May 19, 2011
JetBlue’s first daily flight from Jacksonville to San Juan departed the First Coast this morning at 1030. Flight time is a little over four hours.
In the terminal, passengers were lined up and ready to go as flight time neared. All were invited to munch some cake and other goodies by JetBlue employees. They were assisted by Jacksonville Aviation Authority volunteer “ambassadors,” including Joanne Doherty of Neptune Beach and Pat Adam of Jacksonville.
Joanne Doherty of Neptune Beach and Pat Adam of Jacksonville were helping to hand out sweet things.
After JetBlue’s Embraer 190, tail No. N323JB, pushed back from the gate, they taxied to taxiway “Alpha,” where they were shortly greeted by two fire trucks on either side of the taxiway and doused with water squirting hard from water cannons. The water formed a fine arc as the plane continued toward Runway 7.
Shortly after 10:30, the jet was zipping down the runway, rotated, and headed to San Juan and Luis Marin International Airport (SJU).
The new JetBlue route is the first daily nonstop service between Jacksonville and the island of Puerto Rico. The one daily flight departs Jacksonville at 10:23 a.m. and returns from San Juan at 5:45 p.m.
This new non-stop service is the result of four years hard work between the Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA), city representatives and members of the business community.
"We have been trying to land service to Puerto Rico for several years and are pleased that JetBlue shares our vision," Steve Grossman, Executive Director and CEO of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority said. "With the community's support, this is the first step towards opening up additional markets in the Caribbean and Latin America."
The Jacksonville business community has long had ties with Puerto Rico. More than 75 percent of all trade between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico moves through Jacksonville, making it the number one port in the country for trade with the island.
There is also a growing connection between the cities for medical tourism. According to the Jacksonville branch of the Mayo Clinic, 16 percent of international patients come from Puerto Rico, more than any other country.
"This connection creates a welcome opportunity on both sides of the service," said JaxPort CEO Paul Anderson. "Making access easier allows Jacksonville business to strengthen already strong ties with Puerto Rico and it is a clear win for all of us."
In October 2009, Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton signed an agreement with the mayor of San Juan, Jorge Santini, uniting their municipalities as "Sister Cities." With this new flight connection, the cities can continue their exchange of commerce, ideas, culture, entertainment and business strategies. The new flights will also offer families in Puerto Rico and on the mainland greater access to one another.
"This is an exciting day for both of our cities, as it is the culmination of us closely working together to develop non-stop flight service between San Juan and Jacksonville," said Peyton. "This new connection signifies the future increased tourism, Sister City cultural exchanges and important expanded economic development and business opportunities that having a direct link to Puerto Rico, Jacksonville's number one trading partner, will provide."
Santini also expressed his satisfaction for the service and emphasized that the alliance will be an advantageous one that will benefit the citizens of Puerto Rico and their families while also being a stimulus for San Juan's tourism industry.
"The daily JetBlue flight to Puerto Rico is evidence of the cooperative agreement between our two cities for mutual benefit, in order to explore and create opportunities in educational and cultural programs for the development of new business initiatives," Santini said.
"We're very proud to finally bring the 'Sister Cities' together with our daily flight from Jacksonville to San Juan; we have the great community support behind this initiative to thank for it," said Scott Laurence, vice president of network planning for JetBlue. "Connecting communities, whether it's for business or leisure, is what it's all about."
Connecting through San Juan, travelers also have new options to reach destinations throughout the Caribbean. On April 14, Jetblue announced plans to launch nonstop daily service from San Juan to St. Maarten, making it their second intra-Caribbean route. This service is scheduled to begin on November 17. Jetblue service currently exists between San Juan and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.