First announced over a year ago, JetBlue will be commencing their new direct service from New York to Vancouver as of today.
Vancouver represents JetBlue’s first foray into the Canadian market, offering additional transcontinental connections for Canadians and Americans alike.
JetBlue’s New Vancouver–New York Flights
JetBlue will be flying direct from Vancouver to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, based on the following daily schedule:
- B6603 New York (JFK) to Vancouver (YVR), departing 6:59pm and arriving 10:26pm
- B6604 Vancouver (YVR) to New York (JFK), departing 11:30pm and arriving 7:48am the next day
The airline hosted a media event today at Vancouver International Airport to celebrate the new route’s launch, and I swung by to check it out.
JetBlue has led with competitive pricing on this route, with one-way fares on midweek dates starting at $200.
However, the all-economy configuration on the Airbus A320 means that there isn’t much of a premium appeal to this route.
Instead, it’ll be all about convenience for West Coast travellers looking for a quick and cheap non-stop option into the heart of New York, as well as East Coast Americans heading up to British Columbia.
Indeed, the new JetBlue service is the first link between Vancouver and New York’s JFK airport ever since Cathay Pacific eliminated their fifth-freedom route.
(Air Canada currently offers direct service between Vancouver and Newark. Competing on the economy product alone, JetBlue arguably serves the more convenient New York airport, along with a better onboard experience – although the overnight eastbound schedule can be a major drawback.)
As a major international hub with no shortage of enjoyable departure lounges, JFK is often a useful origin when travelling on points to international destinations.
With this new flight on JetBlue, we now have a nonstop positioning flight from Western Canada – no more need for a detour via Pearson or a cab across Manhattan – which can be a more pleasant way to set the stage for a subsequent premium long-haul experience.
All About JetBlue Airways
Within the US airline landscape, JetBlue is a significant player, albeit a secondary one. Roughly speaking, they fill a similar role as WestJet in Canada.
They lack the international presence of American, United, and Delta, instead focusing on domestic routes and sun destinations.
In spite of their relatively limited footprint, JetBlue offers more frills than a regional low-cost carrier.
In particular, they’re known for offering free Wi-Fi to all passengers, a strong food program (for domestic standards), and setting the bar with ample leg room in economy. They do all this while still aiming for competitive pricing.
JetBlue’s fleet is predominantly a 3-3 configuration, with most of their shorter routes only having an economy cabin. For select coast-to-coast and international routes, however, they do have a pretty cool business class concept.
On these routes, JetBlue features their Mint product, including the newer Mint Suite and Mint Studio. These cozy yet comfortable herringbone-style pods have a spacious sense of privacy, resembling the seating style you might find on intercontinental carriers.
Unfortunately, Mint service isn’t being offered on the Vancouver route, and we can only hope that the new service is a commercial success and attracts a more premium product as JetBlue continues to expand their fleet.
Booking JetBlue Flights On Points
Like most other major airlines, JetBlue has a loyalty program, called TrueBlue. Without sugar-coating it, however, the benefits are extremely limited for Canadians.
First of all, the award chart uses dynamic pricing. There’s not much benefit to using TrueBlue points instead of cash, and you won’t find any outsized value opportunities by flying JetBlue on points.
As for earning, JetBlue has a few co-branded US credit cards issued by Barclays. With the JetBlue Plus Card, you can earn 40,000 points against a $99 annual fee. That’s not unreasonable value, but I’d question whether it’s worth getting involved in yet another loyalty program when we have so many other transferable currencies to collect on both sides of the border.
Transferring points from bank programs is also questionable, in my view. You can convert points from any of the Big 4 US credit card issuers: Amex, Chase, Citi, or Capital One. However, Amex US MR points transfer to TrueBlue at an unfavourable ratio of 1.25:1.
In general, any of these currencies will have much more value when used for long-haul international flights on global airlines or exclusive hotel bookings.
Meanwhile, Emirates Skywards is one of JetBlue’s few partner airlines that allows you to redeem points on JetBlue flights. There’s a distance-based chart, and a seat on JetBlue’s new Vancouver–New York service (clocking in at 2,449 miles in distance) would run you 26,000 Skywards miles one-way.
And yet, with cash fares starting at $200 one-way, the value in redeeming 26,000 Skywards miles simply isn’t there – especially since Skywards miles can be put to much more valuable uses, such as flying in the glitz and glamour of Emirates First Class.
Unless JetBlue improves their loyalty offering, strikes up some new redemption partnerships, or whips up a Canadian co-branded credit card now that it’s serving our market (don’t hold your breath), its new Vancouver route will probably be best booked with cash at one of the attractive price points the airline is well-known for.
JetBlue has launched a new daily service between Vancouver and New York JFK, which will operate during the evenings westbound and overnight on the eastbound.
While the route will be served by an Airbus A320 with an all-economy configuration, I still find this to be a welcome development, as I’ll now have a new option for, say, returning home to the West Coast conveniently and affordably upon landing in New York JFK after a long-haul flight.
JetBlue’s plans aren’t finished yet, either: the airline had also announced last summer that they intend to connect Vancouver and Boston as well, offering even more coast-to-coast connectivity as they forge into the Canadian market.