Travel is back: JetBlue will give this regional airport its first flights in nearly a year

May 27, 2021

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There’s another hopeful sign that the travel industry is healing from the pandemic.

JetBlue president Joanna Geraghty was in Worcester, Massachusetts, on Wednesday to announce that the New York-based carrier would at long last resume service there.

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JetBlue returning to a small airport in central Massachusetts might not usually make the headlines, but the carrier’s resumption of service can be viewed as a harbinger of better things to come for the travel industry. Worcester has been without service on any airline since September 2020 – when the last of its three carriers ended service there amid a worsening pandemic.

With that, Worcester stood as one of the starkest examples of how the pandemic has crushed airports – particularly smaller regional ones. Now, JetBlue’s return augers hope not only for Worcester, but that a sustained recovery in travel is taking hold.

Daily flights to New York’s JFK Airport will resume on Aug. 19. In October, the frequency will be boosted to two daily flights. Also on Oct. 21, JetBlue will begin daily service to Fort Lauderdale (FLL). That leaves just the Worcester (ORH) to Orlando (MCO) route as the only one of JetBlue’s Worcester routes to remain suspended with no definite resumption date.

“With travel on the rebound, we are thrilled to resume service again in central Massachusetts,” Geraghty said to WCVB-TV of Boston during Wednesday’s press conference.

JetBlue originally cut service to Worcester (ORH) in the middle of 2020, at the height of the pandemic. At the time, the airline said that service was “suspended indefinitely,” with no timeline for re-entering the market. Instead, JetBlue would consolidate its greater Boston area flights to its hub at the city’s Logan airport.

But, now that travel is rebounding, especially among leisure travelers, JetBlue is ready to return to Worcester. Though Boston is only about 50 miles from the ORH airport, returning to Worcester expands JetBlue’s catchment in the region.

The move comes as airlines’ domestic schedules are edging closer to pre-pandemic levels. Executives at American, Delta and United have all touted that the domestic recovery is well underway. In some cases, summer schedules are only a few percentage points from the historic highs of 2019.

Cirium schedules show that JetBlue plans to operate roughly 30% fewer domestic flights in June 2019 compared to the same period in 2019. The larger U.S. network carriers are more bullish: United’s planning to bring back 400 more flights in July compared to June and operate 80% of its pre-pandemic U.S. schedule.

Related: JetBlue temporarily suspends service to 4 more airports, extends hiatus on 4 others

In addition to boosting existing routes, airlines are returning to (and starting new service) at regional airports. In Worcester, JetBlue’s resumption in August will mark the first time the airport has had commercial service in nearly a full year. Delta was the last airline to operate a route there in September 2020 to Detroit (DTW).

JetBlue also is planning to resume flights to several of its other temporarily suspended airports in June, including Burbank (BUR), Ontario (ONT) and San Jose (SJC) — another sign that travel is on the rebound.

Still, one regional airport isn’t faring as well for JetBlue. The carrier pulled out of Newburgh (SWF) in the southern Hudson Valley, about 60 miles from New York City, in April 2020, and currently there aren’t any plans to return there, per Cirium schedules.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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