JetBlue sets sights on ex­pan­sion

CEO says flights to D.C., Cancún could be in Austin’s fu­ture

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - By Brian Gaar

JetBlue Air­ways Corp. is look­ing at adding flights from Austin to Washington and Cancún, the air­line’s chief ex­ec­u­tive said in Austin on Fri­day.

CEO David Barger stopped by Austin-Bergstrom In­ter­na­tional Air­port as part of his visit to each of the air­line’s 61 cities, cel­e­brat­ing the com­pany’s 10th an­niver­sary.

The For­est Hills, N.Y.based air­line will ex­pand to 63 cities by year’s end, adding ser­vice in Washington, D.C., and Hart­ford, Conn., he said. “At some point, we want to take a look at adding more fre­quency and adding more cities, as well, to Austin,” he said.

The air­line is the sixth-largest car­rier at ABIA, which JetBlue has served since 2006. JetBlue flies to six cities from Austin: Bos­ton; Fort Laud­erdale and Or­lando, Fla.; New York’s John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tional Air­port; and San Fran­cisco and Long Beach, Calif. Its most pop­u­lar flight is to New York, at three flights at day, Barger said.

As part of his trip, Barger vis­ited six cities last week in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia and the Pa­cific North­west. Cen­tral Texas was a com­mon topic of con­ver­sa­tion, he said: “I kid you not — in Seat­tle, in Port­land, in places like San Jose, (peo­ple asked,) ‘ When are you go­ing to add ser­vice to Austin?’”

JetBlue has grown steadily in Austin, start­ing with four daily flights and about 220,000 pas­sen­gers in 2006. Last year, JetBlue served more than 426,000 pas­sen­gers with eight daily flights, ac­cord­ing to Ja­son Zielin­ski, an ABIA spokesman. For the first four months of this year, JetBlue pas­sen­ger traf­fic in Austin was up 8 per­cent com­pared with the same pe­riod in 2009 and with an over­all 5.5 per­cent in­crease at the air­port.

On Fri­day, Barger met with his Austin em-

ploy­ees. As he stopped by a JetBlue gate, some pas­sen­gers were pre­par­ing to board a flight to Fort Laud­erdale. Of the 100 seats on the plane, 97 were oc­cu­pied, a JetBlue em­ployee told Barger.

“Who wants to go to Fort Laud­erdale in July?” Barger in­quired. “Cruises,” the em­ployee replied.

Re­gard­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of flights from Austin to D.C. or Mex­ico, Barger said there are no con­crete timeta­bles. The com­pany’s Washington plans de­pend on govern­ment al­low­ing fur­ther ac­cess into Rea­gan Na­tional Air­port — but that could hap­pen later in the year.

As for Mex­ico, the air­line is hav­ing dis­cus­sions about the pos­si­bil­ity, Barger said.

“Austin-Cancún sounds pretty nat­u­ral to me,” he said. “Plus, from our per­spec­tive, it’s only a two-hour flight.”

Austin trav­el­ers cur­rently can fly non­stop to Washington, D.C., on United Air­lines, Zielin­ski said. The flight to Cancún, in the Mex­i­can state of Quin­tana Roo, is a sea­sonal non­stop that runs from June 2 through Aug. 7 on Sun Coun­try Air­lines, he said.

Ri­cardo B. Brazz­iell pho­tos AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Dur­ing his tour cel­e­brat­ing JetBlue Air­ways’ first decade of busi­ness, CEO David Barger, right, took a moment Fri­day to thank ground crew mem­ber Derek Ever­hart at Austin-Bergstrom In­ter­na­tional Air­port. New York-based JetBlue plans to start ser­vice to two more cities by year’s end, Barger said.

David Barger said re­quests for ser­vice to Austin were com­mon dur­ing his vis­its to the Pa­cific North­west and North­ern Cal­i­for­nia last week. ‘I kid you not,’ he says.

Ri­cardo B. Brazz­iell AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

JetBlue CEO Dave Barger, right, shoots the breeze with pi­lot Ste­wart Hough be­fore a flight to Fort Laud­erdale, Fla., on Fri­day. Ninety-seven of the flight’s 100 seats were oc­cu­pied.

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