JetBlue cuts not a surprise, airline industry figures say
JetBlue’s decision to downgrade its service to Bermuda came as no surprise, two air industry executives said yesterday.
Aaron Adderley, the president of airport operators Skyport, also highlighted the island’s strict travel restrictions to combat Covid-19 as a problem.
He said they were tougher than the rules in competitor destinations and hindered the industry.
Mr Adderley added that JetBlue’s decision to make the island a summer destination only from November underscored the urgent need for a recovery.
He said JetBlue’s announcement this week was “disappointing” but not surprising.
Mr Adderley added: “Airlines are acting decisively in the midst of the pandemic to readjust their networks and we can anticipate further adjustments moving forward.”
He emphasised it was “imperative that we do all we can in the meantime to bolster our air passenger recovery rate”.
Mr Adderley said: “The total number of air passengers in 2021 was less than a third of 2019 levels.
“That is simply not sustainable for the airport, hotels, restaurants and other businesses.”
He added: “Our airline partners have already advised that they’ve seen destinations like Bermuda, with strict Covid travel protocols, lag far behind those with less prohibitive protocols in place.
“In addition to a streamlining of border entry requirements, getting the Fairmont Southampton Hotel property back online as soon as possible is absolutely critical to Bermuda recapturing the optimum number of air passengers and ultimately safeguarding our air service options.”
The Government has already said that the return to business of the Fairmont Southampton, which closed in 2020, was a key factor in the revival of tourism to pre-pandemic levels by next year.
Lester Nelson, the chief executive of the Bermuda Airport Authority said the JetBlue announcement was “a result of the pandemic and of airlines rebalancing”.
Mr Nelson added: “The other thing to consider is JetBlue is shifting to focus on Key West, Florida.
“Remember that’s part of the continental US, so there’s no Customs, not the same health screening.”
Key West was announced as the carrier’s off-season destination at the same time as the year-round service to Bermuda was axed.
Mr Nelson said: “This is the environment where travellers — business and leisure — have not returned to pre-pandemic travel.”
But he added: “It’s a temporary condition, even though it’s gone on almost two years.
“Let’s hope this is the year that Covid comes under control.”
Mr Nelson said the island’s air service development team was in regular contact with airlines and that JetBlue remained an “airline partner” despite the cutback.
He added: “It’s not where we want it to be but it’s not doom and gloom. We’re hopeful.”
Mr Nelson said that there would be an “announcement in the coming weeks” from the transport ministry on air service to the island.