Low-cost carrier JetBlue Airways says there will be a “timing impact” to its plans to launch transatlantic flying as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

With regard to the airline’s decision to launch flights to London in 2021, chief executive Robin Hayes told analysts on an earnings call today: “You should expect a timing impact, we’re probably going a little later than we intended.”

On 7 May, British Airways and American Airlines said they would offer slots at London Heathrow or Gatwick to address competition concerns on transatlantic services arising from their joint business arrangement.

“We’re encouraged by that,” says Hayes. “We’ve been pushing the point with regulators for the last two years that the transatlantic was not that competitive that we could bring price discipline.”

For now, the airline is focused on getting through the downturn.

“You’ve got to play a lot of defence when you’re going through something of this magnitude,” added Hayes, who said this crisis is worse than the 2009 global financial crisis and the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. “We’ve had nothing like this.”

In 2019 the New York-based carrier disclosed that it would launch transatlantic flights in 2021, with services to London from New York John F Kennedy and Boston Logan.

Before the pandemic, chief operating officer Joanna Geraghty told investors in October that work with UK regulators was “well underway”, including its search for slots at one or more airports in the London area.

It had also signed an interline agreement with Norwegian to enable passengers to transfer on to each other’s routes with a single booking, ahead of the US carrier’s planned launch of transatlantic flights to London in 2021.