U.S. airline JetBlue expands into Canada for the 1st time

U.S. low-cost airline JetBlue is coming to Canada for the first time, with flights into Vancouver scheduled for the summer of next year.

Airline heading to Vancouver in 2022 says it wants to shake up market 'dominated by high-fare carriers'

A JetBlue Airbus A-321 aircraft takes off in the U.S. in 2016. The low-cost carrier is planning to come to Vancouver next year. (Sharon Steinmann/ via AP)

U.S. airline JetBlue is coming to Canada for the first time, with flights into Vancouver scheduled for the summer of next year.

"We're delighted that JetBlue has selected Vancouver as its first Canadian destination with service from YVR to New York City and Boston," Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority, said in a statement.

Vrooman said JetBlue's decision to come to Vancouver was a vote of confidence in the region that will attract business and leisure travellers "when the time is right to fly again."

JetBlue's move into Canada was part of an announced expansion that also included six other destinations in the U.S. and Honduras. 

"Almost since day one, both our customers and crew members have been asking us to add flights to the middle of the country and into Canada," said Scott Laurence, JetBlue's head of revenue and planning.

"We can't wait to shake up the status quo in these markets currently dominated by high-fare carriers."

JetBlue weathered pandemic: expert

Prof. David Gillen of the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, said JetBlue should be able to pull that off.

"It would certainly be a low-fare carrier as far as Canadians are concerned," said Gillen, who is also the director of the Centre for Transportation Studies at UBC. "I think that they're going to offer a real competitive alternative."

Gillen said JetBlue's best Canadian analogue is WestJet — what he calls a "high-value carrier" — not as cheap as true no-frills carriers, but generally cheaper than Air Canada or airlines like it due to a simpler organizational structure, a simpler fare structure and a more homogenous fleet.

He said JetBlue has weathered the pandemic well, but the move into Canada caught him off guard.

Expanding into this country can be troublesome because costs such as fuel taxes and airport charges are more expensive, and because there's a lot of work involved in crossing an international border, he said.

On the other hand, Gillen said moving into Vancouver made more sense than Toronto, because Air Canada and United Airlines have a lock on traffic moving between Toronto and the U.S. northeast.

The flight into New York City, in particular, should allow JetBlue passengers out of Vancouver to tap into a broader network of connecting flights, he said.