BOSTON (CBS) JetBlue Airways celebrated its 75th destination on Thursday at T.F. Green Airport in Providence with flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. But the New England growth story for the airline is much bigger than this inaugural flight.
In less than a decade, jetBlue has become the number 1 airline serving New England. It is closing in on 25 percent of the passenger traffic at Logan Airport.
Today it has 109 flights a day in Boston. When the spring and summer schedule is announced, that figure is expected to jump to around 125 a day.
The carrier is now flying in and out of the Boston, Burlington, Hartford, Portland as well as Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket airports with increased seasonal service. And now in addition to Providence, jetBlue is eyeing Worcester for its next regional airport expansion.
Starting off with less than 100 employees in New England, jetBlue now has 2,370 team members. And the word “team” cannot be overemphasized. You never go to a jetBlue event without employees flanking the speakers and the group is always introduced.
Governor Lincoln Chafee was at the gate at Green Airport to personally shake hands with passengers arriving from Orlando on the first flight on November 29.
“JetBlue is the model of how to run an organization: Service and low cost,” said Chafee in his brief remarks.
Of course it helps to fly new Airbus A320 jets with 150 leather seats and have Direct TV at every seat. Next year a good portion of its fleet will have WiFi.
In Boston, Southwest Airlines is chasing jetBlue in low cost air carrier of choice. Southwest is expanding slowly as they merge with Air Tran.
In Providence, the opposite is true with jetBlue taking on Southwest as their major competitor. Southwest started service at Green Airport in October of 1996.
“Adding another carrier gives us another major boost in the leisure and meeting market,” said Evan Smih, CEO of Discover Newport. “This is coming after we experienced double digit growth in hotel occupancy this year.”
JetBlue never misses an opportunity to partner in the community. In Rhode Island, they partnered with the Give Kids The World Village in Orlando by flying seriously ill children on their flights. It also sponsored a book drive in cooperation with the Hasbro Children’s Hospital Read To Me Program.
Music always adds to the festivities and playing at the gate was the jazz group from Bishop Hendricken High School in Rhode Island.
Spring training starts in just over two months in Fort Meyers and home games for the Red Sox will be played at jetBlue Park. Not surprisingly, Southwest has also announced the startup of seasonal service from Green Airport and for the first time will have non-stop flights to West Palm Beach.
PVD Airport that has suffered declines in traffic in the last couple of years got a real boost with the start of the new jetBlue flights with more cities to be added.
“Buy those tickets,” said Dr. Kathleen Hittnerand, Chairperson of The Rhode Island Rhode Island Airport Corporation.
All Things Travel reports with Bob Weiss can be heard on WBZ News Radio