JetBlue Adding Barbados

By Andrew Compart

JetBlue plans to continue its international expansion with new service this fall to the Caribbean island of Barbados, pending U.S. Transportation Dept. approval, as it continues its push to have more than 20% of its capacity on Caribbean and Latin American routes by the end of this year.

That would more than double the percentage of JetBlue capacity assigned to Caribbean and Latin American markets at the end of 2007, the airline said.

In an April 23 conference call on the airline’s first-quarter earnings, JetBlue CEO Dave Barger said the airline’s passenger unit revenue in its Caribbean and international markets has improved even as the company has added capacity. He also said Caribbean destinations require “minimal” up-front capital.

“We look forward to building on our success in the Caribbean,” he said, adding, “We believe we are well positioned to take advantage of other Caribbean market opportunities that may arise later this year.”

JetBlue plans to begin service between its New York Kennedy hub and Grantley Adams Airport in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Oct. 1, using its 150-seat Airbus A320 aircraft.

JetBlue executives said a lot of the capacity it has been adding for Caribbean services has come from capacity it has taken out of transcontinental markets, where aggressive fare sales have driven down yields. The airline’s transcontinental capacity, which once topped 50%, has dropped to about 27% of its system.

Barger, however, insisted that “transcon is still key to our airline” and should end up at about 30% of its capacity by year’s end. “It’s part of our network, and it’s a network that we’re going to defend,” he said. “It’s core to Boston, it’s core to New York, it’s core to Washington and also the transcons that we have in South Florida.”

In other news, the airline said it will begin offering four daily flights from Boston Logan to Baltimore/Washington Airport on Sept. 9, complementing its six daily flights from Boston to Washington Dulles in Northern Virginia. JetBlue’s Boston operation has grown from two to 11 gates in the past five years, and BWI will become its 32nd destination served out of Boston.

Barger also provided an update on the status of his airline’s public spat with Long Beach Airport in California. In a recent interview Barger threatened to pull JetBlue out of the airport if it does not make long-promised improvements, but Barger said April 23 that he was “very encouraged” by his meetings with Long Beach Airport leadership in New York this week.

Photo: Embraer

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