Goodbye, San Juan. Hello, Bermuda and Charlotte.
JetBlue Airways Corp. will begin offering service from Logan International Airport on May 1 to Bermuda and to the North Carolina financial services center, one day after its seasonal service to Puerto Rico from Boston ends.
While the Bermuda service will be seasonal, ending Oct. 31, JetBlue said it plans to make the daily round trip to Charlotte permanent, creating the first direct challenge to US Airways, which runs nine daily flights from Boston to its southeastern hub.
The service launches come as JetBlue has been working to move past public outrage over a week long system meltdown and 1,000 canceled flights following a Feb. 14 snowstorm. The airline last week unveiled a "passenger bill of rights" guaranteeing cash rebates and free flights for severely delayed passengers.
Allen Michel , a management professor at Boston University who studies the aviation industry, predicted both routes will be well patronized for JetBlue and also help change the subject from its recent snow woes.
"JetBlue is going to come out of these service problems they've had very, very successfully," Michel said, thanks to public goodwill from its first seven years of low-priced operations and popular onboard amenities like satellite television.
Michel said Bermuda is a perfect example of a resort destination where cheaper fares can drive increased overall business, both for JetBlue and Delta, and the Charlotte service could push US Airways to cut fares. "One flight a day may not create a significant mass, but US Air would be pretty smart to hit the pricing head-on and try to make it tough for JetBlue to get a significant return" and expand service, Michel said.
US Airways controls 76 percent of the Boston-Charlotte market and charges an average fare of $297 round trip, according to FareReport.com, a travel website that analyzes Transportation Department data on domestic routes. JetBlue said it will charge fares as low as $168 round trip to Charlotte, and its website yesterday had several $208 round trips in May, generally about $20 to $70 less than many US Airways flights.
To Bermuda, JetBlue said it will offer fares as low as $198 round trip. Its website late yesterday showed $258 round trip fares for several weekend non stop flight combinations from Boston in May, compared with typical $378 fares on Delta.
Thomas J. Kinton Jr. , the executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority , which runs Logan, said, "We couldn't be happier to add JetBlue to our family of airlines offering international service, and we look forward to working with them as they continue to grow at Logan," Kinton said.
One potential big source of traffic on the Boston-Charlotte route is Hub workers for Bank of America Corp., which acquired FleetBoston Financial Corp. in 2004. Bank of America is headquartered in Charlotte, and Boston is home to its wealth management division.
From Boston, JetBlue's Charlotte flight will leave at 8:10 a.m. and return to Boston at 10:55 a.m. The Bermuda flight will leave Boston at 10:40 a.m. and return for Boston at 2:45 p.m. Atlantic time.
With the San Juan seasonal service being shut down, the addition of the two flights will bring to 24 the number of destinations served non stop by JetBlue from Boston. It's also adding service to San Francisco on May 3.
On both routes, JetBlue will offer service on 100-seat Embraer 190 jets. JetBlue is also increasing service from Portland International Jetport in Maine to its John F. Kennedy International Airport home base in New York, adding a fifth daily flight between June 15 and Sept. 4. Rival AirTran Airways this week said it would begin offering summer service from Portland in early June to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Orlando.
Peter J. Howe can be reached at email@example.com.