After their CEO hinted at it last week, JetBlue Airways made it official early Monday morning. The popular low-cost carrier will begin service out of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport on Feb. 13, offering two flights daily to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.
Special introductory fares as low as $79 one way for travel between Feb. 13 and March 31 are available for booking immediately, according to the airline.
“This is a very good day for business and leisure travelers in our region,” said airport executive director Greg Kelly.
“JetBlue’s presence in this market will increase options and competition, stimulate travel and serve to moderate our airfare dilemma, which is something we have been in need of for some time.”
Having JetBlue service should reduce the need to drive to Jacksonville or Charleston for lower airfares, he said.
Savannah/Hilton Head will be JetBlue’s 83rd BlueCity. In addition to non-stop service to New York, customers will be able to connect to other destinations in the United States, including Albuquerque, N.M., Boston, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco, among others.
“Our ‘NY Hometown’ focus includes adding non-stop destinations to places that are important to New Yorkers,” said Scott Laurence, vice president of network planning for JetBlue Airways. “Given the success of our current network, Savannah makes perfect sense.
“We combine low fares with the best customer experience in the skies. Customers visiting Savannah, Hilton Head and the surrounding area have dealt with high fares, cramped seating and limited choices for too long.”
Bill Miles, president and CEO of the Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber, agreed.
“We are thrilled to have one of the most highly regarded airlines in the industry servicing our region,” he said.
“JetBlue brings value, competitive fares, additional flight options and a stellar reputation for customer service to the Lowcountry. It’s a winning combination for Hilton Head Island travelers, residents and business community. We look forward to partnering with them.
Sylvester Formey, chairman of the Savannah Airport Commission, congratulated the airport staff for their perseverance in wooing JetBlue.
“We are extremely happy to add Jet Blue to our carrier base. This low-cost airline gives business and leisure passengers additional options to great destinations,” he said.
Savannah has been courting JetBlue for more than five years, intensifying its efforts after AirTran’s departure in 2008 left the airport with no low-cost carrier.
In 2010, airport and tourism officials in Savannah and the Hilton Head Island area launched an aggressive campaign to get JetBlue to Savannah. The effort included a presentation – including a slideshow and video showing off popular area attractions and featuring locals holding signs declaring Savannah’s love for JetBlue – as well as numerous visits to JetBlue headquarters in New York.
They even shipped two blue rocking chairs to the airline’s headquarters with mock JetBlue boarding passes for Savannah in the seats.
“We certainly got their attention,” Lori Lynah, the airport’s director of marketing, said at the time. “But I guess the timing wasn’t right.”
Shortly after that, JetBlue announced it would be flying into Charleston, S.C.
No giving up
Undeterred, and on the advice of Atlanta air service consultant Brad DiFiore, the Savannah airport staff continued to court JetBlue.
“JetBlue is a great fit for Savannah in terms of business model and network,” DiFiore, managing partner of Ailevon Air Service Consulting in Atlanta, told the airport commission earlier this year.
“JetBlue customers are generally more discriminating leisure travelers than other low-cost customers, and its network would focus on the key Savannah markets of New York and Boston.”
Monday, DiFiore’s faith was rewarded.
“The visitor demographics of the Savannah and Hilton Head markets are strongly aligned with those of JetBlue’s customer base. This is a great fit that goes both ways. We knew that a sound business case, coupled with strategic investments by community stakeholders, would eventually make this day a reality,” he said.
Bringing JetBlue to town has been a community-wide effort, said Savannah Economic Development Authority president and CEO Trip Tollison.
“Over the past several years, we have learned that communities with commercial air service throughout the country are stepping up to the plate to provide incentives to lure air carriers,” Tollison said last month.
Savannah’s business community has followed that lead, creating an air service development fund to help bring new service to the airport. SEDA, the Savannah Chamber of Commerce and Visit Savannah have collectively contributed more $500,000 to the fund.
The effort has been well worth it, said Joseph Marinelli, president of Visit Savannah.
“This has not been an overnight success story by any means. Instead, years of research and collaboration on both sides have gone into building the foundation of what is sure to be a long-term partnership,” he said.
“JetBlue’s customer is going to love Savannah, and Savannah is going to love having Jet Blue as a new option for their travel planning.”
JETBLUE’S SAVANNAH SERVICE*
JFK to SAV
7:10 a.m. 9:38 a.m.
12:59 p.m. 3:13 p.m.
SAV to JFK
10:20 a.m. 12:18 p.m.
4 p.m. 6:02 p.m.
* Flights will operate daily, beginning Feb. 13, 2014.
ABOUT JETBLUE AIRWAYS
JetBlue carries 29 million customers a year to 79 cities in the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America with more than 700 daily flights. All seats are assigned, all fares are one-way and an overnight stay is never required.
JetBlue’s fleet totals 188 aircraft, comprising 129 Airbus A320s and 59 EMBRAER E190s. Upcoming destinations include Savannah and Worcester, Mass., as well as Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; and Lima, Peru, subject to receipt of government approval.
For more information, visit www.jetblue.com