ANALYSIS: JetBlue progresses on Fort Lauderdale growth

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New York-based JetBlue Airways is gradually making good on a promise to expand its operations at Fort Lauderdale, as the carrier prepares to roll out four new routes from the south Florida airport later this year.

The airline will grow available seat kilometres (ASKs) out of Fort Lauderdale to 4.2 billion in the first nine months of 2014, Flightglobal/Innovata data shows, which provides the airline's capacity up to September. This is almost 17% more than the capacity it had offered in the same period in 2013, 35% more than the first nine months of 2012 and up 45% from the capacity offered in the same period in 2011.

JetBlue announced earlier this week that Pittsburgh will be its latest destination to be served from Fort Lauderdale, with daily service to kick off on 29 October. On 1 May, the airline will begin flights from Fort Lauderdale to Punta Cana, Montego Bay and Port of Spain. JetBlue has emphasised that there is good potential for it to expand its reach into Latin America and the Caribbean from Florida.

In 2012, the airline added several new destinations in this region from Fort Lauderdale, including San Jose (Costa Rica), Medellin, Port-au-Prince and Lima.

The airline now operates 26 routes non-stop out of Fort Lauderdale. Aside from the Caribbean destinations that will be launched in May and Pittsburgh in October, JetBlue also confirmed this week that Albany will receive non-stop service from Fort Lauderdale when the airline adds the New York state capital to its network in 2015.

What JetBlue's network out of Fort Lauderdale will look like in September 2014

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Innovata FlightMaps Analytics

JetBlue's Fort Lauderdale growth is expected to play a key role in the airline's development in the coming years. The airline has said that it plans to increase daily departures at the airport to about 100 in 2017 from more than 60 currently.

The airline's strategy at the airport has won approval from analysts, who believe that the airline's growth south of Florida will help boost its bottom line.

Goldman Sachs upgraded JetBlue to neutral from sell earlier this month, saying that it expects the airline to continue expanding into the Caribbean in 2014 in what it views as a "long-term growth opportunity".

Likewise, Moody's said on 15 April that it had upgraded JetBlue to a B2 rating from B3. Among the factors cited by the ratings agency was the airline's plan to expand into Latin America and the Caribbean. "More service to the Caribbean and Latin America including from the company's focus city, Fort Lauderdale, will positively contribute to the company's operating results," says Moody's.

While JetBlue has kept mum on where else it plans to fly to in the future from Fort Lauderdale, the airline's executives have offered some hints. Potential destinations include those in Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil. The airline has said previously that northern Brazilian cities such as Manaus, will be reachable with JetBlue's Airbus A320s.