JetBlue and the Worcester, Massachusetts airport have been going back and forth for several months now, working on plans to add service to that city. Lots of fun has been had in the media and social media channels. Today, however, things got
a little closer to real. The JetBlue website now shows Worcester as a valid origin airport:
Target destinations appear to be Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, with onward connections from there:
Sure, no official announcement yet and likely someone jumped the gun loading it into the webpage. Plus, no fares have been loaded yet that I can see.
Still, this is the latest indication that the service is coming. Likely sooner than not.
UPDATE: At least one person is suggesting ORH-MCO starts on 7 November 2013. I’m not seeing it yet.
UPDATE 2: It is most definitely real. Initial destinations are FLL and MCO with a service launch date of 7 November 2013. Intro fares will be $59/$49 to FLL/MCO, respectively.
The past week or so has been quite glorious for anyone looking to get into South America from the United States on the cheap. Both American Airlines and United Airlines had crazy sales from Orlando to Rio and now there is another sale available – in business class no less – from New York City to Chile on either AA or LAN metal for the long-haul segments. We’re talking about <$1000 fares to just about anywhere in Chile in business class, and Easter Island is included! And they are still available as of this morning. Needless to say, I’ve got a couple more flights booked now than I expected to have at this point in the year. But all in a good way. I think.
Considering that I started the year without any major trips planned I think that I’ve filled out my dance card pretty nicely so far. Between late April and Labor Day I have the following southern hemisphere flights booked:
And I still have to figure out how I’m getting home from Johannesburg. I’m hoping that a routing via South America works. Those are fun lines.
And, lest there is any confusion, I am not actually averse to traveling anywhere, including the southern hemisphere. It just seemed like a decent post title.
UPDATE: The fare was pulled with the 1pm feed.
Rio is an awesome city, well worth a visit to experience the beaches, culture and people ((see links below for details from my prior visit). Earlier in the week American Airlines apparently wanted to help Floridians visit, offering up ridiculously cheap fares. I’m not seeing those fares still on offer right now but United Airlines is now following on American’s heels. They have apparently decided that they REALLY want people to visit Rio, so long as you are starting in Orlando. There are fares available right now for less than $500 all-in between Orlando and Rio, with no minimum stay requirements and reasonably wide open availability.
If you are feeling particularly creative and looking for a mileage run out of these fares it is not too hard to make something around 3.3 cents/PQM on United, thanks to routing rules which permit Denver to be used, at least on the outbound segment. Even without Denver getting 3.5 cents is pretty easy; just focus on the Houston routing as it is more miles than the Newark or Dulles options. The following is what I would earn as a 1K with a Denver routing:
There is generally better availability on slightly shorter and more reasonable routings but the ability to route the return via Newark has some other, unintended benefits for me in terms of positioning costs.
One caveat to the earning potential is that the United N fare is the lowest they offer and, as such, does not earn credit in several partner programs. Asiana, US Airways and United all will give 100% credit for these segments. Lufthansa‘s Miles & More, Aegean and TAP Air Portugal will not accrue points for this trip.
The fare is valid on a pretty wide range of dates as well. Here are the United fare rules:
Do keep in mind that Brazil requires a visa for visitors traveling on a US passport and it is not cheap to acquire. Still, the fare is awesome and the visa lasts 10 years, covering multiple future trips.
This is a great fare available for visiting a wonderful destination. And it probably won’t last long. I’ve got a couple on hold already and I’m looking at a few other options.
Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, that you’re asked to put together a plan for starting up a new airline. You have to choose a base of operations, a handful of initial routes and an aircraft type to run on those routes. So, what would you choose?? For the base of operations you probably want an airport with a decent sized local population, low operational costs and maybe even a decent location to route connecting passengers through efficiently, especially if the hub doesn’t have a huge local population. For initial routes you’re probably going to want to go after big population areas. After all, more people means more business and a better chance that some might fly with you. And for aircraft you’ll probably want something reasonably comfortable for passengers and reasonably efficient in terms of fuel economy.
Based on those conditions who would choose Melbourne, Florida as the hub? Or Dulles as the initial destination?? Or the Canadair CRJ-200 as the aircraft type???? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
But that’s what Elite Airways has announced. The company runs a charter operation currently, according to their website. And now they’re looking to provide scheduled service, too. Their target market is snowbirds and the Florida cruise port departures, not business travelers. And while regional jets are generally less costly to operate than mainline operations that’s usually because the crew costs are much lower, not because the planes are more efficient. The per-hour fuel burn is lower than on bigger planes but disproportionately higher on a per-seat basis. So if there is actual demand for the service the bigger planes are a lot cheaper to fly on a per passenger basis. And let’s not forget that the CRJ-200 is one of the least comfortable planes to fly on in a typical commercial passenger service layout.
