JetBlue Airways Continues to Heavily Impact Caribbean Travel

It was roughly one year ago when I assisted an old college buddy with booking a Caribbean getaway for he and his girlfriend. I told him to research the region a bit and narrow down his wish list to five or six islands before I can gage what the best island for his trip would be.

Within an hour, he called me back and said, “The Bahamas, Jamaica and St. Lucia.”

“How did you cut it down to three destinations when you’ve only been researching for an hour?,” I asked.

“I looked to see where JetBlue flew in the Caribbean and went from there,” he said.

That’s when it truly hit me that JetBlue Airways has developed such a loyal customer base in the U.S. – whether due to the TrueBlue awards program or the low cost or the free T.V. – that customers are beginning to book their vacations backwards. Whereas the typical client will choose a destination and then research carriers who fly there, JetBlue’s loyalists are looking at their favorites airline’s routes and then picking their vacation spot based on that.

And naturally, because of this mentality, any Caribbean island who adds JetBlue flights are seeing dividends immediately. For example, Turks & Caicos added JetBlue flights from New York and Boston in February and has been having one of its most successful years ever in the destination’s history.

“There’s no question the JetBlue flights we added had a direct impact on travel to Turks and Caicos,” Karen S. Whitt, president of the Turks & Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association, told us earlier this year. “We saw an immediate increase and think it’s a big part of the reason why we are having one of our best years ever.”

Also, earlier this year, St. Lucia reported its best January arrivals numbers since 2005 and several representatives of the destination singled out JetBlue flights, which were added to the destination roughly two years ago, as one of the main reasons for the whopping increase.

And now La Romana, Dominican Republic and St. Maarten are hoping for similar results. JetBlue Airways' daily direct service from San Juan, Puerto Rico Luis Munoz Marin Airport (SJU) to Princess Juliana Airport (SXM) in St. Maarten officially began today while the carrier officially inaugurated its new Wednesday and Saturday service from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to La Romana on Wednesday.

The most aggressive year for the airline with regards to adding Caribbean destinations was arguably 2009 when JetBlue took on Barbados, St. Lucia and Kingston, Jamaica. According to the Centre for Aviation, JetBlue was capitalizing on the downsizing by AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines, in the Caribbean.

JetBlue now flies to the Caribbean islands of Barbados, St. Lucia, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos, Aruba and Saint Maarten. It also flies to Bermuda. According to the Centre for Aviation, the Caribbean was 12 percent of JetBlue's business in 2007 and has since doubled to 24 percent with 70 daily departures. AMR meanwhile has reduced departures to 50 from 100 in the same period.

And we expect the number of JetBlue's Caribbean destinations to continue to increase within the coming years as most destinations in the region without JetBlue flights have continuously expressed interest in adding the carrier.


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