JetBlue Hires Employees for its Takeoff at Richmond, Va., Airport

Feb. 15--JetBlue Airways Corp. has entered the stretch run for its March 31 debut at Richmond's airport, including its first local hiring.

A spokesman for the low-fare airline said yesterday that JetBlue has hired 15 people for its 19 customer-service positions here. The other jobs will be filled by four Jet Blue employees transferring to Richmond, said Bryan Baldwin, a spokesman at JetBlue's headquarters at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Baldwin said the company "received a great response to the open positions from individuals in Richmond. We had no difficulty finding qualified candidates for the jobs."

JetBlue held a job fair in late December. With starting pay of $10 an hour, customer-service workers help passengers check in, depart and board planes. JetBlue also plans to hire a general manager and two supervisors.

The total Richmond staff of 22 is significantly less than the 50 positions that the airline initially indicated it would need here. JetBlue will outsource the equivalent of 20 to 25 jobs to a private aviation-services company, JetStream Ground Services.

"Using business partners is a normal part of our operation," Baldwin said in an e-mail. "It helps keep our costs down."

Using JetStream "saves us from needing our own tugs, baggage carts and other equipment," he wrote. "We often have business partners do our ramp work in a new city and do so across our network."

JetBlue is also using private contractors to handle skycap services and aircraft cleaning here.

Airport officials say JetBlue will be the only airline at Richmond International with its own skycap operation. The airport's seven other airlines share a private contractor for skycap services, which provide curbside check-in and other help with luggage.

Baldwin said JetBlue uses a similar arrangement for skycaps and aircraft cleaning at JFK, its hub airport in New York.

In October, JetBlue announced plans to start Richmond-New York nonstop flights with one-way fares as low as $59 to JFK airport. It also announced nonstop flights to Boston's Logan International Airport in April with one-way prices starting at $69.

JetBlue will be the second low-fare airline in Richmond. AirTran Airways began flying here in June.