Repaired planes boost JetBlue expansion plan

JetBlue Airways Corp.'s 100-seat Embraer jets, grounded by software glitches earlier this year, are now reliable enough to fly longer routes, boosting expansion efforts against rivals such as Southwest Airlines Co.

The Embraer E190s allow JetBlue to serve smaller cities that don't have enough demand for the larger planes flown by Southwest, Virgin America Ltd. and Skybus Airlines Inc., chief executive officer David Barger said in an interview this week.

JetBlue, the first airline to fly the E190, kept the planes on East Coast routes, close to its New York maintenance base, while Embraer made repairs. With the E1990s' reliability improved, JetBlue began using the jets on longer flights last week and can now implement its two-year-old plan to expand with the new aircraft, particularly in the West.

"The E190 will now let us explore other geography," Barger said.

JetBlue doesn't necessarily plan to add cities to its network, though "you'll see us connect a lot of them up more," chief operating officer Russell Chew said.

The repaired Embraers, made by Brazil's Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica SA, will also help JetBlue reduce congestion at its base, New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. The carrier is starting to use the planes on flights that don't include JFK, Chew said.

JetBlue began sidelining its fleet of 25 planes in March to fix the problems.