jetBlue’s growth slows dramatically in 2008; new routes to Colombia and Caribbean on way

Image: Route Launch
The new jetBlue Terminal 5 at JFK opened in October. It is designed to handle 20 million passengers per year and up to 250 daily departures. Dave Barger, jetBlue CEO, said: “From day one Terminal 5 will welcome more than 30 percent of JFK’s annual customer traffic. The terminal is designed specifically with our customers in mind, and we have created a new standard in both comfort and service that everyone can enjoy.”

Since its launch at New York’s JFK airport in February 2000 jetBlue has grown rapidly and is now operating a fleet of over 100 A320s and 35 Embraer E190s. After reporting traffic growth of over 25% in each of its first six years, the airline grew by a more modest 15% in 2007 and this year is on track to report growth (in passenger numbers) of around 3%. Since 2002 average annual load factors have been between 80% and 85%. Average sector length which had grown from 825 miles in 2000 to 1,358 miles in 2005 fell in 2006 as the Embraer fleet grew significantly having been introduced in 2005. The average fare paid by jetBlue customers for a one-way journey has increased from $107 in 2002 to $123 in 2007 with the average sector length in both years being similar.

Chart: jetBlue growth
Source: jetBlue annual reports

New York; new terminal but capacity down this winter

Last month the airline moved into a new purpose-built terminal at JFK which links to the former iconic TWA terminal designed by Eero Saarinen in the 1960s. Although JFK remains the airline’s busiest base (three times busier than Boston), capacity at the airport this winter is 11% down on last year.

Chart: Top 12 Airports
Source: OAG Max Online

However, winter capacity at each of jetBlue’s other busiest ‘top 5′ airports is up. Boston, Fort Lauderdale and Long Beach have each seen capacity growth of 5%-6% while Orlando capacity is up over 17%.

Map: JetBlue routes

Other airports which have seen significant year-on-year capacity increases include White Plains (+120%), Aruba (+113%), Santo Domingo (+112%), Austin (+96%), Seattle (+86%), Cancun (+69%), Portland (+62%) and Nassau (+51%).

This winter jetBlue serves 51 destinations compared with 53 a year ago. Columbus, Nashville, Ontario and Tucson are no longer served, while Puerto Plata and Saint Maarten, both in the Caribbean, have been added.

Apart from the significant capacity reduction at JFK (which still serves 46 destinations non-stop this winter), jetBlue has also cut capacity out of Washington Dulles (by 19%), Oakland (by 27%) and Chicago O’Hare (by 23%). Overall November capacity is up less than 1% compared to last year, though the number of routes operated has increased from 110 to 125.

Image: Cake celeberation
jetBlue launched services from White Plains to Tampa on 2 November. “In response to continuing demand for high-quality air service in suburban New York and Connecticut, JetBlue has grown its White Plains service from just four flights last year to 11 flights today,” said Marty St. George, JetBlue’s Vice President of Planning.

2009 destinations will include Colombia

Between December and March jetBlue is planning to add a further 12 new routes, all of which involve either destinations in Florida, the Caribbean or Latin America. Eight of these will be operated at least daily and include a link between San Juan in Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. There will be four new routes from Washington; two to Florida and two to the Caribbean.

Of particular note is a new daily service from Orlando to Bogota in Colombia which is expected to launch at the end of January. This will be the airline’s southernmost destination and its first in South America.

International alliances growing

Image: Jetblue group photo
jetBlue and Aer Lingus celebrated their partnership in April by welcoming the first passengers to connect between the two airlines at New York JFK. The innovative partnership enables Irish and US customers to book a single reservation between Ireland and more than 25 US destinations, connecting through jetBlue’s home base at JFK.

In the last two years JetBlue has forged partnerships with Aer Lingus and Lufthansa, with Lufthansa even purchasing a significant 19% stake in the airline. So far this does not include selling each other’s flights directly due to IT integration issues. It also has a codeshare agreement with Cape Air for regional services out of Boston.


  1. sloane says:

    Dr. Tantillo, who has a marketing and branding blog, did two posts quite a while back criticizing JetBlue for their sneaky/deceptive frequent flyer program (miles expire – but this isn’t made clear up-front) and well-publicized gaffes. Personally, my experience with JetBlue has been quite good. They’re definitely my first choice of airline to fly – if price is the same or close to the same as what another carrier is offering. I’m actually at the new Jet Blue terminal right now (drinking wine, eating bruschetta..not as good as in the city, but..)–I’d definitely rather have time to kill here than at another terminal.

    Links to JetBlue posts on Tantillo blog:

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