The headline may read Boston but today’s news from JetBlue is all about a return to Atlanta. The carrier is ramping up service at its hub in Boston with a new goal of 200 peak daily departures and, starting in March 2017, five of those daily flights will be to Atlanta. Also included in the announcement are three additional hub to see Atlanta service: JFK, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. Atlanta was one of the early failures for JetBlue, a market where it showed up with a massive splash that quickly fizzled out in the face of competition from AirTran and Delta Air Lines. And all four markets that JetBlue is pushing this time around are significant Delta operations, plus competition from Southwest (owing to the ATL hub acquired when it bought out AirTran) and Spirit Airlines.
So, why the return, especially in the face of the rough competitive climate? In short, because JetBlue has to. Atlanta is a gaping hole in the JetBlue route map today, a major city with significant business traffic and one that the carrier needs to be in to grow its corporate contract portfolio, especially from Boston and New York City. From the company’s release regarding the new routes:
The addition of Atlanta answers calls from both customers and crewmembers, which have made Atlanta JetBlue’s most requested new destination. The new route will be especially attractive to JetBlue’s Boston-based business customers who have long requested that the airline serve this important market.
And with five daily flights, well spaced throughout the day, the ability to serve those business travelers well is very real.
Also worth noting that JetBlue has several international interline partners at Boston and JFK, partners it can use to flow passengers to many foreign destinations including the Middle East and Asia. Delta has objected strongly in the past to the US government’s awarding JetBlue route contracts in some of these markets; it will be interesting to see if the carrier pushes for more Atlanta-originating GSA city pairs based on the new flights.
Read More: Delta bets bigger in Boston expansion
Separately, JetBlue’s Boston service will also see an additional frequency to San Francisco added in July 2017, countering Delta’s planned 2x daily service on the same route. Seasonal service from Boston to Montego Bay, Jamaica and St. Thomas, USVI will go year-round, also to counter 1x weekly service recently announced by Delta. JetBlue is at 140 peak daily flights today and is aiming for 200 to hold its dominant position at Logan.
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