Hope jetBlue decides to follow through with this move!!
Wait is on for JetBlue at Westchester County Airport
The Journal News
(Original publication: January 8, 2007)
A week from tomorrow, air travelers should know whether they will soon
be able to lean back in a JetBlue leather seat, channel-surf and munch on blue
potato chips as they take off into the skies over Westchester.
Last week, the
stage was set for JetBlue to enter this travel market when the county held one
of its quarterly lotteries. For the first time, JetBlue was one of 15 air
carriers that vied for the right to do business in Westchester, along with
AirTran, which has been quite popular since it arrived in April.
The names of
all 15 air carriers were plucked out of a fishbowl to determine the order in
which they would choose from available time slots for flights and from the
remaining passenger capacity. JetBlue was No. 9; AirTran was 11. The lottery
went for six rounds, from one air carrier to the next, with each able to make
four choices per turn.
The flight schedule is managed in this unique and
antiquated way because the airlines are bound by a terminal-capacity agreement,
fought for by Westchester County, which limits the number of flights to four per
half-hour from 5 a.m. to midnight. Every 30 minutes, no more than 240 passengers
may arrive or depart from these gates. The passenger count is spread among two
larger aircraft and two smaller ones. The passenger limit covers only commercial
airlines. Most of the airport's traffic comes from private or corporate aircraft
and is unregulated.
For up to 150 passengers, JetBlue chose departure times
of 5:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 10 p.m., 10:30 p.m. and 11:30
p.m., and arrivals of 7 p.m., 8 p.m., 9 p.m., 9:30 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. The
JetBlue executive who made the picks, James Smith, director of properties, said
he didn't know yet whether JetBlue would begin serving Westchester. He said the
company would evaluate all the costs of doing business here.
evaluating all the airports that are in our region and whatever opportunities
exist," Smith said with a poker face. "It's another airport, and it happens to
be in our backyard."
For up to 71 passengers, AirTran chose three new flight
times - a 3 p.m. arrival and 2 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. departures - and increased
the number of passengers who could fly on the existing flights.
company could wind up with different time slots than the ones they chose,
because the air carriers can trade among themselves, as long as each slot still
has two large aircraft and two small ones and does not exceed the 240-passenger
JetBlue, AirTran and the other airlines must notify the county by next
week what flights they plan to schedule, must fly them at least five days a week
and must begin service by March 5.
"JetBlue's entry, I think, you can
attribute to our market," said John Kirby, director of strategic planning and
scheduling for AirTran. "We announced Stewart (Airport in Newburgh). They
announced Stewart. We announced White Plains; now they're in White Plains. Give
them credit for recognizing a good idea when they see one."
Hearing that it
was a possibility, some passengers grinned and rhapsodized about the comfy
leather seats, the personal televisions and the customer service on JetBlue.
AirTran offers satellite radio and free snacks but is not known for its seats or
Amanda Macellaro, who grew up in Armonk, was flying
from the county airport last week for the first time because of AirTran, but was
excited by the possibility that JetBlue might come to Westchester.
convenient," said the 27-year-old kindergarten teacher, who was returning home
to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on an AirTran flight with her husband, Kevin Stransky,
after a holiday visit to their folks. "We always go JetBlue. We're True Blue
members. That would be wonderful if they flew here."
Claire Hart, a Stamford,
Conn., native who was returning to Fort Lauderdale on the same flight with her
4-year-old, Heather, and her husband, Todd, emphatically agreed.
are bigger; they have oversized leather seats, DIRECTV on every seat back," Hart
said. "I normally fly JetBlue. If the price was cheaper, I would have been on
JetBlue to JFK. AirTran doesn't have all that, so I had to bring a portable DVD
player and a bunch of movies for my daughter."
If JetBlue does decide to
begin flying in and out of Westchester, it will almost certainly spark more
changes at the county airport. Since AirTran launched service between
Westchester and Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Orlando, the airport has become
busier and more diverse. Fewer seats are empty, and instead of seeing 1,800
travelers on Dec. 26, as usual, the airport handled 2,800. Jeans-clad college
students sprawl in a hallway here, a cluster of Hasidic men in black hats and
coats talk amongst themselves there, and a lot more parents and grandparents
maneuver loads of luggage and strollers through tightly packed spaces at the
formerly subdued airport.
The airport has added 50 folding chairs to the
departure lounge, but at peak periods like Christmas, there aren't enough seats
or parking spots to go around. Airport manager Peter Scherer has invited airline
passengers into one of his conference rooms to make them more comfortable, and
he said the airport needed 400 extra parking spaces during the holiday. He
managed to find enough parking by shifting employees elsewhere and using the
employee lot for passengers. And new wrinkles crop up: Parents who had to drop
off their minor children for unaccompanied flights had no temporary place to
park while they signed their children over to airline personnel and handled the
paperwork before driving off.
"We're finding creative solutions," Scherer
said. "Westchester residents now have a reason to use their county