JetBlue Airways, the low-cost airline with a reputation for quality customer service, announced on Thursday morning that it will begin daily nonstop service between Martha’s Vineyard and New York city this summer.
“During the peak days we’ll operate more than one trip a day,” said JetBlue chief executive officer Dave Barger after a press conference held at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.
Air service between the Island and the John F. Kennedy Airport is set to begin on Memorial Day weekend and run at least through Labor Day, with the possibility to continue service through Columbus Day. Schedules and fares for the new service will be available in January. Tickets go on sale Jan. 11.
Ticket prices would be similar to JetBlue’s fares from JFK to Nantucket, Mr. Barger said. “Price points of, you know, $99 in terms of promotional pricing, but something that’s very reasonable compared to, I think, what pricing tends to be.”
JetBlue began nonstop service between Nantucket and New York in 2007 with introductory specials of $49 each way in late spring.
Cape Air’s team will fully manage the Martha’s Vineyard operations for JetBlue as they have on Nantucket, Mr. Barger said.
Cape Air chief executive Dan Wolf was more cautious about prices during yesterday’s joint press conference. “When we look at the pricing in markets like [the Vineyard], people need to take into account the challenges of, and the expenses of, ramping up and ramping down and the seasonality and that’s all built into the price.
“So the prices are not going to be as cheap as you might expect them to be from some of the other destinations, and I think there should be a head’s up because we’ve got to manage expectations,” said Mr. Wolf, also the Cape and Islands state senator elect, adding:
“But I think they are very reasonable to Nantucket, and here I think you’ll find that as well.”
Cape Air will continue its seasonal service between the Vineyard and White Plains, N.Y., Mr. Wolf said.
Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce chief Nancy Gardella called the move “really, really big.
“This opens up the third largest feeder market to the Vineyard,” she said, putting New York city behind only Boston and the central Connecticut area in terms of sending tourists to the Island. “And it opens up New York, and other places, for Vineyarders.
“JetBlue has huge reach,” she said, pointing to potential connections with JetBlue’s other destinations and the global routes through Kennedy, an international airport.
The Vineyard is JetBlue’s 66th service area. It began with service from JFK to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in 2000. It is also soon to begin service to Anchorage, Alaska, and to the Turks and Caicos islands.
“The relationship that Martha’s Vineyard has the potential of growing with JetBlue is just amazing. As a tourist-based industry and economy we know the value of opening up not just the New York market for Vineyarders and New Yorkers, but the rest of the country and the world. Flying in and out of JFK means it doesn’t matter where people start their journey; they now have the opportunity to get directly here with one brief stopover in New York,” Ms. Gardella said.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to grow our economy and we’re so grateful that JetBlue is taking this chance with us and moving forward with us.”
JetBlue will fly what it called “quiet and fuel efficient” 100-seat Embraer 190 full-size jets to the Vineyard, with in-flight entertainment at every seat.
Martha’s Vineyard Airport manager Sean Flynn sais he was “most impressed . . . with the environmental consciousness that both these companies have,” something he thought would resonate well with Vineyard travelers. “[You can be] focussed on the environment at the same time you enjoy the luxuries that are provided by air travel,” he said.
Asked why JetBlue would succeed where many had not, Mr. Wolf said: “JetBlue really did their homework. The reason we are standing here together is they are having a dialogue with a provider who has been here for 20 years and understands this community, rather than . . . let’s drop into that map.
“This is something that’s going to last for a period of years,” Mr. Wolf said.
Mr. Barger said there was demand for additional seasonal service, calling reliable, predictable, nonstop service a lifeline, while acknowledging that, “Let’s face it, sometimes Mother Nature is going to win when we get into certain geographies, and this is certainly one of them.”
The start of the press conference was delayed a full hour because the airline chiefs could not fly out of Boston Logan as scheduled; they drove to Hyannis and flew Cape Air from there. Cape and Islands state rep. Tim Madden was supposed to attend, but he was, Mr. Wolf reported, “at a Cape Air counter in Nantucket.”
Mr. Wolf told the gathered officials, including selectmen, county officials and airport commissioners: “You don’t know how lucky you are to be selected by JetBlue as a JetBlue community and we’re going to do everything we can to support this venture,” saying it did not represent a threat to Cape Air.
“I think it’s going to do great things for this community to have JetBlue come in for the season,” Mr. Wolf said, before emphatically adding, “and then leave at the end of the season.”
The Cape Air-JetBlue partnership operates across New England, headquartered out of Logan airport, which Cape Air services year-round from the Islands.