JetBlue eyes two additional destinations in 2009

Washington DC
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Taking advantage of other airlines scaling back operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, JetBlue Airways could expand its footprint in those regions this year with two additional destinations.

The carrier recently launched flights from Orlando to Costa Rica with Embrarer E-190s, and in January launched flights from Orlando to Bogota, Columbia. JetBlue's flights from Boston to Santo Domingo begin in June ahead of new service in May from the carrier's JFK hub to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

In a recent interview with ATI JetBlue CEO Dave Barger said two more destinations should follow, citing Barbados, Trinidad and Haiti as potential candidates for service.

As JetBlue's transcontinental capacity drops from roughly 55% to 30%-32% Barger says service to Latin America and the Caribbean is absorbing some of the shift as JetBlue reorients the aircraft on more North-South flows.

JetBlue is readying to add Orlando to its codeshare-like arrangement with Aer Lingus that debuted about a year ago. The two carriers already work together at JFK and Boston, transferring passengers and bags on one another's flights. Passengers use the Aer Lingus website to book combination itineraries.

Barger says JetBlue sees about 100 customers per day connect through its system, with the majority doing so in JFK since the expansion of the partnership in Boston happened only recently.

JetBlue and its largest shareholder Lufthansa are readying to start their commercial tie-up during the second half of the year when the two carriers will transfer passengers. In 2010 JetBlue will gain the ability to sell Lufthansa and Aer Lingus tickets on its website once it transitions to new reservations system powered by Sabre.

While Barger admits developing the commercial ties with Lufthansa and switching to a new reservations system is keeping JetBlue busy, the carrier would evaluate other opportunities if approached by potential partners.

But Barger says there is "no doubt" a bias towards Lufthansa and its subsidiary Swiss as well as potential subsidiaries Brussels Airlines and Austrian Airlines. Those tie-ups could "drive a lot of traffic".

JetBlue's CEO recognizes the carrier is facing new competition at its Boston focus city from Southwest and Virgin America. But he believes JetBlue is well-positioned as it offers more nonstop flights from the airport than any other carrier.

Barger says he's "fascinated" by Southwest morphing its business model by serving primary markets like New York and Boston. Southwest has secured a single gate at LaGuardia after purchasing slots previously used by defunct ATA Airlines, and plans to launch flights from the airport later this year.