Richmond gets new JetBlue flight; Nonstop air service from RIC to Fort Lauderdale begins

JetBlue launched its new air service to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., yesterday and Evan Brannon was dressed for the experience.

Brannon checked in at Richmond International Airport casually dressed in a green, black, teal and yellow tropical shirt. "I own a bunch of these," the Randolph-Macon College baseball coach said.

His outfit went well with the plastic palm tree, pink flamingo figure and sand creating a Florida-bound ambiance at JetBlue's boarding lounge.

And the low-cost carrier's ticket prices - the Fort Lauderdale introductory fare started at $69 one-way - fit right into the travel budget of Brannon and his partner, Makra Condill.

"We're pretty excited . . . about that," Condill said, "because that's where we're from."

Fort Lauderdale is one of Richmond's top destinations.

"The initiation of service to Fort Lauderdale opens up nonstop service to a very attractive beach destination as we head into the cooler winter months," said Troy Bell with the Capital Region Airport Commission, which operates RIC airport.

Reacting to seasonal travel changes, the new service shifts one of JetBlue's New York flights to the Fort Lauderdale route, the airline said.

Sixty-seven people booked seats on JetBlue's 100-seat Embraer 190 twin-engine jetliner for yesterday's trip, according to JetBlue.

The daily flight will depart Richmond at 1:30 p.m. and leave from Fort Lauderdale at 4:15 p.m. to return here. The service will be available through April 30.

The seasonal Fort Lauderdale service represents the third nonstop market for JetBlue from Richmond. The others are New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Boston's Logan International Airport.

Thanks to competition spurred by discount carriers JetBlue, AirTran Airways and Skybus Airlines, Richmond International's passenger traffic has seen 28 straight months of record growth, airport officials said.

Jack and Jan Burns of Glen Allen got JetBlue's $69 introductory fare for Fort Lauderdale, Jan Burns said, "but we had to buy it in August."

They were lured to fly - rather than drive - to visit family in Florida because they could make the trip without switching planes at another airport, Jack Burns said.

"It's two hours instead of two days," Jan Burns said.

And, she said, "the price was very good."

Contact Peter BacquƩ at (804) 649-6813 or