JetBlue Airways is adding flights to the Caribbean and Latin America from South Florida, hoping to cash in on South Floridians’ roots in those areas.
The New York-based airline operates hundreds of flights across the United States and is now a leading carrier at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International and Palm Beach International airports.
Experts say JetBlue is seeking more lucrative pastures.
Among the new routes are Fort Lauderdale to Kingston, Jamaica, starting April 30, Fort Lauderdale to Bogota, Colombia, May 7, and West Palm Beach to San Juan, Puerto Rico, beginning May 15.
The Caribbean and Latin America are appealing to low-cost carriers because of the potential to charge higher airfares, experts say.
“Caribbean tickets are higher margin than comparable distance domestic airfares,” said Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com.
There’s also less competition from other low-cost carriers on international routes, Seaney noted.
The growth from South Florida is partly due to increased demand for flights to destinations frequented by people living here, said Chad Meyerson, JetBlue’s director of global sales.
Last year some carriers also added flights from the area to The Bahamas to meet growing market demand.
More service is on tap. On May 24 Southwest Airlines’ subsidiary AirTran Airways will begin new twice-daily service from Fort Lauderdale to San Juan.
South Floridians with ties to Jamaica had asked for service from Fort Lauderdale to Kingston for some time, JetBlue officials said.
Growth in the Puerto Rican community in Palm Beach County led to the decision to start service from West Palm Beach, which complements existing service from Fort Lauderdale, Meyerson said.
The number of Puerto Ricans in Palm Beach County climbed 57 percent to 39,529 from 25,170 during the past decade, according toU.S. Census Bureau estimates.
JetBlue is the No. 2 carrier at the Fort Lauderdale airport with 16.8 percent of passenger traffic this year through February behind Spirit Airline’s 17.2 percent, according to the latest data available.
At Palm Beach International Airport, JetBlue was the top carrier in February with 64,258 passengers, followed by Delta Air Lines’ 54,324 travelers.
Although there will be competition on its Fort Lauderdale to Kingston, Bogota and San Juan routes, Meyerson said JetBlue brings a different dynamic when compared with other low-cost airlines.
“We will not charge for carry-on luggage or for the first checked bag,” he said, referring to competitors such as Spirit that assess those fees.
Through competition, JetBlue also is helping to keep airfares affordable for consumers, Meyerson added.
He said JetBlue expects to see a mix of leisure, business and visiting friends and relatives on the new Lauderdale to Bogota, and Kingston routes.
Jamaica’s Director of Tourism John Lynch said the start of JetBlue’s Kingston flight is well timed because the island celebrates its 50th year of independence this summer, and many expatriates are expected to travel home for festivities.
In Broward County, there are almost 100,000 people of Jamaican descent , according to the census.
“The South Florida market includes a large diaspora community that we hope will take advantage of the new flight and JetBlue Airways’ competitive pricing,” said Lynch in a statement.