It seems that with greater and greater frequency, JetBlue launches new services to exotic destinations. Wednesday January 4, 2017 was another one of those days when the New York-based carrier launched service from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport to the small but idyllic island of Aruba, located just a few miles off the coast of Venezuela.
On arrival at the gate for the morning departure, the festive mood had started with a performer playing wonderful tunes on what is a symbol of the Caribbean, the steel drum. Food, drinks and festive banners adorned gate F1 in terminal 3 in preparation for the departure.
The ceremonies to celebrate started with comments from Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Patty Ritter, Broward County Aviation Department Director of Business Development Steve Belleme, Chief Marketing Officer of the Aruba Tourism Authority, and JetBlue Director of Route Planning John Checketts who all commented on the growth of JetBlue at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, the importance of the new direct flight from Fort Lauderdale to Aruba, the amount of cooperation between all the partners in the venture of this new flight and then there was the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon to formally introduce the flight.
The passengers then boarded the inaugural flight which was operated by the Binary Blue jet (N709JB • MSN 3488). Following pushback, the jet proceeded through the traditional inaugural water cannon salute to depart to the west and then turned out over the ocean for the 2 hour 24-minute flight to Aruba, with the island nation of Haiti visible during the flight.
A little while after takeoff the passengers got into the spirit, waving their Aruba flags and enjoying prizes that were given away by Aruba Tourism Authority, Reina Beatrix International Airport and JetBlue.
All too soon, the descent into Aruba began and soon enough, the flight with its excited group of passengers landed on runway 11 at Reina Beatrix International Airport. The short taxi to the terminal was again accented by a welcoming water cannon salute following which member of the media and JetBlue crew deplaned to be part of the welcoming ribbon cutting ceremony.
Following the ribbon cutting, a press event was held in which Aruba Minister of Economic Affairs & Communications Mr. Richard Arends, JetBlue Director of Route Planning John Checketts, Aruba Tourism Authority CEO Mrs. Ronella Tjin Asjoe – Croes, Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association CEO Mr. Jim Hepple and Aruba Airport Authority CEO Mr. James Fazio were on hand to welcome the flight to Aruba and add to the strength of JetBlue in Aruba, having just celebrated its 10th anniversary of the first flight to Aruba from New York’s JFK International Airport.
It was also noted by the speakers on the increased number of tourists this single additional flight will bring to increase tourism to the “One Happy Island”.
The now daily flight is operated by Airbus A320 equipment and departs Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport at 11:20am and returns at 6:35pm. Aruba became JetBlue’s 53rd direct destination from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport. JetBlue has surpassed 100 departures a day at FLL.
JetBlue is being aggressive with its future development from its South Florida focal city with plans by the end of 2017 to have 140 departures daily. JetBlue’s expansion in the short term from Fort Lauderdale will also increase soon with the 54th destination, Chicago O’Hare International Airport will be launched within a couple of weeks following this new service and then the 55th destination a little later in the year linking Fort Lauderdale to its west coast focal city Long Beach.
Travel to Atlanta is also scheduled to start on a date still to be announced. In discussion with John Checketts, Director of Route Planning for JetBlue, there will be continued growth with new destinations, with both domestic and international being announced as negotiations are closed. JetBlue is currently the largest airline to utilize Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport with 26% of traffic per November 2016 statistics.