JetBlue Airways (New York) has already announced its intention to operate the new Airbus A321 on trans-con routes starting in 2014. However where else will the airline operate this new larger aircraft? The airline discusses this decision making process in its BlueTales blog:
One of the most popular topics for customers and crew members alike is JetBlue’s network strategy. As an airline that continues to grow, even as other carriers are shrinking, it’s fun to try to guess which city we’ll fly to next – and even more fun to see a new “dot” appear our route map. Will it be a new international destination? Will it be my hometown? Will it really surprise me?
The Airbus A321 has been no exception and we’ve been flooded with inquiries about where our newest fleet type fly. We have already shared that the A321s configured with the Mint Experience will fly between JFK/LAX and JFK/SFO, so the only mystery remains with our all-core configuration. Dave Clark, our Director of Schedule Planning, has all the answers – but before we reveal them, he wanted to make sure we have a full understand of what the A321 means for him and his team from a network perspective.
Again, looking at the all-core A321, our new aircraft is host to 190 total seats. This compares with 150 seats on our Airbus A320s and 100 seats on our Embraer 190s. This means the A321 will afford Dave the opportunity to very easily add more seats to any existing departure simply by using our new, larger airplane. But he breaks it down even further for us:
Some markets demand a lot of frequency, meaning the number of departures per day. An example is Boston/Newark which often carriers a large number of business travelers who need a lot flexibility in their schedule. If their business meetings end a couple hours earlier than planned, for example, they want to have other flight options to jump onto. The same is true if their business meetings run late. In these markets, Customers want to always have a flight within reach.
On the other hand, there are some markets that a lot of people want to fly between but the frequency of flights is less important. New York/Orlando is a great example of this kind of market. Most customers traveling between New York and Orlando are doing so for leisure, so they are less concerned about when their flight leaves. Further, they are less likely to change their reservations.
Pop quiz: which one of these markets would be a good candidate for the new, all-core A321? The answer is New York/Orlando. Dave is able to add more seats to this market with the A321 without adding any new departures.
And the benefits go even further. Because JetBlue flies to the cities our customers want to fly to, we are often constrained by the number of flights we can operate each day. Airports only offer a limited number of “slots” to ensure air traffic flies at manageable levels. For Dave, slots constrain his ability to add new flights and “dots” on the route map when he wants to. But the A321 will help solve this.
Looking again at New York/Orlando, we fly an average of ten flights per day. But we don’t fly ten flights per day because our customers need ten flights per day – we do it because the demand calls for 1,500 seats. With the A321, Dave can substitute two A320 flights, for example, with A321s – flying the same number of seats but on eight fights a day instead of ten. This opens up two “slots” for Dave to use for new cities.
The following chart breaks all this down easily:
So where will it fly?
Dave and his team are still finalizing the plan and adding new markets to the A321 roadmap, but here’s what we know so far:
- New York (JFK)/Barbados (BGI)
- New York (JFK)/San Juan (SJU)
- New York (JFK)/Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood (FLL)
- New York (JFK)/Aruba (AUA)
- New York (JFK)/Santo Domingo (SDQ)
- New York (JFK)/Santiago (STI)
- New York (JFK)/Orlando (MCO)
- New York (JFK)/Nassau (NAS)
- New York (JFK)/Las Vegas (LAS)
- New York (JFK)/Punta Cana (PUJ)
- New York (JFK)/San Diego (SAN)
- New York (JFK)/Seattle (SEA)
Note that with everything in network planning, this is scheduled to change! Stay tuned for additional markets and cities.
More from JetBlue on the new A321:
Stretching 146 feet from nose to tail, the A321 is 23 feet longer than the A320 we have today. Despite its larger size, the A321 isn’t built to fly farther than the A320 (sorry, no Hawaii flights for now!). The real advantage of the A321 is its ability to help us operate more efficiently – with its added seat capacity, the per-seat costs (cost per available seat mile, or “CASM” in airline speak) are lower than our current A320.
For example, on a 1,000 mile trip (roughly the distance from New York to Orlando), with more seats to spread the cost of operating a flight, the A321 CASM is 12% lower than the A320. That can make a big difference in our narrow-margin business.
The A321 also gives us an advantage because we fly in a number of slot-controlled airports, like New York’s JFK. By swapping our 150-seat A320 for a larger A321 at a place like JFK, we can add seats without adding the number of departures.
What do those extra seats mean for the customer experience? Don’t worry, we’re not sacrificing comfort! While other airlines fit 220 or more seats on their A321s, we won’t. Keeping true to our commitment to offer the best seats in the skies, our all-core JetBlue experience A321s will be equipped with 190 seats. That’s right – we’re sacrificing 30+ seats to ensure we maintain the most legroom in coach and overall experience for our customers.
The second configuration, which joins the fleet in the first quarter of 2014, will offer our new, enhanced transcon experience. There will be a total of 143 core experience seats and 16 lie-flat seats, four of which are private suites with a closing door.
We currently have 30 A321s on order. The plan is to take 19 aircraft in the 190-seat all-core JetBlue Experience and 11 in the 159-seat enhanced trans-con configuration. Of course, we will adjust this over time if needed to meet the evolving needs of our business and network strategy.
Copyright Photo: Gerd Beilfuss/AirlinersGallery.com. The first A321, this A321-231 with Sharlets and the new Prism tail design is registered as D-AVZA (msn 5783) for its testing phase at Hamburg (Finkenwerder). The airliner became N903JB on delivery.