JetBlue builds west coast presence

In the midst of growing its premium transcon product JetBlue also indicated that growth was to come on the West Coast, a move to further play in the heavily competitive north-south market there. Details of that expansion were released this week in the form of nine new flights, including one new (again) destination, to be added from the carrier’s hub in Long Beach over the coming months.

Starting in November JetBlue will increase frequencies on three existing routes. San Francisco and Salt Lake City will see one additional daily frequency each while Las Vegas will get three new flights each day, up to as many as seven trips on the route depending on the day of week. Las Vegas fares are as low as $49, San Francisco for $54 or Salt Lake City for $73.

In January those increases will be joined by the restart of service between Long Beach and San Jose, California with four daily flights scheduled and into fares as low as $39 each way. This is an aggressive move into the market where JetBlue will be the only non-stop operator. It also rounds out service from Long Beach to all three Bay Area airports, a strong move given JetBlue’s otherwise limited options in the region.

These additions come in the face of noise-related slot controls at Long Beach. The airport and city recently renegotiated the numbers based on airplanes being quieter now on average than they were when the original rules were put in place which added some frequencies (and airlines) to the airport. JetBlue received two new slot pairs in those proceedings but is adding nine daily flights. This is possible because the carrier was previously not taking full advantage of its slot portfolio, choosing to let some sit idle rather than fly.

JetBlue’s efforts to establish in the highly competitive west coast commuter market will prove a test for the company’s ability to drive higher yields and satisfy the investor community. With massive pushback from analysts as RASM declines in the face of airline expansion earnings calls are getting feisty and executives are being asked to defend growth that outpaces that of the economy. JetBlue noted in its earnings call last week that some aircraft will start to come off lease in 5-7 years so the growth pace can be tempered then, but for the next few years we should expect significant expansion from the carrier.


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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.