JetBlue seems eager to go toe-to-toe with the ultra-low-cost carriers.
The New York-based carrier announced Thursday that it plans to launch year-round flights from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, along with flights between Aguadilla, Puerto Rico and Tampa — and both routes where JetBlue will go compete directly with Frontier Airlines.
JetBlue said it wants to grow its presence in San Juan, which is already a focus city for the carrier, and increase competition for flights to Aguadilla. The carrier also has a large presence in Puerto Rico, operating an average of 35 departures a day from the U.S. territory.
However, JetBlue’s route from Luis Munoz Marín International Airport (SJU) to Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) is more of a return than a completely new offering. The New York-based carrier flew between SJU and RDU from November 2020 through January 2022 but axed the route amid pandemic-related cuts.
Now, JetBlue is restoring the route as ultra-low-cost rival Frontier expands its footprint in the east — and across markets where JetBlue is strong. Also, JetBlue’s addition of Tampa-Aguadilla flights comes only about three months after Frontier announced plans to begin its own service on the route.
“This growth will increase competition and choice for customers traveling to and from Puerto Rico and for travelers in Raleigh and Tampa, while also building on our commitment to support tourism on the island and connect family and friends,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said in a statement.
JetBlue said its proposed merger with Spirit — which is also strong in Puerto Rico — would allow the carrier to “unlock long-term growth opportunities” there, promising that it can still deliver low fares and expand travel options for customers in the U.S. territory.
However, the announcement of new routes to Puerto Rico comes as JetBlue faces a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice, which seeks to block its planned $3.8 billion acquisition of Spirit Airlines, the largest ultra-low-cost carrier in the U.S. The Justice Department sued JetBlue for the acquisition in March to prevent further consolidation of the airline industry, arguing that such an acquisition would cause airfare to rise in the U.S.
Given the DOJ’s suit to block the proposed merger, it’s unclear what the prospects are for the merger to succeed. For now, JetBlue and Spirit will continue to operate as separate competitors.
Here is the schedule for JetBlue’s newest flights to and from Puerto Rico:
Between RDU and SDU:
- Departs RDU at 9 a.m. and lands in SDU at 12:35 p.m., all times local.
- Departs from SDU at 1:45 p.m. and lands in RDU at 5:30 p.m., all times local.
Between Tampa International Airport (TPA) and Rafael Hernandez International Airport (BQN):
- Departs from TPA at 12:05 p.m. and lands in BQN at 2:57 p.m., all times local.
- Departs from BQN at 3:50 p.m. and lands in TPA at 6:36 p.m., all times local.
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