JetBlue’s Mint expansion is gaining momentum. The carrier announced an order of 30 new A321 aircraft today, split evenly between the ceo and neo models, with deliveries starting in 2017. The carrier sees Mint service as a means to disproportionally capture transcon market share as it looks to increase from the 12% it currently holds. The Mint operations have seen a 20% RASM increase for JetBlue over the past two years in the face of significant RASM drops across the board; the Q2 ’16 earnings show a 8.2% decrease in RASM YoY.
We already know some of the new routes where Mint will feature. Earlier this year I broke the news about the expansion into new west coast markets of San Diego, Seattle and Las Vegas. Fort Lauderdale is also in on that action. At the time the company indicated it would convert some 2017 deliveries to the Mint configuration. With the incremental order JetBlue will now take 15 A321ceo aircraft in 2017, all but one in the premium layout. In order to support the growth of this fleet the company will need to announce more new routes where the Mint service will be on offer; the company states it will “continue to review strategic opportunities to expand Mint on existing and new routes where it believes it can replicate Mint’s success.” In 2018 the carrier will take 11 more A321s, 5 ceo and 6 neo. It has not announced which will have the Mint configuration for that tranche of deliveries.
JetBlue also called attention to its option on the 15 additional A321neo aircraft to choose the “LR” option with additional fuel tanks to support transatlantic operations. From its hubs at Boston’s Logan and New York’s JFK airports the A321neoLR would have sufficient range to reach Ireland and the UK; depending on season and winds there is potential for the western parts of Continental Europe as well. These routes are viable from both the fleet utilization and passenger comfort perspective, allowing travelers consistent product in the premium cabin throughout the journey and keeping the planes moving to make more money.
As for where we can expect Mint to show up next, the carrier is not providing specifics but figure the West Coast – Portland, OR; San Jose, CA; Burbank, CA; Sacramento, CA; etc. – are high on the list. The company sees this as an opportunity to grow its west coast presence without increasing the north-south capacity in the region.
By adding even more Mint service in the airline’s focus cities – where JetBlue is positioned as the No. 1 or No. 2 airline – JetBlue can continue to grow its customer base and solidify its leadership in those markets, as well as consider expansion to new markets.
This suggests that the hub at Long Beach might also be ripe for such expansion. Reading the statement regarding the new order casts skepticism on that potential:
In addition to JetBlue’s intention to expand Mint to grow its west coast presence, JetBlue is strengthening its Long Beach (LGB) focus city with new all-core service. JetBlue will add nine new daily frequencies from Long Beach, phasing in beginning in the fourth quarter.
Mint may show at Long Beach but the focus appears to be on growing the Core business there.
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It seems many of the major airlines are in a state of expansion. If so, is there really enough demand out there to keep filling these new seats?
The bigger airlines are not expanding; they’re holding steady or shrinking. JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines (an exception, as they are big already), Alaska Airlines & Virgin America are growing. United, American Airlines and Delta not so much.
And there is not sufficient demand at higher fares to fill the seats. Revenue per available seat mile is down for most everyone. Filling the seats is relatively easy if you cut prices enough. But getting good numbers is harder.
If they get mint on BOS-SJC, BOS-SEA, and BOS-SFO and also introduce LHR or even STN, and if it’s less than double the economy price, I’m going all in. I’m only sticking with AA EXP for the London upgrades.
We know that BOS-SFO/SEA are coming. SFO starts later this year and SEA next year. London service would almost certainly be a secondary airport (I cannot imagine them paying for LHR slots) but that wouldn’t be until 2019ish at the earliest.
Seth Miller wrote: “We know that BOS-SFO/SEA are coming. SFO starts later this year”
I must be missing something, so forgive me if I’m stating the obvious, but B6 has offered Mint BOS-SFO since this spring. In fact I’m taking it again tomorrow!
Bah…I swapped LAX & SFO in my head when replying. Yes, BOS-SFO already launched. BOS-LAX is coming in October. 😮
Given that they already interline with them, would an expanded agreement with Icelandair make sense, with adding flights to KEF to connect to all of Europe?
Remember the the 321 NEO LR is, according to Airbus going to have a 100 mile longer operational range than the 757. If that hold true it will mean a lot more than just Ireland and England. Those could be done easily with a 321NEO.
Range depends very much on seating configuration as well as winds. It will certainly be able to reach mainland Europe; the question is just how far the company will push it across the pond and how many seats it will have.
The a/c would be in the mint configuration. LHR/DUB are 3000 or less nautical miles from JFK/BOS. A 321neo with the double aux fuel tanks will have the range to do that west bound with no problem. Add another hour of fuel which the LR model will have with a third aux tank you have the year round range to cover much of Western Europe. Yes there will be days when a tech stop may be needed but that would be very unusual. Any where the 757 flys from NYC to Europe the 321 neo LR will be able to do with better reliability and at 25% lower DOC’s. (Airbus’s statment on cost, not mine).
And I believe that the “Mint configuration” as we know it today will not be the same on the A321neoLR aircraft when they are delivered, should that happen. I’ve talked to some people about it and there are discussions ongoing about updates and such which will change things. Maybe not enough to materially affect range, but there is sufficient potential there that I’m willing to say that the configuration matters. As do those winter winds.
Much of Western Europe will be possible. But exactly how much and where will depend on the final aircraft configuration seat-wise and what Airbus delivers overall.
Would love to see JetBlue expand into Canada, and start Mint Service either on JFK-YVR, and/or BOS-YVR.
Though if B6 did JFK-YVR, they’d go head-to-head with Cathay Pacific on the route.
My recollection is that the company got the regulatory approval to fly in Canada but only uses it for charter operations. It is very, very difficult to introduce low fares and still operate profitably when the taxes and fees are high. And Canada’s are bad. Combine that with high competition from AC in the prime NYC/BOS-YMQ/YTO markets and it makes for a tough market to crack. I could see YVR seasonally to compliment the SEA and ANC service for cruise traffic maybe, though filling planes in the summer hasn’t historically been the challenge.
B6 flights to Barcelona, Stansted and Paris would be an absolute dream!
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