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Does JetBlue’s Northeast-Florida Strategy Make Sense, and What About Worcester? (Ask Cranky)

We have a two part Ask Cranky today. To be honest, I wasn’t going to address this on the blog, but I was surprised at the number of people asking similar questions. So it seemed like something that you all wanted to talk about. This question comes from someone who lives in Rhode Island and has a real interest in new service in Hartford, Providence, and the latest addition to the network, Worcester. Let’s get started with the first question.

First, when JetBlue has been opening cities such as Providence, Hartford, and Worcester they have only been running flights into Ft Lauderdale, and Orlando. Do you think Ask Crankythis seems like a sustainable strategy? It seems to me that while Florida will definitely be successful for origin & destination passengers, it seems that it doesn’t offer many opportunities for connectivity, either to the Caribbean or transcon. I know JFK is off the table due to slot-constraints, is there another city you could foresee JetBlue using to try open up some connections within its network. I know Rhode Island for Providence, and Massport have worked hard to get JetBlue’s service, it’s a shame the service can’t be more useful.

Yes, I definitely think it’s a sustainable strategy. Look at a place like Hartford. There are a ton of people who want to go from there to Florida, but the only other airline that flies nonstop is Southwest. It’s a big market, and there’s room for a little competition. In this case, the ability to fly nonstop is important and since the flight is relatively short, there’s less tolerance for a connection. So JetBlue should do well.

JetBlue has decided to focus its network around Boston, New York, Florida, and the Caribbean. The flights down to Florida make a lot of sense from that perspective, but they also do provide connections into the Caribbean via Ft Lauderdale and Orlando. (And JetBlue does fly nonstop from Hartford to San Juan too.) What it doesn’t do is open up connections to other Continental US destinations. It would be too much of a backtrack to go via Florida while JFK and Boston are both too close to these cities to support service. JetBlue isn’t looking for a new focus city, so that means the airline has two options. It either doesn’t serve these markets or it serves Florida.

The flights can work, because Florida has a bunch of demand from the northeast. And those Caribbean connections don’t hurt.

Second, do you see JetBlue’s decision to serve Worcester as a legitimate business decision, or something which is being only done to appease Massport (the operator of Boston and Worcester)?

Sincerely,
Daniel

Remember what I just said above? Ok, so whether that applies to Worcester is very questionable. Providence and Hartford have good-sized metro areas with demand to Florida. Worcester is a decent-sized city but it doesn’t have a big metro area with people who prefer it as a primary airport.

Worcester is just 50 miles from Boston Logan, 50 miles from Providence, and 70 miles from Hartford’s airport. It’s convenient for some, but most people in that area have other airports they choose first.

Does this mean it’s destined for failure? Well, Direct Air couldn’t make it work, and they tried a lot of these kinds of markets. Allegiant pulled out as well, but that was a few years ago. Things are a little different with JetBlue. After all, JetBlue is the biggest airline in Boston, so it has some real loyalty building in the region. But is that going to be enough to make it work? Hmm, that’s a tough one.

Maybe something else is afoot. It is definitely true, as Daniel notes, that Massport operates both Boston and Worcester. And Massport has been trying to lure service to Worcester. So did JetBlue do this just to appease Massport? I have no clue, but if that is the case, it’s not a bad plan. Boston is hugely important to JetBlue, and if a couple of flights to Worcester makes the relationship better with Massport, then everybody is happy.

I’ll be interested to see how long it lasts.

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