and Frankfurt in the first quarter of 2021, which was delayed due to the closure of Vietnamese borders. Additionally, during COVID-19, Bamboo Airways had operated a repatriation flight to London Heathrow using its Boeing 787-9 as part of a series of repatriation efforts for the airline.

In the future, Bamboo Airways plans a long-haul expansion due to its influx of new long-haul Boeing 787-9 aircraft. To fund it, the airline announced that it would file an initial public offering (IPO), listing 105 million shares on two Vietnamese stock exchanges. It expects a $2.7 billion market capitalization for its IPO. Additionally, the Vietnamese carrier anticipates a summer ramp-up of demand, allowing it to fly to international destinations like to London Heathrow. Furthermore, Bamboo expects to launch U.S. flights in Q4, according to Bloomberg.

WestJet

Finally, WestJet obtained slots to London Heathrow for daily flights to Calgary and Vancouver. The Canadian carrier was allocated 732 slots, allowing it to start services as soon as May 1. Currently, the low-cost Canadian airline has slots at neighboring Gatwick that allow four daily services a day to Calgary, Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver. It is unknown whether WestJet will utilize Heathrow instead of Gatwick.

The flights will operate from Terminal 2. From Heathrow’s Terminal Finder tool, it displays a slot for a 9 a.m. arrival and 11 a.m. departure for Vancouver service and 11:20 a.m. arrival and 1:20 p.m. departure for Calgary service.

Tentatively, WestJet has filed a return to London at the end of May as the airline plans its return to transatlantic service when Canadian borders reopen. Last year, WestJet resumed 3x weekly service from Calgary to London Gatwick before canceling it due to the closure of Canadian borders.

These flights will operate using WestJet’s Boeing 787-9 featuring 320 seats, including 16 business class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, 28 premium class seats in a 2-3-2 configuration and 276 economy class seats in a 3-3-3 configuration.

Winston Shek
Winston Shek
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