Maine's Jetport Hopes JetBlue Has Magic Effect Like Southwest

JetBlue is entering the Portland market in a big way, with four daily round trips to JFK and using its Airbus models, with 156 seats, rather than its smaller 100-seat regional jets.


As the market began to recover, the airlines - particularly the major carriers that have struggled financially, including trips into bankruptcy court for many - cut back on the number of flights and on the number of seats available. Seeking to firm up fares, many went from larger aircraft, such as 150- to 200-seat Boeing or Airbus planes, to smaller regional jets, which usually carry 50 or 70 passengers.

Fewer seats and rising demand have allowed the airlines to cut back on the number of discounted seats they offer, and Portland was already a relatively high-fare market.

That hurt the airport's passenger counts, Hughes said. The jetport commissioned a study last year that found that in the Portland market area, 41 percent of air travelers flew out of Logan Airport in Boston and 16 percent flew out of Manchester. Only two out of five air travelers chose the airport closer to home.

JetBlue should help those numbers, Hughes said, even if only because of supply. JetBlue's arrival, he said, will boost the number of seats available by 20 percent.

The airline is entering the Portland market in a big way, with four daily round trips to JFK and using its Airbus models, with 156 seats, rather than its smaller 100-seat regional jets. That means the number of seats available to and from Portland jumps 20 percent from Monday to Wednesday, when JetBlue's full complement of flights takes effect.

"Overnight, they (JetBlue) are the second-largest carrier at the jetport," Hughes said.

Hewins said he was at a travel agents' convention in Florida last week and other cities were envious that Portland had managed to land JetBlue.

"It's a feather in Portland's cap," he said. Several told him, "They wished they had JetBlue in their city."



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