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For JetBlue, Expansion Is in the Wings

For JetBlue, Expansion Is in the Wings

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Old May 22, 03, 1:55 pm
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For JetBlue, Expansion Is in the Wings

For JetBlue, Expansion Is in the Wings



By Tom Incantalupo
STAFF WRITER

May 22, 2003

As his largest competitor fired a shot across his bow, JetBlue Airways chairman and chief executive David Neeleman told shareholders at their first annual meeting yesterday that the airline planned to increase service by 55 to 60 percent this year and by another 30 to 40 percent next year.

At its annual meeting in Fort Worth, American Airlines announced that, effective yesterday, the world's largest airline was capping one-way fares at $299 on non-stop flights from Kennedy to the Long Beach, San Jose and Orange County's John Wayne Airport in California.

The new American fares are as much as $900 cheaper than before.

JetBlue serves Long Beach but not San Jose or Orange County. However, it flies into Oakland, Calif., and Ontario International Airport, both viable alternates for many Californians to the airports American serves.

JetBlue's Web site lists fares to those markets for travel next Friday or Saturday from $134 to $299. However Michael P. Lazarus, who was replaced as JetBlue chairman yesterday by Neeleman but remains a board member, said that regardless of price competition JetBlue's service would retain customers. "People come at first for price," he said. "But the experience brings them back."

At a lightly attended and low-key stockholders meeting in Manhattan that was typical of those for companies doing well, Neeleman accepted congratulations from several shareholders for the three-year-old Forest Hills-based carrier's profitability in the face of unprecedented hard times for the industry.

Answering one stockholder's question, Neeleman said JetBlue might one day seek to inaugurate service from Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma. "We'll continue to look at it," said Neeleman, who says he often is asked that question. MacArthur now is dominated by Southwest Airlines, on which JetBlue is modeled.

JetBlue's route system is concentrated at Kennedy Airport. The carrier doubled its service last year and now flies to 21 destinations, with plans to add San Diego next month. Company officials said most of the growth this year would be in added frequencies, not new destinations. He wasn't specific about growth plans for 2004. But industry analysts - and one shareholder yesterday - have questioned whether JetBlue can sustain its growth under intensified competition.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/business...siness%2Dfront
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