Thursday, June 14, 2012

JetBlue to fly 787's or A350's to Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Santiago ?

The blog reports that JetBlue CEO David Barger, speaking at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Beijing on June 11, talked about the possibility of the carrier acquiring 787's or A350XWB's for flights to Latin America, but not Europe or Asia where there is already "plenty of service".   The widebody aircraft would come online sometime after 2015 and likely be used out of the airline's New York JFK hub.

JetBlue recently announced a major expansion of its international facilities at JFK called T5i, signifying international service at the airline's Terminal 5.  Several of the new terminal's gates will be equipped for widebody use.

Editor's Comments:

Looking at JetBlue's current route map, the airline flies to many points in the Caribbean, plus a few in Mexico and Central America, extending to Bogota, Colombia in the northern part of South America.  JetBlue's existing fleet of A320's can serve these adequately without adding longer-range 787's or A350XWB's so it would seem that the purpose of widebody aircraft would be to serve new destinations in Latin America that are beyond the range of the A320's, such as Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago and Sao Paulo. 

Brazil, especially, would seem to be a good possibility given the large amount of passenger traffic between Brazil and the USA (about 1.4 million passengers originating just from Brazil annually).  Also, JetBlue founder David Neeleman grew up in Brazil and also founded low-cost Brazilian airline Azul, so a tie-in between the two carriers sharing each other's codes would seem to be a natural.   Finally, JetBlue already has marketing relationships with both LAN and TAM that could be used to feed each other's networks.

Researching the Internet for information on JetBlue's proposed acquisition of widebody aircraft, one member of commented that it is time for JetBlue and its pilots to negotiate a contract again and the mention of widebodies is meant to please the pilots who always love the prospect of flying "bigger metal".   Another forum spoke of the airline's possible plans to acquire widebodies back in 2010 so this is not the first time the subject has come up, lending credence to the skeptics.  However, two of the most interesting comments were also posted on noting how JetBlue has often gone after American Airlines' business:

"The aircraft will be used on former AA routes that AA will give up to JB. Just as they have always done. What routes does JB fly that were not AA or AE routes before?"

To which another member replied: 

"Agree 100%. Barger mentions South America in reference to future widebody expansion, AA's bread & butter (just like BOS and the Caribbean used to be)."

USA - South America is one of the few attractive air travel markets where there is little, if any, low-cost airline service, so it would appear that there is definitely an opportunity for JetBlue to expand here. Maybe JetBlue operating JFK-EZE non-stop is in the future ?

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