Georgia Voices: The JetBlue effect
by The Savannah Morning News
November 18, 2013 10:16 PM | 1589 views | 0 0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JetBlue won’t be serving passengers out of the Savannah airport until February. Yet the “JetBlue effect” is already having an impact here — and that’s reason for the flying public to rejoice.

What’s the JetBlue effect?

Put simply, it’s the effect that this low-cost carrier has on competing airlines, which tend to improve service and lower prices to attract passengers and avoid losing market share to JetBlue.

That’s good for the flying public. It means more choices and competitive ticket prices.

For five years, air travelers here have been held as virtual hostages to higher prices because of the lack of a low-cost carrier.

In a recent survey, Savannah’s airport tied for fourth place (with Washington D.C.’s Dulles) in a national list of highest average ticket prices, at $493. The national average for an airline ticket is $379.

But things could improve, which is reason to rejoice.

JetBlue recently announced that it will begin service early next year to and from New York and Boston out of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. That’s reason to cheer. Not surprisingly, Delta, United Airlines and US Airways, which also offer service here, made counter-moves. Those are reasons to cheer, too.

According to a Department of Transportation report, Delta will be adding five more weekly flights between Savannah and its hub in Atlanta. It also is expanding its existing service to New York’s LaGuardia by more than 250 seats a week and is beginning service in February to New York’s JFK International.

United is beefing up its Northern run as well. It’s projected to add five weekly flights to Newark, as well as one flight a week to Washington’s Dulles. US Airways will add more than 600 seats weekly to Charlotte and one weekly flight each to Washington’s Reagan National and Philadelphia International.

Until recently, Southwest Airlines was considered the great pricing disciplinarian. But JetBlue is taking over that title. ...

Lower fares should also reduce “leakage” of area residents who will drive to Jacksonville or Charleston, S.C., to get cheaper flights. (Example: On Monday, the cost of a roundtrip ticket from Savannah to New York on the weekend of Dec. 20 was $684; on JetBlue out of Jacksonville, it was $485.)

But fresh competition only works when consumers support the new competitors. The local playing field is littered with carcasses of airlines that tried to compete here and lost.

For the economy’s sake, it helps to sweeten the pot to convince low-cost carriers to serve this area. The Savannah Economic Development Authority, the Hilton Head/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Savannah have collectively contributed more than $500,000 to the airport’s air service development fund.

High ticket prices have other negative ripple effects. In Savannah’s case, they prevent public-supported facilities like the trade and convention center from reaching their potential.

Let’s hope the JetBlue effect is a ticket to better days — for the airport and the community.

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