By Mary Schlangenstein, Bloomberg News
JetBlue Airways Corp. pumped up speculation that it will announce plans to order long-range aircraft and start trans-Atlantic flights, inviting employees to a special event next month.
The carrier said it would hold a "chat about JetBlue's vision and strategy" on April 10, followed by a party in New York. The announcement spurred a flurry of speculation on social media after airline watchers pointed out that the background of the invitation resembled the seat fabric on London's subway system.
JetBlue has been flirting with the possibility of flying across the Atlantic since 2016, when the company said it had the right to swap part of an order for Airbus SE A321 jetliners for a longer-range version of the plane that would enable such routes. The carrier, which has said it would make a decision this year on whether to serve Europe, has touted its ability to lower "obscene" business-class fares on trans-Atlantic flights.
"Potential routes to Europe could provide us an opportunity to grow our focus cities of Boston and New York as we consider the best use of our aircraft from a margin perspective in those cities," JetBlue said in a statement Monday.
The shares fell 2.2 percent to $16.56 at the close in New York. JetBlue has fallen 22 percent over the last 12 months, more than twice the decline of a Standard & Poor's gauge of nine U.S. airlines.
'Lack of Competition'
JetBlue likened the European opportunity to trans-continental flights in the U.S., where it has made inroads with its Mint premium service.
"The trans-Atlantic market -- especially in the premium category -- suffers from the same lack of competition and high fares that transcon routes in the U.S. saw before JetBlue introduced Mint," JetBlue said.
Dominated by joint ventures of major airlines, trans-Atlantic service has been undergoing a shakeup as a new generation of fuel-efficient aircraft enable low-cost carriers to expand. JetBlue would join discounters such as Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA and British Airways' Level.