JetBlue plans Portland-Orlando nonstop flights

JetBlue Airways announced Wednesday that it would begin nonstop service from Portland International Jetport to Orlando, Fla.

Despite the airline's announcement, officials of Allegiant Air LLC, the company that will provide limited nonstop service from Bangor to Orlando, said they were not concerned by the competition.

"We really don't view that as direct competition. We're focused on the rural audience more northward," said Tyri Squyres, Allegiant spokeswoman. "We're pretty confident in the Bangor market itself. Ultimately [JetBlue] may put pressure on fares, but right now I don't see them as competition."

Beginning Jan. 10, JetBlue will offer once-daily nonstop flights to Orlando International Airport at a promotional one-way rate of $79 if booked before Oct. 2, said Sebastian White, spokesman for JetBlue. Once promotional rates expire, the fare will settle around $99 one-way, he said.

JetBlue will fly a 100-seat Embraer 190, White said. The southbound flights will depart from Portland at 2 p.m. and arrive in Orlando at 5:20 p.m. Northbound flights will depart Orlando at 12:25 p.m. and arrive in Portland at 3:40 p.m.

Allegiant Air announced in July that it would begin two direct flights a week from Bangor International Airport to Orlando Sanford International Airport beginning Nov. 7. The Las Vegas-based company offered an introductory one-way rate of $89 for tickets purchased before Aug. 18, and rede emed before Feb. 10. Since the promotion, average prices have been around $109, Squyres said.

Allegiant will fly the route only on Wednesdays and Saturdays on a 150-seater MD-80 jet. Travelers will depart from BIA at noon and arrive in Orlando at 3:20 p.m. Passengers flying to Maine will depart from Orlando at 8:15 a.m. and arrive in BIA at 11:25 a.m.

Squyres said Allegiant's early online booking in Bangor has been "very encouraging."

"I feel very confident that this market will work and if the community continues to support us as we see so far, then this will be another market that we'll not only stay in, but grow in," she said.

At present, JetBlue flies from Portland only to one destination, four times a day - John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Florida is the No. 3 destination for JetBlue customers flying from Portland, White said. He indicated that the company has numerous passengers from Bangor, and even Aroostook County. Many customers may choose to fly JetBlue over Allegiant because JetBlue does not charge for seat assignment, baggage checking, in-flight entertainment or flight-service snacks.

Allegiant charges $3 to check one bag and $8 to check two, Squyres said. They also charge $11 to passengers who choose to select seat location.

"Some customers want to fly on the $99 fare, and they don't care about a soda, or a blanket, and all they pack is a carry-on bag," she said.

Another difference between the two services is the destination airport. JetBlue will fly to Orlando International, while Allegiant will use Orlando Sanford. Allegiant chose the smaller airport to avoid congestion and long security lines, and because it lies about 35 minutes from Orlando and 45 from Daytona Beach, Squyres said.

JetBlue flies right into Orlando, and White emphasized its convenience to downtown and popular tourist destinations such as Walt Disney World.

Jill Bradford, travel consultant for Bangor Travel Services, said the Orlando destination has the most competitive prices out of BIA. Despite multiple bookings out of Portland, she said, she does not anticipate people driving to Portland for the JetBlue rate, since Bangor's rates are comparable.

"All the major airlines will match" JetBlue and Allegiant, she said, making the rates competitive at each airport.