a group of airplanes parked on a runway

If you want to drive a car, you need a license. If you wish to take your operation to the skies, you’ll need quite a few of them. That’s particularly true if you wish to fly across borders. For weeks, JetBlue has allowed rumours of potential new flight services to Europe to gain major media traction, after an invite using the London tube as a background surfaced online. There’s just one thing: with that big New York reveal scheduled for this afternoon, the airline still hasn’t actually applied to fly into the United Kingdom.

What gives?

a group of red telephone boothsGod Save The Points contacted the CAA, the UK’s governing aviation body in hopes of learning whether JetBlue had in fac applied for a foreign carrier permit, the basic paperwork needed to land a commercial plane in the United Kingdom. A spokesperson for the CAA offered the following…

 “A non-European based airline wishing to operate services to the UK would need to apply for a foreign carriers permit. At present, the UK Civil Aviation Authority has not received an application from JetBlue.”

For a variety of reasons, including the awaited delivery of aircraft actually capable of flying the route for JetBlue, it’s highly likely that the airline wouldn’t be starting service anytime soon. Yet at the same time, it would seem highly irregular for a corporation to announce “confirmed” plans to launch a major transatlantic service without securing even the most basic of carrier permissions.

To the best of our understanding, foreign carrier permits can take many months and require quite a bit of coordination. In addition to foreign carrier permits, agreements with ground handlers, customs and border protection services and other essential flight operations would seem logical, yet at this point it does not appear that any of those conversations have taken place either

If JetBlue is to announce London service today at 3PM EST, which happens to be dinner time in the United Kingdom, they would be doing so without any official licensing to do so.

It’s hard to imagine a situation where that would make much sense. It’s widely expected that the dynamic US carrier would seek to use its new Airbus A321LR aircraft orders to operate initial services to London Gatwick or London Stansted, in lieu of acquiring an extremely expensive Heathrow slot.

While the airline has remained coy on particulars, it’s long hinted at a desire to borrow an overused term from the tech world and “disrupt” the business class market between New York and London, in which extreme premiums are often charged. For now, they might want to file some paper, before they try to fly some planes.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. There are many routes around the world announced and with tickets on sale but carriers clearly mention that are waiting gov approvals… so…?

  2. Most new routes are subject to govt approval. You do not need to have applied in order to state that. Also, given the OpenSkies Agreement, the approval is more of a formality than for many parts of the world.

    Finally, and this is the real point that the article missed relates to the UK’s mooted exit from the EU. There is no long-term agreement in place between the UK and the USA to replace OpenSkies. As such, no airline, including existing carriers can yet apply for approval. Nobody knows when, or if, the UK will leave the EU and what the regulations will be. That doesn’t mean that flying will stop – it simply means that there is currently no sensible framework within which to apply for flights next year.

  3. Furthermore, I think Jet Blue woulda landed at London Gatwick, not Heathrow. Maybe not a deal-breaker for budget conscious tourists, but LGW is 28 miles from central London. There is a dedicated Express rail service but can be expensive unless you book in advance and get a good deal. Like most travel deals its the door to door cost versus time and hassle balance that needs to be considered. Sure a Jet Blue service would be very welcome, but many have tried to cross the Atlantic on a shoestring, with smaller ‘planes and (metaphorically) ended up in the deeper blue(s). Primera for example.

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