MIAMI — JetBlue Airways is launching nonstop service between San Francisco and Las Vegas, adding two roundtrip flights per day in the market beginning January 5, 2015The New York-based airline will operate the route using a 150-seat Airbus 320 aircraft in a two-class configuration ( 42Y+ / 108Y ). The flight schedules for this new route are as follow:

B6 88 ~~ SFO – LAS ~~ D: 1315 A: 1445 ~~ Daily
B6 888 ~~ SFO – LAS ~~ D: 1915 A: 2045 ~~ Daily

B6 2889 ~~ LAS – SFO ~~ D: 1100 A: 1230 ~~ Daily
B6 1889 ~~ LAS – SFO ~~ D: 1700 A: 1830 ~~ Daily

JetBlue does not have a focus city on either end of this route, though it has expanded recently at both Las Vegas (with a nonstop flight to Fort Lauderdale) and San Francisco (with expanded service to New York JFK in conjunction with the launch of Mint on the route). However, it is likely that the route addition, which occurred late Wednesday afternoon, is a direct response to Virgin America’s new Boston – Las Vegas flights, which were announced earlier in the day.

JetBlue is not particularly noted for its “tit-for-tat” responses to other airlines, but given the increasing overlap with Virgin America in its product offering (high end leisure travel), it is perhaps a rational response in this case to combat Virgin America’s expansion. Additionally, the route will boost JetBlue’s aircraft utilization during the lower demand winter months, much as Virgin America seeks to boost utilization with Boston – Las Vegas.

JetBlue will be able to tap into a massive origin and destination (O&D) market between the Bay Area and Las Vegas, though it will face substantial competition. The San Francisco – Las Vegas market directly has 21 competing daily flights from Virgin America, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines. San Jose – Las Vegas has nine daily flights from Southwest, while Oakland – Las Vegas has 11 daily flights from Southwest and Spirit. But it is unclear whether the route is intended to generate a substantial profit at all. Rather, JetBlue appears to be taking a shot across the bow of its San Francisco-based rival.