JetBlue Airways Corp. ordered 30 Airbus Group SE A321 jetliners valued at $3.6 billion as the carrier expands its premium cabin service and opens the door to trans-Atlantic flights.
JetBlue agreed to buy 15 A321s with the current engine option for delivery starting next year, and 15 more A321s with new, more fuel efficient engines starting in 2020. Discounts are customary for large purchases of planes.
The New York-based airline is adding to its fleet of aircraft configured for the premium offering, known as Mint, which JetBlue started in 2014 to compete with larger carriers flying coast to coast. While the new aircraft will be used in part to expand cross-country routes in the U.S. and broaden service along the West Coast, long-range planes available in 2019 may enable JetBlue to start its first trans-Atlantic flights.
“Our intention is that will be a plane that will give us trans-Atlantic range” Marty St. George, executive vice president for planning, said in an interview. “We certainly see Europe as a great opportunity.”
Five of the first 15 planes under the new order will be in Mint, the airline said. While most of the other 10 are expected to be Mint, JetBlue can switch between the premium configuration and all-coach, said Doug McGraw, a spokesman. The 15 that begin delivering in 2020 have the same option.
JetBlue also can shift some of the later order to an extended-range version of the aircraft, which has extra fuel tanks. That variant features a slightly longer range than a Boeing Co. 757-200 while offering similar seating capacity and lower costs, according to Airbus.
The airline reported second-quarter earnings of 53 cents a share, topping the 49-cent average of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue rose 1.9 percent to $1.64 billion, matching analysts’ expectations.
JetBlue advanced 1 percent to $17.45 at 10:04 a.m. in New York trading. The stock had fallen 24 percent this year through Monday.
JetBlue started Mint service on the New York-Los Angeles and New York-San Francisco routes to retain passengers who were looking for more amenities on coast-to-coast flights at a lower price. Mint fares can dip as low as $599 each way. It has also expanded the service to cities including Las Vegas and Seattle and to destinations in the Caribbean.
“It’s not a gigantic order, but it’s very important strategically to what we’re trying to do, especially with Mint,” St. George said.
The Mint cabin includes 16 lie-flat seats, including four “private suites” that have partitions that can be closed. Passengers also have 15-inch flat video screens on seat backs, power outlets, USB ports and customized menus.
The carrier began widening its Mint growth plans in April, after losing out to Alaska Airlines in bidding to acquire Virgin America Inc.
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