Posted on 08 February 2011 by k. a. gardner
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s not a wonder that Mayor John Peyton was “extremely pleased” when JetBlue Airways announced a non-stop service to San Juan, Puerto Rico beginning on May 19th. “Commerce with San Juan already provides an economic impact of more than $1 billion annually to Jacksonville.” *
The Jacksonville Airport Authority (JAA) announced that Jacksonville International Airport is JetBlue Airways’ 31st Cargo Station as of Feb. 2nd.
In an effort to grow their cargo network, JetBlue chose JIA due to the frequency of travel to New York’s John F. Kennedy International and Boston’s Logan airports, allowing for seamless cargo transfers at these airports’ onwards to more than 20 destinations.
In addition, JetBlue will begin daily direct service between Jacksonville and Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in May 2011.
We will also have the ability to provide customers with a great option to move cargo to and from San Juan rather than some of the other more congested Southeastern airports, said Carl Shipsky, manager of system cargo sales said in JetBlue in a press release.
A non-stop route to San Juan was long sought after by the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Northeast Florida (PRCCNF). Chamber founder and president Nilda Alejandro addressed the issue when San Juan signed a Sister City agreement with Jacksonville in October 2009. (Alejandro discussed the issue with me as far back as May 2009). San Juan is a desired destination for Northeast Florida’s diverse Hispanic community. Business and government ties to the city are also strong.
Barbara Halverstadt, Jacksonville Airport Authority’s airtrade and marketing manager, needed travel demographics to prove the viability of a non-stop between San Juan and Jacksonville. Alejandro gathered most of the data from government, corporate entities and the Hispanic community. Meanwhile, JetBlue was positioning San Juan as its hub for the Caribbean. The profit-revenue per passenger mile to San Juan through JIA was evident:
Puerto Rico has been the cornerstone of our growth in the Caribbean,” said Dave Barger, president and CEO of JetBlue. Jacksonville is another natural addition to our route network, another demonstration of our commitment to Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico has lost eight cruise lines since 2004 which used San Juan as their center of operations in the Caribbean. The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (CTPR - state agency) set up a 2009-2013 Strategic Plan for Puerto Rico to regain its position as one of chief Caribbean ports for the sector. Officials at CTPR said the increase of air traffic to the island is closely related to that of cruise ships.
Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno said the non-stop flight from Jacksonville strengthens the relationship between Puerto Rico and Florida.
“We are honored to have a great airline partner like JetBlue serving Puerto Rico. Partnerships like this are key to the air access development of Puerto Rico, and being an island, we greatly depend on it for our commercial and tourism development,”
This new direct service from Jacksonville also strengthens the educational and cultural ties that we maintain with the state of Florida and provides the people of Puerto Rico an additional direct connection with the continental states.”