The west coast will soon see more JetBlue love. The carrier announced significant route and operational changes today, adding Blue cities and frequencies. The moves come on the heels of launching a codeshare with JetSuiteX for some shorter west coast hops, also announced this week.
We continue to focus on leveraging the popularity of our transcon service, which is producing excellent results for our business. As we advance our West Coast strategy, we are bringing more flying options that our customers want and are growing our brand in hot new destinations that are thrilled to have JetBlue as a new option for travel. – Marty St. George, EVP, Commercial and Planning
New Blue Cities
Three new destinations join the route map with today’s announcement. Ontario, California becomes the fourth JetBlue destination in the LA Basin, joining Los Angeles, Long Beach and Burbank. JetBlue last served Ontario a decade ago and now believes the time is right to return service to the airport. Service begins September 5, 2018 and Ontario will be the 73rd nonstop JetBlue destination from JFK. Ontario Airport is growing its commercial service footprint, including service to Taipei launched earlier this year on China Airlines. The airport has not been shy about providing incentives to help grow services; it is unclear if such funds are involved in this announcement.
Ski-time Seasonal Service
Steamboat Springs, Colorado and Bozeman, Montana will both see new seasonal service this winter. The new flights will bring travelers to the slopes beginning in mid-December. For Steamboat JetBlue will offer three gateway airports: Boston, Long Beach and Fort Lauderdale. At Bozeman the service will be from Long Beach. In each case the flights will operate twice weekly.
These “atypical” routes were rumored last November in an internal company memo. Steamboat and Montana were explicitly called out at that time. These route adds are now confirmed.
Daytime Transcon Flying
Many of JetBlue’s transcon routes are redeye flights. That’s great for aircraft utilization but not so great for travelers who prefer to sleep in beds rather than on planes. Burbank, Salt Lake City and Long Beach will each see an additional transcon frequency added during daytime hours, increasing service and options for passengers. The new Burbank and Salt Lake flights will be to JFK; Long Beach will now have a daylight flight to Boston. JetBlue is also adding a Burbank-Boston flight to the schedule, though as the overnight turn it typically uses when establishing new transcon routes. These routes all join the schedule on September 5, 2018.
Service to Palm Springs is also returning for the winter season, including Mint service during the peak two weeks around Christmas and New Years. The flights will operate late night/redeye beginning on October 10, 2018 and for the bulk of the season. It will shift to daytime flights during the two weeks of Mint service.
JetBlue’s continued commitment to successful Mint premium experience during this important flight period underscores the personalized service and luxury that defines both the airline and the visitor experience in Greater Palm Springs. – Scott White, President & CEO of the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau
The daytime transcons join the schedule as Alaska Airlines similarly is growing its offerings connecting the coasts. Alaska is adding daytime flights from San Jose and Seattle to JFK, replacing one service each at LAX and SFO, with flights starting this summer.
Long Beach cuts
With all the schedule shifting happening it is also necessary to point out some cuts coming on the west coast. JetBlue is trimming operations at its Focus City in Long Beach by a third, from 34 daily flights to 23. The move comes following a decision by the city to halt progress on a customs and immigration facility at the airport, something the carrier was pushing strongly for.
JetBlue will revise flight frequencies on the following Long Beach routes starting September 5, 2018:
- Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport (LAS) – Three times daily service.
- Oakland International Airport (OAK) – Twice daily service.
- Portland International Airport (PDX) – Once daily service.
- Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) – Up to three times daily service.
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO) – Twice daily service.
- San José International Airport (SJC) – Twice daily service.
- Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA) – Once daily service.
JetBlue will continue to offer its current frequencies of nonstop service between Long Beach and New York-JFK, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), Austin–Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), Reno–Tahoe International Airport (RNO) and Sacramento International Airport (SMF).
Previously the company would “squat” on the slots, hoping to keep them for future use. The airport authority is not keen on that behavior, however, and this time around JetBlue expects that the slots will be revoked and redistributed to other carriers seeking to add service at the airport. That process takes some time, with a rolling 90-day utilization cycle in play, but by early 2019 they should be available to other airlines. Expect to see Southwest Airlines interested in growing its recently launched services there. The airport still delivers spectacularly low yields for airlines so it is unclear just how much growth any carrier will be willing to push.
Competition within the west coast is fierce and the combination of Alaska Airlines and Virgin America creates even greater challenges for JetBlue. Picking off seasonal service with limited frequencies is a relatively low risk way to keep the brand visible in the market. It also allows the carrier to focus on routes with higher potential yields than the typical major city pairs. Of course, financial success depends on inducing some additional demand from passengers; that typically comes from lower fares. The intro prices to Steamboat and Bozeman are significantly less than the existing fares, though not necessarily cheap. This could offset the typically weak yields Long Beach is known for, even if just for a couple flights each week.
Similarly, the maturing transcon market creates competitive challenges but also opportunities to outperform. JetBlue banks on its more premium coach product to keep passengers coming back and paying a smidgen more for the service. Adding the daytime transcon flights will open up additional market segments and the complimentary high-speed in-flight wifi service helps travelers to not “waste” a day en route in some cases.