JetBlue service to Baltimore, some California airports now suspended until April
JetBlue Airways has been on a tear adding new routes, including some in unusual places, during the coronavirus pandemic. But it's not all good news for the country's sixth-largest airline.
The New York-based carrier will not resume flights to Baltimore/Washington (BWI), Burbank (BUR) or Ontario, California (ONT) until at least April 2021, each airport confirmed to TPG. In addition, PaxEx.Aero has reported that flights to San Jose, California (SJC), will also not come back until next April and that flights to Newburgh (SWF) near New York City and Worcester (ORH) near Boston are suspended indefinitely.
The suspensions come as executives at American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines all say service cuts are likely without additional federal aid. The three carriers, as well as JetBlue, are all pushing for an 11th-hour extension of the payroll support program for airline employees that expires this Thursday, Oct. 1.
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"We need Congress to do their job," JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes told reporters on the extension effort outside the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 22. "Our crewmembers sit there and say 'if we did our job, why can't they do their job?'"
Hayes did not comment on potential service cuts without additional federal relief.
With or without aid, JetBlue has had to shrink to match the number of people flying today. The airline only plans to fly about half of what it flew a year ago in October, according to Cirium schedules.
These schedule cuts come as data from trade group Airlines for America (A4A) shows the number of flyers on U.S. domestic flights stood at just over a third of the number who flew a year ago during the week ending Sept. 20.
Related: American, United say flights to small cities are at risk unless Congress extends payroll program
JetBlue's suspensions hit both large and small airports. The only apparent connection is that they are all in large metropolitan regions with multiple airports. For example in Southern California, it is adding flights at its new Los Angeles (LAX) base while Burbank and Ontario remain suspended. The airline will end service to Long Beach (LGB) in October.
The moves beg the question of when a "suspension" becomes a "cancellation." At BWI, as Baltimore/Washington is known locally, JetBlue will not operate a flight for nearly a year, having suspended service to Boston Logan (BOS) on April 15, Cirium schedules show.
BWI spokesperson Jonathan Dean told TPG that the airport looks forward to "continuing" its relationship with JetBlue when asked when the airport would consider the suspension a cancellation. He added that the airline's sole route, Baltimore-Boston, is popular with business travelers that have yet to return to flying in any significant number.
Related: JetBlue wants to be No. 1 in Connecticut; adds Hartford routes to California, Las Vegas and Mexico
Baltimore/Washington is the busiest airport in the greater Washington region, which also is home to Washington Reagan National (DCA) near downtown and farther Washington Dulles (IAD). Since the pandemic began, BWI has expanded its lead to roughly half of the market compared to just over a third before the crisis.
JetBlue has added or unveiled dozens of new routes since the pandemic began. Almost all of them cater to holidaygoers by connecting to destinations with outdoor attractions, like beaches, mountains and national parks. Leisure travelers are among the only people flying amid continuing concerns of COVID-19.
Even with additional federal aid, JetBlue could keep suspensions in place at all of the airports except Worcester. The U.S. Department of Transportation allows airlines to suspend flights to select airports in multi-airport regions — including the Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington areas — under the air service rules. Worcester, though it is only about 50 miles from central Boston, is not considered part of the Greater Boston area under the regulator's definition.
A JetBlue spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
Related: JetBlue to open LAX base, end flights to Long Beach in West Coast realignment