Customers will demand greater flexibility and lower fares for years to come as the world emerges from the Covid crisis, JetBlue president and chief operating officer Joanna Geraghty has said.
Addressing the World Aviation Festival on Thursday (22 April), Geraghty said she expected the leisure market to bounce back strongly later this year owing to pent-up demand for holidays and VFR travel.
JetBlue is gearing up to launch its first transatlantic services later this year, flying to London from New York JFK and Boston; while it is yet to reveal which London airport, or airports, it will fly to, the carrier is understood to have secured slots at both Heathrow and Gatwick, and has consistently said it has "a viable path into more than one London airport".
Geraghty, though, confirmed the pandemic had allowed JetBlue to take a more circumspect approach to its transatlantic debut, and "position itself" at the best airport.
Prior to the pandemic, Geraghty said JetBlue was in discussions with Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton; in November last year, it was reported the carrier had secured slots at Gatwick and Stansted.
However, just last month, it was confirmed JetBlue had secured 270 slots at Heathrow. The airline has remained tight-lipped on which London airport it will fly to and from.
Geraghty on Thursday said JetBlue was "really excited" to taking on the likes of Virgin Atlantic in the north American transatlantic market. "We can’t wait to fly head-to-head," she said.
She said demand was returning in the US as summer approaches, driven by domestic leisure travel and Caribbean operations, demand for which has been realised through new testing requirements. "We’re looking forward to a busy summer in the US," said Geraghty.
Asked what fundamental changes passengers could expect, Geraghty said she expected testing and vaccination requirements to fly to remain for some time, and for mask wearing to continue. "Masks are definitely a health necessity," she said.
Flexible booking and travel options would be crucial to the resumption and recovery of travel, said Geraghty, along with low fares as people demand access to travel at prices reflecting the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.
With Thursday being Earth Day, Geraghty was also asked about JetBlue’s sustainability stance and efforts; she said one thing the pandemic had emphasised was the need for businesses to manage risk better – including climate change.
She said the airline had ambitious sustainability targets with a focus on new, more fuel efficient aircraft and a transition to sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).
Geraghty said while SAF demand continues to outstrip supply, JetBlue would offset its emissions through investment in wind and solar energy projects, as well as energy capture,
"It is the right thing to do," said Geraghty, revealing the carrier’s climate push had been driven strongly from within by staff and crew. "Our mission is to inspire, in the air and on the ground."