Airline Spotlight: JetBlue Airways Soars

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Photo credit: Aero Icarus
Photo credit: Aero Icarus

JetBlue Airways Corporation, more commonly known as jetBlue, is one of America’s top low-cost airlines. JetBlue’s main hub is at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York, and the company is headquartered in Long Island City, Queens. JetBlue is different than many other U.S.-based airlines, because they serve a select number of destinations and strive to keep the cost of airfare low. In fact, jetBlue founder David Neelman stated that he wanted his company, “to bring humanity back to air travel.”

Neelman founded jetBlue in Feb. 1999, and the company followed Southwest Airlines’ lead by offering lower-cost travel. JetBlue sought to be even better than Southwest by offering passengers a list of amenities, such as Sirius satellite radio, televisions at every seat and an array of in-flight entertainment options.

The company was given 75 take off/landing slots at JFK International Airport in September of 1999 and was given U.S. authorization in 2000. JetBlue started flying in Feb. 2000, with flights to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Buffalo, N.Y. Amazingly, jetBlue was one of few airlines to make a profit after the devastating attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Photo credit: Angelo DeSantis
Photo credit: Angelo DeSantis

JetBlue was so successful that major carriers like Delta Air Lines and United Airlines attempted to rival the company with more affordable flight options, but neither company proved successful. Although, following years proved difficult for jetBlue as well. The company’s profits plummeted from $8.1 million to $2.7 million in 2005. The drop was attributed to rising fuel costs, the company’s low fare prices and the high cost of the airline’s amenities.

Despite the difficulties of 2005 and an unprofitable year due to a large fourth quarter loss, jetBlue planned for growth and scheduled 36 new aircraft for delivery in 2006. The first quarter of 2006 proved just as difficult for the company, but cost cutting and a push to boost revenue pulled them out of the red in the second quarter.

A new CEO, David Barger, was appointed in 2007, and revenues began to increase. The company expanded its service to St. Maarten, Puerto Plata, Aruba, Barbados, Cancun, Bermuda, Nassau and several destinations in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic in Jan. 2008. Just a few months later, jetBlue added Orlando, Fla., as a gateway city to a number of international destinations including San Jose, Costa Rica and Bogota, Colombia.

Photo credit: Ted Murphy
Photo credit: Ted Murphy

In October of 2008, jetBlue opened a new primary hub at JFK International Airport known as Terminal 5 or T5. The mostly-new terminal cost approximately $800 million to build. The company turned down incentives offered by the City of Orlando in 2010, and chose to keep its headquarters in Long Island City, N.Y. JetBlue started a joint branding deal with the State of New York and began using the iconic “I Love NY” logo on their jets.

The company continued toward success, and began an interline agreement with South African Airways on May 12, 2010, with Virgin Atlantic Airways on March 22, 2011, with Jet Airways on Nov. 2, 2011 and with Air China on June 12, 2012. Jetblue now has a codeshare agreement with Royal Air Maroc, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific, South African Airlines and a number of other major airlines around the globe.

JetBlue was ranked the “Highest in Customer Satisfaction Among Low Cost Carriers in North America” by J.D. Power and Associates for the eighth year in a row in June, 2012. The company continued to push the industry into 2014 with its “Mint” luxury cabin service with winglets, flat-lying seats and movable partitions on the Airbus A321-200 aircraft. JetBlue’s goal of providing low-cost airfare and superior amenities continues to make it one of America’s favorite airlines.

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a travel writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and surfing new waves.

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