Jet Blue announces Vineyard summer service


JetBlue Airways announced Thursday, December 23, it will begin daily nonstop summer service between Martha’s Vineyard and John F. Kennedy International Airport, beginning in May.

The announcement was made at a press conference last Thursday held in the Martha’s Vineyard Airport terminal, attended by JetBlue, Cape Air, and Island officials.

The low cost carrier plans to operate daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend using 100-seat Embraer E190 aircraft. Schedules and fares will be announced in January, airline officials said.

“We’re thrilled to be bringing JetBlue service to Martha’s Vineyard next summer,” Dave Barger, JetBlue’s CEO, said at last week’s ceremony at Martha’s Vineyard Airport. “With our nonstop flights to New York, connections nationwide, plus the top-notch service provided by our crew members, we think this new route will be a big win for Islanders and summer residents alike.”

Dan Wolf, Cape Air’s CEO and a newly elected state senator, dubbed the partnership between the two airlines as “a case of genuine love.”

“You don’t know how lucky you are to be selected by JetBlue as a JetBlue community,” Mr. Wolf said. “And we’re going to do everything we can to support this venture.”

Although some people have questioned whether the JetBlue service to Martha’s Vineyard represents a threat to Cape Air business, Mr. Wolf said it does not.

“I think it’s going to do great things for this community, to have JetBlue come in for the season — and then leave at the end of the season,” he said with a smile, drawing laughs from the audience.

JetBlue has offered connections to Martha’s Vineyard through Boston’s Logan Airport in cooperation with Cape Air since 2007. The new nonstop service will complement that year-round option.

“We’re so excited that JetBlue is launching service direct from New York City to the Vineyard this spring,” Nancy Gardella, Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce executive director, said. “This service will have a wonderful impact on the number of people from around the world who will be able to reach Martha’s Vineyard and enjoy all its beauty. JetBlue has given an enormous boost to the tourist-based economy of the Island.”

In talking with reporters before the press conference, Ms. Gardella said that metro New York is the third largest feeder market into Martha’s Vineyard Airport, after Boston and central Connecticut. JetBlue’s new service not only offers access for travelers from New York to Martha’s Vineyard, but also access for Islanders to New York City and destinations via JFK Airport such as Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, she pointed out.

JetBlue also serves Nantucket during the summer season and, in cooperation with Cape Air, provides connections from Boston to Hyannis and Provincetown.

JetBlue will be the second major airline to serve Martha’s Vineyard. US Airways Express operates seasonal service to the Island from LaGuardia Airport in New York and Washington-Reagan National. Mr. Wolf said that Cape Air would continue to offer service from Martha’s Vineyard to White Plains.

The service operates year-round. However, during the off-season, from now through June 17, there is one flight a day on Fridays and Sundays between the two destinations. A round-trip fare, including taxes, is about $569 and can vary based on availability.

Martha’s Vineyard Airport Manager Sean Flynn said he is most impressed by the environmental consciousness demonstrated by JetBlue and Cape Air. “And it’s a pleasure because this community is focused on the environment, and at the same time, we enjoy the luxuries that are provided by air travel,” Mr. Flynn said. “And to have those two meet together is sometimes an oddity, but you’ve both managed to be able to do that.”

When asked during the press conference about ticket prices, Mr. Barger said he expected they would be similar to what JetBlue charges for service from JFK Airport to Nantucket, with promotional fares at around $99 one-way, and “reasonable” regular fares.

“I think that when we look at pricing in markets like this, because we get that question a lot, people need to take into account the challenges of, and the expenses of ramping up, ramping down, and the seasonality, and that’s all built into the price,” Mr. Wolf added. “So the prices are not going to be as cheap as you might expect them to be to some of the other destinations, and I think there should be a heads-up because we have to manage expectations. But I think they are very reasonable to Nantucket, and I think you’ll find that as well.”

In 2010 JetBlue operated non-stop summer service between Nantucket and JFK Airport from May 28 through September 30. Flights to Nantucket operate up to twice daily, which varies by the day of the week based on demand, a JetBlue spokesman said. Fares in 2011 from JFK to Nantucket are priced from $56 to $361 for one person, one way, and do not include fees and taxes.

Given that other airlines with service to Martha’s Vineyard have come and gone over the years, Mr. Barger said JetBlue has learned over time that it pays to be reliable, predictable, and attuned to customers.

Mr. Wolf said one of the biggest differences between JetBlue and other airlines that have come to Martha’s Vineyard is that JetBlue did its homework by starting a dialogue with Cape Air, a provider with a 20-year Island history.

“It really is a question of coming into this community and partnering with the community, and this partnership is really evidence of that,” Mr. Wolf said. “So I think you’re going to see that this is something that’s going to last for a period of years.”

The press conference attendees waited patiently for the two airline chiefs, who arrived an hour late. Mr. Barger and Mr. Wolf had planned to fly out of Boston’s Logan Airport to meet with Cape Air executives in Hyannis first, and then fly to Martha’s Vineyard.

Because of weather delays in Boston, they drove to Hyannis instead, curtailed their meeting, and flew to Martha’s Vineyard as soon as possible. Weather also grounded Representative Tim Madden, who was supposed to attend, and never made it further than the Cape Air counter on Nantucket, Mr. Wolf said.