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Details, details, details…

When airlines want to launch a new route, paperwork is required. When an airline wants to fly to a new country – even more paperwork is required.

The prospect of JetBlue launching flights from the East Coast to London hit critical mass this week, as members of the media began to receive invitations to a special, yet to be specified launch event in New York City scheduled for April 10th. One blogger, in 007 secret agent fashion, deciphered the hidden code in the invite, recognizing that the obscure background was none other than the same print used in the London Tube.

There’s just one problem with all of this. As of today, JetBlue hasn’t yet applied for permission to fly to the United Kingdom, at least not formally. GSTP sought information from the CAA, the preeminent governing body of UK aviation, and was told that as of this moment…

“The airline would need to apply for a foreign carriers permit to operate flights to the UK. At present, we have not received an application.”

It’s not immediately clear just how long one of these permits might take, but with a press conference and much fanfare planned only a month away, it seems wild that an airline would not have yet filed the minimal paperwork to get the party started. For all we know, this is something that could take mere days, like a visa to visit China, but one would think it would be an important first step, and likely one with more than a months lead time required.

It seems more probable than not that JetBlue has London up their sleeves, the question is just when – and how. As of this moment, there’s no paper trail. The airline is awaiting deliveries of Airbus A321neo aircraft this year and has worked out a deal with Airbus to allow a shift of current orders from “neo” to the A321LR (long range) variant, which would likely service a destination like London. Whether the airline makes that shift is yet to be seen but is expected to be known shortly.

JetBlue may well announce London next month, but an inaugural flight could be a lot further away than many are speculating. Plus, Heathrow slots aren’t exactly cheap or on the market. Could this be a new play at Stansted or Gatwick? Tune in April 10th, just curb your enthusiasm.

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