AirTran Airways plans a measured expansion into the Caribbean as compared with its fellow US low-fare carrier JetBlue.

During the fourth quarter of 2009 and continuing into this month AirTran is launching flights from Atlanta and Orlando to Aruba, and Atlanta, Baltimore and Orlando to Nassau, Bahamas and Montego Bay, Jamaica. AirTran already serves San Juan, Puerto Rico from Atlanta, Baltimore and Orlando and Cancun from Atlanta and Baltimore.

During a presentation today at the Raymond James Growth Airline conference AirTran chief executive Bob Fornaro said the carrier's growth into the Caribbean is a "positive addition and one that will continue".

Fornaro doesn't foresee AirTran building a significant Caribbean presence of 25 destinations, but he does forecast "continuous growth, perhaps two destinations a year".

The Caribbean currently accounts for roughly 6% of AirTran's market, and Fornaro expects that should expand to 10%-12% during the next 18 months. He explains AirTran's growth is "probably not on the same level as JetBlue, which is very strong in the ethnic New York market".

However, Fornaro feels the Caribbean plays "a very nice role for us as a pretty good east coast player", as the region ties into AirTran's connecting flows.

Fornaro explains when AirTran opens a new Caribbean destination it attempts to offer flights from Atlanta, Baltimore and Orlando "so we can get some efficiencies".

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news