MIAMI — Boston, Capital city of Massachusetts, 10th most populous metro area in the United States, home of an airport with six runways, but without a legacy airline to call their own. While all major domestic airlines have a presence at Boston’s Logan Airport, none of them consider Boston a hub city. Enter JetBlue.
Not only does JetBlue consider Boston a major focus city, but it has actually managed to thrive there, a feat no other domestic airline has been able to accomplish. JetBlue now offers more flights and more nonstop destinations than any carrier in the history of Boston’s Logan Airport. The airline currently peaks at 118 daily flights on Fridays in the winter months, more than any other airline. As much as 15% of the entire JetBlue fleet passes through Boston on a daily basis.
JetBlue first launched service from Beantown in January of 2004 with service to Long Beach, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa, ending the year having transported 548,421 passengers domestically according to DOT statistics. In 2012, JetBlue carried over 3.5 million passengers domestically and internationally, with 2013 shaping up to be even better.
In comparison, Delta and American combined carried fewer passengers in 2012 than JetBlue, with 1,582,574 and 1,618,891, respectively. In total, JetBlue commanded nearly a 29% share of all Boston Logan flights from September 2012 to August 2013. The next closest airline, United, came in at only 12.9% of the share.
Getting Down To Business
How has JetBlue become such a success in this market, while all others who have attempted in the past have failed? It’s all in the marketing and the product. Just as JetBlue entered the market, most other airlines were scaling back their operations, cutting flights and perks. At the same time, JetBlue offered a fresh product on new planes to destinations the business community was begging for.
As new nonstop routes such as Washington D.C. were added to JetBlue’s Boston network, business travelers flocked to airline from the legacy carriers, which bucked the traditional trend at JetBlue. The typical target demographic JetBlue had always looked to attract was the leisure traveler going on vacation to sunny Florida or Las Vegas. JetBlue has since added important business heavy routes to Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, and near hourly service to New York (JFK) and Washington D.C.
Years later, JetBlue still primarily markets to leisure passengers. JetBlue is poised launch “Mint,” its version of a premium transcontinental experience between New York and California. Although JetBlue will be competing with the legacy carriers on the premium routes, they will still not market towards business passengers, nor do they currently have plans to expand the service to Boston.
At the same time, JetBlue does not offer many of the perks that legacy carriers offer, such as lounge access, frequent flyer program based upgrades, nor a business class cabin. While JetBlue does offer an elite level of their frequent flyer program, called TrueBlue Mosaic, passengers are not entitled to the perks and freebies that legacy carriers afford their frequent passengers. Despite these missing features, JetBlue has managed to pick up an impressive number of business travelers in Boston.
In 2011, JetBlue launched an ad campaign specifically for the Boston market, a departure from typical JetBlue marketing. The ads, known as the “Mr. Nonstop” series, featured the Fast Taking John Moschitta Jr, holder of title of World’s Fastest Talker in The Guinness Book of World Records. Moschitta rambled on in an extremely fast pace about all the non-stop city pairs available for this never resting businessman. Mr. Nonstop portrayed the type of passenger JetBlue was seeking in this new market.
“As JetBlue flies towards its goal of operating more than 150 daily departures in Boston, it continues to add destinations that are relevant to its customers and Boston’s thriving business community,” said JetBlue in a March 28, 2013 press release. JetBlue says they are now “relevant” to roughly 65% of Boston customers. JetBlue measures relevance as the number of routes it serves on a nonstop basis relative to the total number of domestic and international routes flown by travelers in Boston. Relevance among business passengers is typically much lower in markets JetBlue serves.
While Boston is not known among American passengers as a major hub for international connecting traffic, JetBlue has leveraged Boston to maximize connecting potential. JetBlue has amassed quite a number of interline agreements with large international airlines.
Customers connecting through Boston on select flights are able to connect onward to the far reaches of the world on JetBlue’s partner airlines Aer Lingus, American Airlines, Icelandair, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, and Emirates Airline starting in March 2014. With an ever increasing amount of international connections from Boston, it allows passengers to avoid the overburdened and often delayed New York JFK airport.
“Through this arrangement JetBlue and Emirates will now be able to offer U.S. government employees and contractors a competitive choice of destinations and itineraries throughout the Emirates network,” said Robin Hayes, JetBlue’s chief commercial officer in an October 2013 press release announcing the Emirates codeshare. “Emirates’ growth to Boston means growth for JetBlue. Demand for online connections through Boston is strong, and we expect to announce new destinations from Boston as a direct result of our partnership with Emirates.”
On the same day Emirates begins service from Boston, JetBlue will also begin flights to Detroit. The Boston-Detroit route is currently dominated by Delta, who operates between four and seven frequencies a day. JetBlue plans serve the Boston-Detroit route three times daily with the 100-seat Embraer 190.
According to DOT statistics, the average one-way fare from Boston to Detroit in the second quarter of 2013 came in at $298, with Delta commanding a massive 71% market share. The introduction of JetBlue on this previously non-competitive route has lead Delta to reduce prices, dramatically at times. Delta is even offering fares that undercut JetBlue at certain times.
Secondary Airports for the Leisure Passenger
While focusing on Business passengers at the Boston battleground, JetBlue has been slowly expanding in surrounding New England cities, with a focus on leisure passengers. Much like the original Southwest strategy, in November of 2013, JetBlue started service from Worcester Regional Airport, a small airport approximately 40 miles west of Boston. Now the only commercial airline operating out of Worcester, JetBlue offers flights to the leisure hotspots Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale. Flights to Ft. Lauderdale offer connections to 10 Caribbean and South American destinations.
Smaller airports also offer more leisure traveler friendly amenities. At Worcester, parking costs less than half of even the cheapest parking available at Boston’s Logan airport, despite both being operated by Massport. JetBlue also offers similar service from Providence, Rhode Island. Additionally, JetBlue offers very short-haul connecting service throughout New England with partner Cape Air to destinations such as Marthas Vinyard and Provincetown.
Boston has been a learning experience for JetBlue, an experience that has made them stronger as a whole. JetBlue now offers a comprehensive “companyBlue” program, a free tool for corporate travel management; a feature corporate travel managers find quite useful. While JetBlue may not be a corporate travel powerhouse in every city, mainline carriers should be watching their backs as the airline takes their new talent on the road.