US low-fare carrier JetBlue Airways has announced its intent to introduce its first flights to Trinidad and Tobago with the introduction of links to Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain from both Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport and New York John F Kennedy (JFK) International Airport during the first half of 2014, subject to regulatory approval.
JetBlue plans to launch a twice daily service to the Caribbean island country on from/to New York from February 24, 2014 and a daily link from Fort Lauderdale from May 1, 2014. Both routes will be operated using 150-seat Airbus A320s and will see it end the current monopoly of Caribbean Airlines in each of the markets.
“Customers visiting the beautiful island of Trinidad and Tobago have dealt with high fares, cramped seating and limited choices for too long," said Scott Laurence, vice president of network planning, JetBlue Airways. “The largest population of Trinidadians in the US live in New York and Florida. Our new service will provide customers with an inexpensive option for travel to Port of Spain, whether traveling for vacation or to visit friends and family.”
The New York - Port of Spain market has had competition previously but Caribbean Airlines, formerly BWIA West Indies Airways, has held its current monopoly since May 2010 when Delta Air Lines ended its own service, launched in December 2007. In the last ten years TravelSpan Guyana (February 2007 – October 2009), American Airlines (up until February 2004) have also served the route, while Ryan International Airlines and Universal Airlines had limited schedules during the 2000s.
According to MIDT data, an estimated 274,000 bi-directional O&D passengers flew on the route in 2012, a fourth successive year of traffic declines since 2009 when more than 300,000 passengers travelled between New York and Port of Spain.
The Fort Lauderdale - Port of Spain market has also had previous competition, with Caribbean Airlines’ current monopoly in place since October 2009. The airline only launched flights on the route in May 2008 when TravelSpan Guyana was the sole operator but quickly faced strong competition in the form of US Low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines. The latter left the market in February 2009 and TravelSpan followed in October 2009, leaving Caribbean Airlines in control.
According to MIDT data, an estimated 77,000 bi-directional O&D passengers flew on the route in 2012. Again, this was a decline on previous years with the 84,000 passengers recorded in 2010, the recent traffic high.
Destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean are a key part of the JetBlue network and now make up almost one-third of its route network. In the Caribbean, JetBlue is the largest carrier in terms of capacity in both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, offering more flights than any other carrier.
According to its latest schedule, JetBlue now serves 27 Latin American and Caribbean destinations, including: Aruba; The Bahamas (Nassau); Barbados; Bermuda; Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman); Colombia (Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena); Costa Rica (Liberia and San Jose); Dominican Republic (La Romana, Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, Samana, Santiago and Santo Domingo); Jamaica (Kingston and Montego Bay); Mexico (Cancun); Puerto Rico (Aguadilla, Ponce and San Juan); St. Croix; Saint Lucia; St. Maarten; St. Thomas; and, Turks and Caicos (Providenciales). The airline will also begin service to Port-au-Prince, Haiti this winter, subject to receipt of government approval.
"We look forward to welcoming JetBlue and its award winning service to Trinidad and Tobago. This is in keeping with governments' vision to grow the tourism sector," said The Honorable Chandresh Sharma, minister of tourism, Trinidad and Tobago. "The United States has traditionally been and continues to be one of our major trading partners. An efficient, reliable and affordable airlift is of critical importance in further capitalising on the potential from the US."
Savannah Secures JetBlue Link
Elsewhere, JetBlue is to introduce flights between New York JFK and Hilton Head International Airport in Savannah, a route its chief executive, Dave Barger initially leaked via social media channels last week. Ahead of the formal announcement this week, Barger posted on its Twitter profile: “Hmmm! Savannah's 3-letter code is SAV - seems like an airline should add new service and ‘SAV’ customers from high fares, right?”
JetBlue will launch a twice daily link on this route from February 13, 2014 using a 100-seat Embraer 190 and providing new flight options for travellers to the Big Apple from both Georgia and South Carolina. Passengers at the 83rd destination in the JetBlue network will also be able to take advantage of connection opportunities in New York, including among others Albuquerque, NM; Boston, MA; Denver, CO; Los Angeles, CA and San Francisco, CA.
Officials from Visit Savannah, the resource for travel to Savannah, and The Hilton Head Island Chamber of Commerce have revealed this new route has followed years of planning. "This has not been an overnight success story by any means. Instead, years of research and collaboration (on both sides) have gone into building the foundation of what is sure to be a long-term partnership," said Joe Marinelli, president, Visit Savannah.
“JetBlue brings value, competitive fares, additional flight options and a stellar reputation for customer service. We are thrilled to have one of the most highly regarded airlines in the industry servicing our region. It's a winning combination for both Savannah and Hilton Head Island travelers, residents and the business community," added Bill Miles, president and chief executive officer, Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.
Operations at Hilton Head International, formerly known as Savannah International Airport, Travis Field and Chatham Field, are currently dominated by the US majors and their regional partners, although there is direct competition to New York JFK, despite links to other New York airports. According to 2013 flight schedules from OAG Analyser, American Airlines has a link to Dallas; Delta Air Lines serves Atlanta, Detroit and New York (LaGuardia); United Airlines flies to Chicago, Houston, Newark and Washington, while US Airways flies to Charlotte, Philadelphia and Washington.