Bwi To Boston

Jetblue Adds Service To Catch Up To Rival Southwest

April 23, 2009|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,

JetBlue Airways said Wednesday that it will begin service to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in September with four flights to Boston - going head-to-head on that route against BWI's dominant carrier, Southwest Airlines.

The added service is part of JetBlue's strategy to expand in the Baltimore-Washington market and solidify its presence at Boston Logan International Airport. JetBlue offers the most destinations from Boston of any airline.

JetBlue already serves Dulles International Airport and has been working to get gates at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

"Baltimore is part of our expansion in Boston and part of our goal to be the prominent carrier in Boston," said Scott Laurence, JetBlue vice president of network planning.

JetBlue's announcement that it's coming to BWI comes a week after Southwest announced it is starting service to Boston, including five daily flights from BWI.

Laurence said Southwest was "obviously a factor" in its decision, which is part of a larger strategic plan.

One airline analyst said JetBlue is probably trying to protect its turf in Boston. Southwest could also serve people in Florida and other destinations from those same flights, further threatening some of JetBlue's territory.

"That's essentially a case of JetBlue trying to reassert itself into Boston," said Robert Mann, president of R.W. Mann & Company Inc., an airline industry analysis and consulting firm in Port Washington, N.Y.

"They've viewed Southwest coming to Boston as a challenge to their attempt to dominate Boston."

JetBlue's introductory flights to Boston are priced as low $39 each way, about $10 cheaper than the introductory rate offered by Southwest.

A Southwest spokesman said the airline welcomes competition.

"We're always up for healthy competition, and we welcome anything that can stimulate travel in the markets that that we serve," said the spokesman, Paul Flaningan.

Southwest has been adding big metro airports in Boston, New York and Minneapolis/St. Paul to its system as it looks for new business to offset lower travel demand amid the slumping economy.

It recently added service from BWI to LaGuardia in New York. The new steps are a departure from the carrier's history of focusing on airports that are less busy and therefore carry less risk of flight delays.

Laurence said JetBlue would like to expand its service at BWI in the future to places such as the Caribbean and Florida.

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