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JetBlue president and CEO Robin Hayes addresses an Oct. 16 meeting of the International Aviation Club of Washington DC.
JetBlue Airways CEO Robin Hayes lamented the “protectionist tendencies” of the airline industry’s largest players, which he said “has only become more pronounced as carriers have become larger and gained more market power.”
At an Oct. 16 meeting of the International Aviation Club of Washington DC, the JetBlue chief described public campaigns waged by the major US carriers against Norwegian Air International and Gulf carriers Emirates and Qatar Airways—as well as the latter’s support for Air Italy’s expansion into the US—as “major distractions” that “serve no public purpose and distract us from the real issues facing our industry.”
“Having to spend so much time beating back the hypocrisy of the legacy carriers’ campaigns gets a bit tedious, but it’s a fight we have to continue,” Hayes said. “Most US airlines are experiencing record profitability …. You have to roll your eyes when you hear things like those made-up numbers about US job losses caused by certain foreign airlines operating in this country.”
Noting the proliferation of immunized airline alliances, the JetBlue chief said he was surprised by regulatory filings submitted by Delta Air Lines pilots in opposition to the carrier’s request to expand its transatlantic joint venture (JV) with Virgin Atlantic and Air France-KLM, on the basis that “these JVs have actually caused US job losses and flying to shift to foreign partners.”
“So much for that dubious claim that the Gulf carriers are the ones killing off US jobs,” he remarked.
Hayes said JetBlue sees an opportunity to inject more competition into transatlantic flying—the New York-based carrier has ordered 26 A321LR aircraft for that purpose—adding that consumers “are being gouged by the dominant legacy carriers” at the premium end of transatlantic market. He cited the US transcontinental market as proof of JetBlue’s ability to bring down fares, saying that business-class fares between New York and Los Angeles have halved since the rollout of JetBlue’s premium Mint product in 2014.
“Looking at London, there’s really no reason a walk-up fare in business class from the Northeast should set anyone back $10,000 roundtrip—or more—when a roundtrip to California that’s not much shorter can be had for five times less,” Hayes said.
Noting the dominance of immunized JVs on “virtually all flights” between the US and slot-constrained London Heathrow Airport, Hayes backed the Trump administration’s call for the UK government to allocate 50% of new capacity generated by the airport’s planned third runway to new entrants. He also called it “egregious” that Delta continues to operate remedy slots it received at Heathrow over a decade ago, despite acquiring 49% of Virgin Atlantic (Heathrow’s second-largest carrier), in addition to slots formerly held by UK regional carrier flybe (recently re-branded Virgin Connect).
“It’s hard to fathom that a mega JV that has just tentatively been given the green light to get even larger remains deserving of any remedy slots … . No market and no airport is more deserving of intense competition scrutiny than London Heathrow,” Hayes said.
Ben Goldstein, [email protected]