JetBlue Drops Nonstop Service Between Sacramento and D.C.

The airline cited insufficient demand for seats on its red-eye flight to the nation's capital.


Low-fare carrier JetBlue Airways will drop its nonstop service between Sacramento and Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5, citing insufficient demand for seats on its red-eye flight to the nation's capital.

The carrier, which has attracted a loyal following for its leather seats, in-flight TV and friendly employees, will continue to operate its single, daily nonstop between Sacramento and New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.

JetBlue spokesman Bryan Baldwin said Wednesday the fast-growing carrier wasn't getting enough business on the route to Dulles International Airport to justify the flights.

That's little comfort to Jay Chamberlin, a state worker from Davis who said he's become a fan of the carrier.

"That's terrible news. -- They're a great service, and always on time," he said. "While their fares weren't always rock-bottom, they were always affordable. It was the kind of thing you could justify for a weekend jaunt."

Baldwin said JetBlue employs 10 workers in Sacramento and doesn't expect any layoffs.

JetBlue's exit from the market leaves United Airlines as the only carrier with a nonstop flight between Sacramento and Washington, D.C. After dropping those flights soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, United resumed them a month after JetBlue started its service to Dulles.

Baldwin declined to say what JetBlue's passenger loads were out of Sacramento, but airline analyst Mike Boyd said only about 65 percent of seats were filled during the first half of the year, compared with more than 80 percent on most JetBlue routes.

United's flight, which flies during the day, fills about 83 percent of its seats, said Boyd, president of the Evergreen, Colo.-based Boyd Group. He speculated that United did better both because of its daytime schedule and because Dulles is a United hub for other destinations.

Though it's rare for JetBlue to drop routes entirely, he said, it isn't unprecedented. Several years ago, it pulled out of the Atlanta market after Delta Air Lines started cutting fares to match JetBlue's. "That's the measure of a successful airline, one that can move and be flexible," he said.

Joe Brancatelli, who publishes the business travel Web site Joesentme.com, said JetBlue can make more money flying passengers for $ 79 from New York to Florida than it can charging $ 99 for transcontinental flights, especially given soaring fuel prices.

He also said the company probably figures many passengers will likely drive to Oakland, where the airline operates two daily nonstops to Washington.

Gina Swankie, a spokeswoman for Sacramento International Airport, said losing the JetBlue flight is disappointing, but she held out hope that the airline could re-establish service.

"We hope that as the market changes, they will come back. They wouldn't be the first to drop service and reinstate it later."

Baldwin said JetBlue passengers who are holding reservations for dates beyond Jan. 5, when the service is discontinued, have the option of receiving full refunds or being rebooked on flights out of Oakland at a 50 percent discount. The carrier is contacting those passengers.

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