It is no secret that New York-based low-cost carrier (LCC) JetBlue Airways is considering transatlantic flights, but the mix of premium and economy seats the LCC could offer on those flights remains a subject of internal debate.

JetBlue could convert some of its Airbus A321neo orders to A321LRs when that type becomes available in 2019, CEO Robin Hayes said at the IATA AGM in Cancun. With the A321LRs, the carrier could cross the North Atlantic from New York and Boston.

The market interests JetBlue because of the concentration of premium traffic. Hayes noted that the three largest US carriers—Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, Dallas/Fort Worth-based American Airlines and Chicago-based United Airlines—and their alliance partners control 87% of the transatlantic market, and almost all the premium traffic. JetBlue sees an opening for itself, he said.

JetBlue would not be competing with the new long-haul LCCs, such as Norwegian and Iceland’s WOW Air, for the lower end of the market, Hayes said. But JetBlue could disrupt the upper end of the market in the same way the long-haul LCCs have disrupted the lower end of the transatlantic market.

JetBlue would equip its A321LRs with the Mint premium cabin. The number of Mint seats has not been determined, but would be more than the 16 seats on its current fleet of A321s, Hayes said. “The [A]321LR would allow us to do something a little different,” Hayes said.

There certainly will be more Mint seats, he said. Demand for the Mint cabin on the routes in which it is offered is very high, Hayes noted. “My only regret is that, with hindsight, we should have put more [Mint seats] in the fleet we have,” he said.

Madhu Unnikrishnan