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JetBlue: airport quality matters

As Bermuda weighs the pros and cons of advancing plans for a new airport terminal, one of the airlines that flies to and from the island is in no doubt that improved facilities make a difference for travellers.

JetBlue, which serves the island from New York and Boston, has upgraded its home terminal at JFK International Airport with a variety of technologies, including self-service check-in terminals, weigh scale tables where customers can quickly repack their luggage, and self-drop bag facilities.

The new-look lobby area at JetBlue's T5 terminal was officially opened last month.

In a statement, the company said: “Our view is that the airport experience is just as important as the on-board experience.”

The Bermuda Government is in the process of securing a deal to build a new terminal at LF Wade International Airport.

When asked if new airport construction and refurbished facilities tend to boost visitor numbers, a spokesperson for JetBlue, which is not involved in the Bermuda project, said: “Airports that offer an excellent experience and amenities can help give a destination great word of mouth and complement the experience the destination has to offer.

“The travelling public expects a top-notch experience during their check-in and during the wait for their flights — it should be a stress-free process to get their seats or check a bag, and there should be comfortable seating at the gates and great restaurants and shops to visit.

“A great experience benefits the traveller, but it also benefits the airport with higher revenues.”

JetBlue was formed in 2000 and now has 925 daily flights across the US, Caribbean, Central America and South America. Its inaugural flight between New York and Bermuda was in May 2006. For the past ten years the company has flown regular services between the island and New York and Boston.

Robin Hayes, JetBlue's chief executive officer, speaking at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation's state of the industry conference in Curaçao last October, highlighted the impact that high airport taxes and charges can have in dissuading passengers and airlines from flying to certain destinations.

“Regulation factors into our route planning decisions, and so does the tax burden our customers face when buying aeroplane tickets,” said Mr Hayes.

“There is a wide range of passenger tax regimes across the region. I would encourage those of you who have influence in this sphere to carefully consider how taxes are levied and to use this option sparingly. At JetBlue we are very much thinking about the relative tax burden on our customers as we allocate capacity.

He added: “Between US and foreign taxes and fees, travellers can easily be hit with an extra $150 on top of their airfare — that could be an entire extra hotel night.

“Contrast that to the average JetBlue airfare for the first six months of this year which was just $171. We would rather customers have more money in their pocket to spend when they arrive in your communities.”

His comments to tourism leaders were pertinent for Bermuda, where airport departure tax was increased in March 2015 from $35 to $50, followed last August by a further hike that took the maximum total departure tax to $78.

JetBlue maintains its view on the possible impact of additional taxes and charges. A company spokesperson told The Royal Gazette: “JetBlue considers a high tax burden on customers detrimental to the demand for travel.”

With Bermuda hosting the 35th America's Cup next year, JetBlue is keeping an eye on demand from customers seeking to fly to the island, but said it was not in a position to say whether it is considering increasing its airlift to Bermuda for the event in May and June.

A spokesperson said: “While we can't share our future capacity plans for competitive reasons, we do continually monitor the different markets we serve and look for ways to meet that demand by offering the right capacity in any given season.

“It's exciting that the America's Cup will be in Bermuda, and we will be keeping an eye on demand on our routes from Bermuda to New York and Boston as the event approaches. We look forward to flying sports fans in for the big event.”

On the up: JetBlue has improved facilities at JFK International Airport. The company believes airports that offer excellent amenities get great world of mouth recommendations (Photograph by Scott Neil)

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Published August 09, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 08, 2016 at 9:15 pm)

JetBlue: airport quality matters

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