So they’ve got a limited market segment to target, an uncomfortable aircraft to fly and relatively high costs. Oh, and their hub airport is only an hour from Orlando’s international airport, where many other options exist for service.
Good luck…they’re going to need it.
Slowly but surely Southwest is moving to phase out the AirTran brand following the merger of the two companies. And, slowly has definitely been the key to the integration. The company has previously tried to move some flights from the AirTran brand to the Southwest side of operations only to be forced back on certain routes due to technology limitations. But now, with their pilot and flight attendant unions on board, the company is ready to grow the route map for the Southwest brand. And that growth is headed to Puerto Rico.
As of April 14, 2013 the company will operate four daily flights to San Juan under the Southwest brand. Three will be from Orlando and the other from Tampa. These flights will replace service currently operated by AirTran. The AirTran brand will continue to serve San Juan from Baltimore, Ft. Lauderdale and Atlanta. Eventually all the operations will migrate to the Southwest brand but that appears to still be a ways off, pending significant technology upgrades, among other things.
Still, this is a significant milestone for the merged company.
Southwest is taking over some Key West routes from AirTran this week, also from Tampa and Orlando. Those are easier to change than the over-water routes.
UPDATED (11:08am EDT 18 July):
JetBlue announced Providence, RI as their newest destination today with service starting November 29, 2012. The carrier will offer three daily departures, two serving Orlando and one serving Fort Lauderdale. The flights are timed to connect onward to additional cities from Orlando. The carrier notes Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; Nassau, Bahamas and Montego Bay, Jamaica as natural connections in their release while the website still lists San Juan, Ponce and Austin as connecting destinations.
The carrier has also announced an introductory fare sale with one-way flights starting at $75.
The schedule for flights is as follows:
Original post below:
In a much anticipated move JetBlue will announce service from Providence, RI today. An official statement is not yet available but the company website has PVD listed as an origin airport and it offers six destinations:
None of the flights are loaded in public timetables yet so it is not entirely clear what the timing or connections will be but a bit of inference and conjecture suggests that the Austin, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale flights will be non-stop service with the Puerto Rico destinations served as connections via Orlando.
An official announcement is expected at 11am EDT.
I make no secret of my love for mass transit systems, particularly when they connect to airports. When I read tales of such systems coming to the USA I’m always a bit skeptical, mostly because so few cities here understand mass transit well. And when I read about such stories in Florida, well, forget about it. And so it was that I came across this piece in the Orlando Sentinel which has left me absolutely dumbfounded.
The gist of the story is that there are a number of rail projects happening in the Orlando area and the main airport there (MCO) wants to be connected to them. That makes all sorts of sense. Sadly, however, things start to fall apart pretty quickly after that. Apparently a private company is looking to build a $1 billion train connection between Miami and Orlando. But in order to connect it to the airport there is the need for a 1 mile monorail segment connecting a station the rail company will build to the main terminal. That one mile apparently will cost $181 million, plus nearly $80 million in other infrastructure improvements. In other words, one mile costs about a quarter of the full Miami-Orlando run. Say what?!?!
The station in Orlando is also supposed to be capable of connecting to SunRail, a local commuter rail system which is currently under construction. SunRail will require a bus to transfer from the closest station a couple miles away into the airport proper. And it also seems that the new rail station is being targeted for the opposite side of the airfield as the SunRail station, despite the suggestion that they will somehow be integrated.
I’m a big fan of mass transit and I’d love to see something like this work out. But the ideas out there right now just don’t make sense. Bad connections, bad station locations and wacky numbers. It just doesn’t add up.
US Airways and Disney are trying to drum up business for their vacation package tours for the Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida, and they’re doing so with a million point giveaway. Like most such contests, it is possible to enter without actually purchasing a vacation package (though that gets you an entry, too). Simply head to the contest website, fill in the form and submit. Repeat daily for better odds of winning. Of course, odds of winning are likely quite poor, but they’re better if you actually enter, right? The contest closes on June 4, 2012.
Of note in the fine print:
Residents of New York, Florida, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico and other U.S. possessions or territories are not eligible for entry. Void outside of the United States or where prohibited or restricted by law.
