Summer travel: expect testing and masks for some time to come

JetBlue chief says prices will stay low post-pandemic as airline plans to 'disrupt' market with new transatlantic route

Holidaymakers queue as they leave from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam for a test holiday on April 12, 2021, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The aim is to see whether a test protocol makes it possible to travel despite the Covid-19 pandemic. - Netherlands OUT
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Travellers hoping to take an international holiday this summer should expect testing and mask-wearing – something “we will be living with for some time", according to JetBlue Airways chief Joanna Geraghty.

The president and chief operating office of the American low-cost airline, which is starting a new transatlantic route between two US cities and London this summer, said customers also need to be flexible about travel.

“There’s going to be some fundamental differences in terms of travel with some level of testing and or vaccination, particularly for international travel,” Ms Geraghty said, in a virtual discussion hosted by the World Aviation Festival.

“Unfortunately, masks are probably going to be something that we're living with for some time. Other things are the importance of flexibility [and] the ability to cancel a flight when you're sick or if travel circumstances change. Customers value that much more now than they ever did.”

Ms Geraghty also said she expects cheaper flights to continue after the pandemic has ended.

“Low fares are going to continue to be something that's important to customers. As we move forward, people want access to travel, they want to do it for a pretty cheap price and we’re going to continue to see that as we exit the pandemic,” she said.

JetBlue's new seven-hour flights between the US and the UK will take off from New York's John F Kennedy International Airport and Boston Logan International Airport this summer.

Ms Geraghty could not set a date for the launch or reveal the London airport yet, because of the ongoing travel restrictions in the UK, but she said the carrier will “disrupt on the fare side”.

“We think it's going to shake it up a bit. If you look at pre-pandemic fares going to to London, they were very high,” she said.

Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer of JetBlue Airways Corp., speaks during a panel session at the World Aviation Festival in London, U.K., on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. The festival runs through Friday. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer of JetBlue Airways, said the carrier's new US-UK route will disrupt the market on fares. Bloomberg via Getty Images

JetBlue will introduce the Airbus A321 Long Range single-aisle aircraft on its new transatlantic service, which only has 114 seats and 24 Mint suites.

The Mint suites give travellers their own space, with a window view and direct aisle access, as well as sliding doors for privacy – a move that might prove popular when passengers are looking to socially distance.

Britain's Transport Secretary Grant Shapps indicated earlier this week that international travel between the UK and some countries on its red list will open up in the coming weeks.

The UK government is expected to announce its new traffic-light system early next month, with an algorithm that will consider vaccination rates and infection numbers.

The UK’s red list now comprises 40 countries. Since hotel quarantine measures came into force on February 15, only Portugal has been removed.

Looking ahead, Ms Geraghty said the airline expects pre-pandemic levels on domestic travel to return in the summer due to pent-up demand from people wanting to meet up with family or travel with friends.

“We're looking forward to a pretty busy summer in the United States specifically around the leisure travel," she said.

However, she does not expect business travel to return to its pre-pandemic levels until Autumn 2022.

"Business is not where it needs to be. Most companies still have people working from home and there are pretty severe limitations on corporate business travel," she said.

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