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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