As for the prize itself, here are the details:
One (1) grand prize consisting of one million (1,000,000) US Airways Dividend Miles bonus miles (“Prize”), One (1) VIP Disney Vacation consisting of four (4) First Class tickets to Orlando from within the U.S. on US Airways, A four (4) night stay in a Walt Disney World® Resort, Four (4) Walt Disney World® VIP tours, Four (4) 4-Day Magic Your Way Tickets with Park Hopper® Option, One (1) $500 (five hundred dollar) Disney Gift Card will be awarded by random drawing following the close of the Sweepstakes.
Certainly better than nothing.
Today’s quarterly earnings conference call from JetBlue had a few interesting bits of information that was unveiled, giving insight into future developments that can be expected from the carrier. The company reported a profit for both Q4 2011 and the full year, but there are also some very real challenges that the company is facing in 2012. As one person said on the call, "The honeymoon we enjoyed prior to this period is over."
A lot of the news which I found most interesting was around the "Even More" products that the company sells. What started with Even More Legroom seats offering additional pitch in the cabin has expanded to Even More Space (offering pre-boarding to ensure overhead bin space) and Even More Speed for access to priority security lines in many airports. This service started in 15 airports and recently expanded to 9 more. And selling the service resulted in $120MM of incremental revenue for the company in 2011. That’s a huge number, more than 20% of the total incremental that the company saw in the year.
Given the high revenue realized from the offering, it is not surprising that the company is expanding the number of seats for which it can be purchased. Specifically, the company confirmed that they will be adding 8 more seats to their Embraer E90 planes in the Q2/Q3 timeframe this year. Full details aren’t yet available on the announcement (seems to be a bit of a pattern there lately) but a quick review of the seat map suggests that they can get away with sliding a couple rows behind the exit row around and not really have to change too much else around, so long as they’re willing to keep the 34" pitch that the E90 has. If they go for the 38" that the A320s have they could also do that behind the exit row with minimal impact to customers, changing the other seats in that section from 33" to 32" pitch. Either way, it looks to be a positive change for the company to make more EML seats available.
Beyond the Even More bits, the honeymoon comment piqued my curiosity. The company had a huge growth spurt a few years back, taking on a bunch of new airplanes in a very short timeframe. Those acquisitions are now hitting the magic point in the life of an airplane known as a "C-Check." The maintenance costs for the C-Check and engine restorations on the aircraft are significant and the number of planes the company has going through that process in the next couple years is quite high. The result is a spike in maintenance costs. JetBlue has worked with their maintenance suppliers to mitigate the costs somewhat, but it will still be a challenge for the company in the coming years. And that’s all with a fleet that is still only 6.1 years old on average with a maximum age of 12 years.
There was mention of the new Hawaiian Airlines partnership, but no additional details shared there. And it was suggested that 5-7 new partners will be coming online in 2012, with links at Boston and Orlando likely rather than just at New York City. I’m betting on JAL being a partner via Boston with their new service there starting soon, but who knows.
Other than those bits, not a whole lot of interest. Plenty of accounting mumbo jumbo but nothing that seems especially significant at this point. And there are still a number of open questions, like where the company stands on rolling out additional benefits for their most frequent customers or many of the partnership details with Hawaiian. I guess patience will have to suffice.
JetBlue has added another interline partner to its portfolio, inking a deal with Singapore Airlines to provide through service at both JFK and Newark airports in the New York City area. The agreement allows for connections at Newark to JetBlue’s service to Boston, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale. At JFK there are many more destinations available. Customers will be able to purchase a single ticket and have through check-in, including baggage for the trip.
Noticeably lacking in the agreement, like most of the partnerships JetBlue has signed, is the ability to ticket directly via JetBlue’s sales channels and frequent flyer reciprocity. Like some previous partnerships it is likely that the purchase issue will be addressed at some point. Frequent flyer reciprocity is not so clear, though JetBlue has indicated they are at least looking at such options on a broad scale.
It will also be interesting to see how they handle through ticketing for passengers connecting to the Singapore-Newark route in terms of passenger comfort. That route is the longest currently flown in the world and is operated in an all business class configuration. Passengers connecting to JetBlue will also get a single-cabin configuration, but it is all economy. Admittedly, it is the most comfortable economy product flying in the USA today, but there’s still a marked difference in the service levels. It would be interesting to see JetBlue and Singapore Airlines work out a deal to get those passengers a complimentary upgrade to ‘Even More Space" seats or some other benefit to extend the "premium" experience as much as possible. Alas, I don’t actually see that coming.