JetBlue will land at Albany International Airport with daily service to Florida by next year.
The airline will establish two direct flights to Fort Lauderdale and Orlando in 2015. JetBlue’s presence is expected to boost competition among airlines at the airport and drive down fares.
“We are very excited because it’s growth at the airport,” said Albany Airport CEO John O’Donnell during a press conference on Monday. “Traditionally, the fares of JetBlue are lower than competitors, so as a result fares will go down for other airlines to compete.”
Robin Hayes, senior vice president of JetBlue, said a start date for JetBlue’s service next year will be announced later this year. Fares for flights are not known at this time.
JetBlue will be competing directly with Southwest Airlines for flights to and from Florida. Hayes said JetBlue already competes with Southwest at other locations and “will enjoy very much competing with them” in Albany.
Brad Hawkins, a spokesman for Southwest Airlines, said Southwest already offers a “competitive advantage” compared to other airlines and welcomes the competition in Albany.
“With all do respect to our friends at JetBlue, we launched the low-fare revolution,” Hawkins said. “We compete in Albany and will continue to do what we do, which is providing the best value for our customers.”
Other carriers at the airport include Cape Air, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said he expects JetBlue to expand its service at the airport over the next several years. He said two flights a day is “only the beginning.”
JetBlue also started with two flights at airports in Buffalo and Rochester. The airline has since expanded its service at those locations with 15 daily flights in Buffalo and eight in Rochester.
“Once people here see JetBlue’s quality and once JetBlue sees the great ridership that they will get, I am confident those numbers will expand,” Schumer said. “This great start will grow.”
JetBlue’s service next year comes as fares at Albany International have increased since 2009. Average airfare in 2009 was $163 for a one-way flight out of Albany. Last year the average fare was $247. That’s more than a 50 percent increase compared with five years ago.
At the same time, the number of people flying out of Albany has dropped from 1.6 million in 2005 to about 1.2 million today. Seating capacity has also decreased from an average of 214,582 in 2004 to 130,374 in 2013.
Schumer expects more companies, particularly high-tech companies, to locate in the Albany area following JetBlue’s commitment. He pointed to the region’s growing nanotechnology sector with computer chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries and the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
“New high-tech companies are coming to the Capital Region and existing companies are growing,” Schumer said. “So all of this is going to be great potential for more growth here in Albany.”
O’Donnell said JetBlue’s presence will create more than a dozen direct jobs. The Albany airport currently has 225 direct employees and 1,200 indirect employees from Air Traffic Control and the Transportation Security Administration.
The addition of JetBlue will also increase the number of travelers at Albany airport. O’Donnell said the airport will therefore need to create another parking lot.
“Even today we are very close to being out of available parking,” O’Donnell said. “We park about 4,000 cars per night and we will need to increase that by at least 500 just to handle the traffic JetBlue will be bringing in.”
O’Donnell said finding space for the lot could prove to be a challenge. But he stressed that additional parking is a priority and the airport “does not want to turn anyone away.”
JetBlue served 7.5 million travelers in New York last year. Albany Airport marks JetBlue’s eighth airport in the state.
The news comes following a push last month by Schumer to bring JetBlue to Albany. Schumer previously spearheaded JetBlue’s services in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. He also helped bring Southwest Airlines to Albany Airport in 2000.
“I started a campaign to bring JetBlue service here and I have been working on this for a long, long time,” Schumer said. “As a politician, if there is one thing I know how to do, it is how to launch a campaign.”