Wednesday, January 07, 2015

JetBlue Airways will fly Cleveland to Fort Lauderdale starting in April, launches service with $23 one-way fares

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The battle to control the skies between Cleveland and South Florida will heat up this April, when JetBlue Airways begins flying to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, a city already served by low-cost carriers Spirit and Frontier.

The top-rated airline announced Thursday plans to expand service in Cleveland – before the carrier's initial service even begins. Last month, JetBlue said it would begin flights between Cleveland and Boston on April 30.

On tap that same day: nonstop flights between Cleveland and Fort Lauderdale.

JetBlue will start flying to Fort Lauderdale just weeks after United Airlines pulls its nonstops between the two cities, part of its ongoing plan to eliminate its hub in Cleveland (United is also canceling nonstop service, starting in April, between Cleveland and Tampa and Fort Myers).

United's departure was largely seen in the industry as a reaction to the entrance into the Florida market by Frontier and Spirit airlines, both low-cost carriers that charge extra for carry-on bags, drinks and other amenities. Frontier started flying between Cleveland and Fort Lauderdale in June; Spirit starts service between the two cities next month.

John Checketts, JetBlue's director of route planning and revenue management, said the two low-cost carriers don't give Clevelanders traveling to Florida enough choice.

"We respect them as competitors," said Checketts. "But we also know that customers have a strong desire to fly on an airline that is going to be a better experience."

JetBlue is among the nation's most highly-rated airlines by frequent travelers, who laud the carrier's complimentary in-flight entertainment, snacks and generous legroom.

The daily flight leaves Cleveland at 11:35 a.m., arriving in Fort Lauderdale at 2:35 p.m. The return flight leaves Fort Lauderdale at 8 a.m., arriving in Cleveland at 10:50 a.m. Flights will be on 150-seat Airbus A320s.

To celebrate the announcement, the airline is offering $23 one-way fares for travel between April 30 and June 18 on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Saturdays. The introductory fares must be purchased by Friday. After the sale, fares will start at $79 one way, according to a spokesman.

Checketts credits the airline's expansion in Cleveland in part to early support from the Greater Cleveland community.

"We've been nothing but pleased with the level of support we've seen from the community," said Checketts. "We've got reasonable fares and a very high quality product. I think that's resonating with the Cleveland folks."

JetBlue is Fort Lauderdale's largest airline, with up to 74 flights a day. Depending on departure times from Fort Lauderdale, Clevelanders should be able to travel on JetBlue farther south, to destinations including San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nassau in the Bahamas and elsewhere.

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