JetBlue Airways, a Queens, N.Y.-based low-cost carrier, has long had its eye on the Southwest, and if leaders decide to enter the Valley’s market, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport won’t be the only contender for the company’s business.
Operating out of two metropolitan New York City airports, JFK and LaGuardia, the carrier serves five cities in Florida and California as well as major cities in the West, including Denver, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
But JetBlue leaders are also considering adding service in the Valley and Tucson as well as cities in Texas and New Mexico, said Bryan Baldwin, company spokesman.
"Since it’s an area that we don’t yet serve, it presents some unique opportunities. Our thinking with Arizona and Texas (is that they) are warmweather destinations that we can provide to our (East Coast) customers for winter travel," Baldwin said.
He cited the company’s use of the Oakland, Calif., airport within the greater San Francisco region and its use of Southern California’s Long Beach airport to serve the Los Angeles area as examples of its regional approach to air service.
"Just look at the other locations that JetBlue has. We are definitely going to consider all airports when it comes to entering new markets," Baldwin said.
Williams Gateway Airport director Lynn Kusy said leaders have a long-term goal of establishing scheduled commercial passenger flight from the airport and are pleased that the Valley is on JetBlue’s horizon.
But, Kusy and others aren’t banking on a single carrier. He and other leaders met last week with four airlines as part of a conference sponsored by The Airports Council International, a Geneva-based association of airports from across the world, held in Portland, Ore.
"This was called Project Jumpstart and it gave the airports a chance to meet briefly with airlines that they would like to attract to their airport," Kusy said.
Although Kusy declined to name the carriers, he and members of the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau touted what both the airport and the city had to offer during the 20-minute meetings with each firm.
Such efforts to establish passenger flights would not only benefit "the airport because it contributes to the revenue stream. But it also gives the community direct access to other major cities in the United States," Kusy said, pointing out that more than 750,000 people live within 30 minutes of the Mesa facility.
So far, there are no commercial flights operating from the airport, although several charter flight companies fly out of Williams Gateway Airport.
Next month, the airport will have even more charter flights taking off with the addition of service to the Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, Nev.
Sky Quest Charters and Ryan International Airlines will take passengers to the casino as part of tour packages that start at $159.
But such an entry announcement from JetBlue isn’t imminent, Baldwin said, because much of the carrier’s expansion plans are dependent on the size of its fleet, which will soon more than double from its current inventory of 60 Airbus A320s.
Nine new A320s are expected by the end of the year, and the firm has a 100-aircraft contract with the Brazilian manufacturer of the Embraer 190 for delivery over the next two years, Baldwin said. Airbus is also expected to deliver 233 additional aircraft by 2012.
Baldwin said that kind of investment means "there is going to be a lot of opportunity for growth."