JetBlue is continuing to grow their operations in Boston, focusing on business markets in a big way. The carrier announced today that they will offer service between Boston and Philadelphia with five daily flights beginning May 23, 2013. This is not a small entry into a market, testing the waters to see if there will be resistance. This is a major move with the expectation that they have to show up with a solid offering or be beaten out of the market by US Airways.
Speaking of getting beaten out of the market, Southwest tried to attack US Air on this route recently. The carrier added service in June 2010 and competed with US Airways for 20 months before throwing in the towel. As of February 2012 Southwest killed the route, leaving US Airways once again as the only carrier on the route. JetBlue is no stranger to competing with an incumbent on a major business Boston route. The New York-based carrier has previously established similar service at Washington’s National airport and Newark.
The route schedule offers reasonably good timings for business travelers:
It would be nice to see one early morning flight out of Philadelphia and a later flight out of Boston – as it stands a "day trip" out of Philly is really only about half a day – but the schedule has potential. That said, JetBlue will be competing with 15-17 daily departures on US Airways. The shuttle-type service will be tough to match. JetBlue faced a similar schedule discrepancy in Washington, DC and eventually grew their operation to 10 daily flights to keep pace. The Philadelphia operation may need to grow to succeed, though it is not clear that demand exists for both JetBlue and US Airways to run "shuttle" operations on the route.
Also worth noting is that, despite the reputation of Philadelphia as a massive US Airways fortress hub, the carrier isn’t nearly as dominant there as some other airline hubs around the country. Not that the JetBlue service appears to be focusing on connecting traffic, but there could be an opportunity here. If nothing else it should help bring fares down for passengers. Currently a one-way fare in the nonstop market is $404 while return trips can be had for as low as $260 return. Even aside from the introductory $17.76 fare sale there is the opportunity for the lower one-way fares to make a big difference for both leisure and business travelers. And to cut at US Airways’ bottom line.
It is not surprising that, eventually, younger airlines have to compete on major business routes to try to win customers. JetBlue has taken a relatively conservative approach lately on this front. They’ve been somewhat selective and limited in their moves but they seem to be working as the carrier has maintained loads and yields as they’ve expanded. Still, this is a market where such an effort has been staged before and the challenger lost. It will be interesting to see if JetBlue can succeed.