JetBlue: Bradley Hartford Unlikely To Attract New Long-Haul Flights
October 05, 2010
Cities such as Hartford are not part of the resurgence in travel spending, top executives at JetBlue and Starwood hotels both said — and that leaves Bradley International Airport in a poor position to attract new long-haul airline flights.
Vasant Prabhu, chief financial officer of Starwood, which includes the Sheraton brand, said that the recovery is strongest in Asia and in the 100 largest cities in the world. There's a Sheraton hotel in East Hartford.
In the United States, that would include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco/Silicon Valley, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Washington, D.C.
"There's a two-tier market," Prabhu said in a talk to business journalists in New York on Friday. "In big cities, we're in the 90s [in occupancy], in places like New York. The 100 largest global cities in the world are doing far better than regional, local cities. Global cities are growing almost twice as fast as second-tier cities."
Hartford, where most hotel stays involve business travel, has struggled to keep direct, long-haul flights. Delta had a flight to Los Angeles from 2005 to September 2008 that ran four times a week. Delta dropped the flight, saying that demand was too weak. Bradley officials said it had been about 80 percent full on average. The airline tried the route again from June to September 2010, and dropped it again.
Rob Maruster, chief operating officer of JetBlue, shed some light on the reasons in an interview with The Courant.
Second-tier cities like Hartford "are going to have to figure out how they want air service to look. If there's a larger economic development plan, airlines should be part of the discussion."
JetBlue is starting service this fall to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale from Hartford, after the airline noticed Connecticut travelers using its White Plains flights, and he said "we're very excited about opening Hartford."
Although JetBlue makes its name on nonstop service, and built its reputation around its New York-to-Los Angeles flights, Maruster said that a nonstop from Hartford to Los Angeles would be a money loser for years.
"How do you share risk, perhaps?" he said, suggesting that an airport authority would put up some of the marketing money promoting a Los Angeles flight, "so we don't spend four years of losses with marketing it."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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