JetBlue Expands at Fort Lauderdale; Revises Growth Strategy

US carrier JetBlue Airways continues to grow at its South Florida focus city of Fort Lauderdale with two new daily non-stop routes from Hollywood International Airport to Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic from May 1, 2014.  These new services are in addition to the previously announced link to Port of Spain, Trinidad, which will launch on the same date.

JetBlue will provide additional options for passengers on these two new routes and will increase competition for low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines which currently serves both markets (Punta Cana on a seasonal basis) from Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International.  Caribbean Airlines also provides an existing link from the Florida city to Montego Bay.

“Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood was JetBlue’s very first destination and we have always been very committed to the South Florida region. With these new non-stop flights to three of the Caribbean’s premier destinations, we will offer 29 non-stop routes and more than 70 daily flights from Fort Lauderdale/ Hollywood on peak days,” said Dave Barger, president and chief executive officer, JetBlue Airways.

This latest network growth comes at the time JetBlue welcomes the arrival of its first Airbus A321, an aircraft that will support its growth on key routes into the Caribbean, within the US and to introduce an enhanced transcontinental offering between the Eastern and Western starboards.  The biggest variant of the Airbus A320 Family will become an important part of the JetBlue growth strategy as the carrier looks to larger capacity aircraft to meet growing demand.

As part of what it describes as an optimisation of its fleet, JetBlue has agreed to convert orders for 18 A320ceo and neo aircraft to larger A321s to better match capacity with growing network demand in key markets, while at the same time reducing unit costs.  It has also agreed an incremental order for 15 A321ceo and 20 A321neo aircraft, providing increased fleet flexibility and helped launch a Sharklet retrofit programme with the European manufacturer to fit the wingtip devices on up to 110 A320s from 2015. 

"We believe these fleet changes will provide increased ability to match capacity and demand throughout our network and reduce costs, leading to improved shareholder returns over the long term," said Dave Barger, president and chief executive officer, JetBlue.

Alongside the growth at the larger end of its fleet, the US carrier has deferred the arrival of smaller aircraft, pushing the delivery of 24 Embraer 190s from 2014-2018 to 2020-2022, reducing capital expenditures over the near term.  It is unclear if this decision was motivated by the Brazilian manufacturer’s new enhanced ‘E2’ programme and whether these aircraft will be delivered as the upgraded variant.  As a result of the fleet adjustments, JetBlue will optimize its E190 fleet to approximately 60 aircraft in the near term. 

"While the E190 is critical to our continued success in Boston and San Juan, we are now at the point where our network growth calls for larger gauge aircraft," explained Barger.  "In addition to allowing us to more cost-effectively serve certain high density markets, we believe our fleet restructuring plan will allow us to accelerate attractive growth opportunities at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport."

The A321 is expected to have unit costs 10 to 15 percent lower than those of the A320 aircraft it will replace, driven in part by a 10 to 15 percent improvement in fuel consumption per seat.  "With significant savings from increased fuel efficiency and better utilisation of our airport slot portfolio in key markets, we believe these A321 aircraft will improve our company's profitability," said Barger.