JetBlue CEO Seeks to Lower ‘Obscene’ Cost to Cross the Atlantic

(Bloomberg) -- JetBlue Airways Corp. could radically lower the price of business-class travel across the Atlantic, Chief Executive Officer Robin Hayes said, giving the strongest signal yet that the U.S. discounter may jump into the world’s busiest aviation market.

“We look at the obscene fares that carriers are charging in that market and we think we can bring price discipline,” Hayes said in a Bloomberg Television interview. While the company hasn’t taken a decision, “we think it’s a good opportunity, and when the time is right to take advantage, we may very well do that.”

The trans-Atlantic market, dominated by three joint ventures including the tie-up of British Airways and American Airlines Group Inc., is facing a shake-up as a new generation of fuel-efficient aircraft enable low-cost operators to expand on the route. A move by JetBlue would add to pressure coming from discounters like Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA and BA sister carrier Level.

JetBlue would look to bring its Mint premium offering to bear on the North Atlantic. Hayes said that since its U.S. rollout in 2014, the service with lie-flat beds has helped to halve the cost of transcontinental business-class flights. JetBlue could coexist well with discounters such as Norwegian, he said.

Hayes, speaking earlier at the Aviation Festival in London, said it was crucial that the airline be “stealthy” about its plans, citing the resistance that Norwegian faced from incumbent JVs and U.S. regulators. “I don’t want to tip people off,” Hayes said. “The competitive response to this is something we have to think about.”

JetBlue CEO Seeks to Lower ‘Obscene’ Cost to Cross the Atlantic

The airline has 85 Airbus SE A321 narrowbodies due for delivery, which could be converted into the longer-range variant capable of flying those routes.

Martin St. George, vice president for commercial and planning, said Wednesday that a trans-Atlantic flight would likely run between Boston and London.

“I think London is now the biggest market we don’t serve out of Boston,” St. George said at the Cowen Global Transportation Conference. JetBlue has a strong corporate presence in the U.S. city, he said, and companies have told the carrier, “Can you just look at London because this is what we’re paying, your service is fantastic.”

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