JetBlue predicts 50% growth for Boston ops within 4 years

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JetBlue Airways could boost peak departures at Boston's Logan International airport by 50% over the next three to four years, carrier executives said today.

The carrier has been building up Boston as one of four major focus cities for several years, but the market is expected to continue to generate significant growth as the New York-based carrier seeks to boost its share of business travelers.

JetBlue's daily departures at Boston are expected to rise to around 100 at the peak of the third quarter travel season, said executive vice president and chief commercial officer Robin Hayes, speaking to analysts at the JetBlue Investor Day.

That number is expected to grow to 150 daily departures during the peak leisure travel season by 2015 or 2016, Hayes added.

JetBlue's growth in Boston is expected to significantly outpace overall increases in passenger traffic. The carrier instead expects that it will capture market share as other airlines withdraw capacity rather than try to compete with JetBlue's low-fare services, Hayes said.

Already, Hayes said, he has watched rival airlines eliminate routes from Boston to two Florida cities - Orlando and Fort Myers - where JetBlue has major operations.

Meanwhile, JetBlue is also reconfiguring some if its feeder routes to its new Boston hub. Last week, the carrier informed employees at Washington DC's Dulles airport that it would transfer several frequencies on routes to Boston to nearby Washington National airport, Hayes said.

The overall goal is to make JetBlue's overall network more attractive to corporate travel managers.

JetBlue was launched 12 years ago with a strategy focused on attracting mainly leisure travel. The initial network produced rapid growth, but the carrier's executives realized by 2005 that the leisure network was not sustainable, Hayes said.

Leisure travel typically generates periods of peak traffic over the summer and around major holidays, and deep troughs of demand in other periods. Starting in 2005, the carrier decided to focus on increasing its share of business travelers, which help to balance the divide between the peaks and troughs of the leisure travel market, Hayes said.