JetBlue Airways is looking at launching services to Jamaica from Boston, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando after a better than expected response to its recently launched New York JFK-Montego Bay service.

The carrier's VP of network planning, Scott Laurence, calls JFK-Montego Bay the most successful route launch in JetBlue history. He says the success JetBlue has enjoyed on the route since it was launched in May has prompted JetBlue to accelerate the launch of service from JFK to Kingston, and evaluate launching routes to Jamaica from other US gateways including Boston, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.

"We see a lot of potential there, going to Kingston or Montego Bay," Laurence tells ATI.

He adds for international markets JetBlue typically adds Boston and Fort Lauderdale services after New York proves to be successful. But he says in recent months JetBlue also has had success with new international services from Orlando.

"There may be services from all three [to Jamaica] in the future," Laurence says.

JetBlue began its first service to Jamaica on 21 May, when it launched one daily Airbus A320 flight form New York JFK to Montego Bay. "It's been our most successful launch according to ramp up expectations," Laurence says.

He adds typically JetBlue has a three-year ramp up period for new routes but JFK-Montego Bay is already performing at a level the carrier did not expect to reach until 2012. "It's performing at steady state expectations currently" Laurence says.

Laurence says JetBlue also has seen a positive response from its planned JFK-Kingston service, which JetBlue will now launch on 30 October with a daily Airbus A320 flight. "It's very early on in terms of data but we got a nice split of local and leisure," he says.

New York-Kingston is traditionally more a visiting family and friends (VFR) market catering to Jamaicans while New York-Montego Bay is more a leisure market catering to Americans going on holiday. But Laurence says JetBlue has seen more VFR bookings than expected on New York-Montego Bay.

"We were expecting leisure mainly but some of the booking patterns look to be local," he says.

In response to this unexpected demand for Jamaica flights JetBlue decided to move up its planned launch of flights to Kingston. While the new Kingston flight will meet some of the unmet demand for more capacity to Jamaica from New York, Laurence says JetBlue is already looking to add more capacity in the New York-Jamaica market for the peak season.

"There's potential for more Montego Bay from New York in late fall and early winter," Laurence tells ATI.

He believes JetBlue has seen such strong demand for its new Jamaica services in part because carriers have been reducing capacity between New York and Jamaica over the last year. He says JetBlue also tends to stimulate demand when it enters new markets from New York, where it has a strong presence and brand.

JetBlue is competing in the New York-Jamaica market against Air Jamaica, American Airlines and Continental Airlines. According to Innovata, Air Jamaica is the biggest player with two daily flights to Kingston and one to Montego Bay from JFK while American operates four weekly flights to Montego Bay from JFK and Continental only operates two flights per week to Montego Bay from Newark.

Laurence says JetBlue is now closely monitoring the privatisation of Air Jamaica. US investment firms Indigo Partners and Oaktree Capital, which currently own Florida-based low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines, have reportedly bid to buy Air Jamaica.

Laurence says it is too early to comment on the potential impact of an Air Jamaica-Spirit tie-up. "We need to understand exactly what this transaction means," he says.

Spirit already serves both Montego Bay and Kingston from its Fort Lauderdale hub, routes also now served by Air Jamaica. While Spirit has a much larger international network at Fort Lauderdale than JetBlue, over the last year JetBlue has been steadily expanding its Fort Lauderdale international operation.

"We have been growing that," Laurence says. "In some cases we are now competing in the same space."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news