JetBlue files for access to Canada
But airline has no plans for service yet
By JOHN PARTRIDGE
Tuesday, March 9, 2004 - Page B3
JetBlue Airways Corp., a fast-growing and trend-setting U.S. discount airline, has taken the first formal step toward launching scheduled flights abroad, and Canada is one of the five countries on its list of destinations.
However, the New York-based carrier sought to play down the possible Canadian connection yesterday, saying that although this country is one of its target markets, flights here are not imminent. "We only really announce plans within three months of service, and certainly service to Canada isn't coming up in the very near future," said JetBlue spokesman Gareth Jones.
The airline yesterday filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation for a certificate allowing it to operate scheduled air service between the United States and five other countries: Canada, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.
It also asked the department for an exemption that would allow it to launch three daily flights to the Dominican Republic starting this June.
JetBlue currently flies to 23 destinations in 11 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.
Mr. Jones described the application for the foreign air service certificate as "a sort of generic international routing filing."
Cliff Mackay, president of the Air Transport Association of Canada, said that under the open-skies policy that exists between Canada and the United States, carriers in the two countries that wish to start trans-border flights must first seek permission from their home regulator.
JetBlue's move comes just weeks after two Canadian discounters, WestJet Airlines Ltd. of Calgary and CanJet Airlines of Halifax, announced plans to launch scheduled service to a number of U.S. cities.
It also appears to signal a continuing recovery in the North American airline industry after the hammering it took after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, as well as fallout from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome.
JetBlue chief executive officer David Neeleman, who founded the airline in 2000, has said publicly that Canada is part of his expansion plans, most recently at a conference in late January.
However, Mr. Jones insisted it is not in the cards just yet. "We know we'll service Canada one day, eventually," he said. "There's just no near-term plans to."
Mr. Neeleman is thought to know the Canadian market well. He was one of the investors who launched WestJet in 1996, although Mr. Jones said Mr. Neeleman no longer has an interest in the Canadian company.
The JetBlue CEO is credited with reinventing the low-fare airline model when he launched the company, whose aircraft feature leather seats and live in-flight television with personal video screens. WestJet is now emulating both of those features.
Analyst Ben Cherniavsky of investment dealer Raymond James Ltd. in Vancouver said the trans-border low-fare market between Canada and the United States "has really not yet been developed, so there are lots of opportunities for everyone to participate."