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TOURISM MATTERS: More good news from JetBlue

Adrian Loveridge, [email protected]

TOURISM MATTERS: More good news from JetBlue

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MORE GOOD NEWS with the announcement JetBlue will commence a daily flight from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (FLL) airport to Barbados from April next year, opening up a second main gateway from the south eastern United States. Depending on the final flight times, it may also present a great opportunity to connect with existing non-stop services operated by the same carrier from Austin, Nashville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco as well as the Atlantic seaboard.

FLL airport handles more than 24 million passengers each year serving over 100 United States (US) and international cities with non-stop flights. According to August 2015 figures, JetBlue is the busiest carrier, handling 23.4 per cent of passenger traffic. Spirit is second with 19.7 per cent and Southwest third with 15.8 per cent. JetBlue’s growth has been nothing short of remarkable. From their modest first foray into the region with a New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico service in 2002, they now operate 150 flights a day to the Caribbean and Latin America from the US, representing a staggering one-third of their current capacity. With ten new aircraft arriving in 2016 and another ten in 2017, that growth appears to be ongoing.

When announcing the new route, Robin Hayes, the airline’s president, stated what should be music to the industry’s ears, saying this is a perfect example of a true partnership with the tourism ministry, the airport and local hoteliers.

And reminding us all that this is a highly market-driven business, he added: “Our legacy competitors had become a bit too complacent and we’ve built new markets that have never been flown before”. Ironically, just days later, the president of American Airlines, Scott Kirby, while perhaps not responding directly to the new JetBlue route, stated that they planned to compete with the likes of Spirit Airlines and Frontier on “no frills, low fares from next year”. He added: “We will do more to disaggregate and really do more to have a product that has less frills. That will allow us to offer a product that is more competitive on price and ultra low cost carriers”.

The reasoning behind this move is to grab more business from the once a year traveller. American Airlines said 87 per cent of customers fly with it just once a year on average and that cost is overwhelmingly the most important factor. With just 30 miles separating FLL and Miami International Airport, the hubs of two major US airlines, it looks like the battle lines are being drawn and just maybe the consumer will benefit from lower fares.

I am also hoping that our tourism planners together with JetBlue will look outside of the continental North America and explore other possibilities like code sharing with Norwegian Air to link their direct non-stop flights from Scandinavia to FLL and on to Barbados. Even if the connection times may not end up being a perfect match, incentives like a low cost airport overnight in one or both directions could easily be arranged. In fact, it may even add another desirable element to the overall holiday experience.

Staying on the subject of JetBlue, the first seasonal, weekly, Saturday non-stop service is arriving from Boston this week. During the period December 19 to January 4 it will operate daily, opening yet another gateway and giving the more than 4.6 million population of Greater Boston, the tenth largest metropolitan area in the country, a new direct route to the sun. As a commuting region, that number jumps to an incredible 7.6 million residents.

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