JetBlue sets sights on expansion
CEO says flights to D.C., Cancún could be in Austin’s future
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.
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.
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.