Discount airline to fly nonstop to Charleston in 2013

Discount airline JetBlue Airways announced Wednesday it plans to fly nonstop to Charleston starting in February. (Christopher Parypa /
Discount airline JetBlue Airways announced Wednesday it plans to fly nonstop to Charleston starting in February. (Christopher Parypa/

Staff Report
Published Sept. 12, 2012

Discount airline JetBlue Airways plans to fly nonstop to Charleston starting in February.

The company follows another discount carrier, Southwest Airlines, which began nonstop service between selected cities and Charleston and Greenville last year.

JetBlue plans to offer two nonstop flights to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and one daily flight to Boston’s Logan International Airport, the company said in a news release. The company plans to launch the service Feb. 28, 2013.

“We are pleased to welcome South Carolina into our growing route network, and we believe the addition of the region’s only full-size jet service to the Northeast will foster even more loyal fans of JetBlue throughout the state,” said JetBlue President and CEO Dave Barger in a release. 

Headquartered in New York, JetBlue also serves Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Orlando, Fla.; Los Angeles; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The airline tries to distinguish itself from other discount airlines with assigned, leather seating, free live television at every seatback and one free checked bag.

“The great economic development news continues to pour from the Charleston area,” said S.C. State Rep. and Charleston County Aviation Authority Chairman Chip Limehouse in a statement. “Every day, we become more and more of a business driver for the Charleston region.”

When Southwest launched from Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in 2011, the executive director of the airport said JetBlue was among the airlines the region was hoping to attract in the future.

Dan Mann, executive director of Columbia Metropolitan Airport, said Columbia officials have talked with JetBlue about launching service from the Midlands many times over the years, including a conversation in June.

“We talked primarily about service to Boston. Boston is an under-served market for us,” Mann said. “I think there’s a business case to be made for Columbia and JetBlue.”

Columbia does not have nonstop service to Boston, so travelers have to make connecting flights in places like Charlotte, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth.

JetBlue lined up South Carolina’s federal lawmakers to help it announce the service Wednesday morning, and soon statements were flying across the Lowcountry welcoming the airline to South Carolina.

The company’s news release had statements from U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Congressman Tim Scott. All of them touted Charleston as a tourist destination and the positives of having a new airline call on the region.

“This is great news for Charleston and the entire Lowcountry,” Scott said. “The historic streets of the Holy City have attracted visitors for generations, and our world class beaches, golf courses and restaurants offer an experience you just can’t get anywhere else. We look forward to welcoming more folks down to Charleston on JetBlue for some good old fashioned Southern hospitality, be it for a business trip or family vacation.”

The mayors of the region’s three largest cities also offered statements through the Charleston Area Convention and Visitor Bureau.

“There are great similarities between Boston and Charleston,” Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said. “Thanks to JetBlue’s new service, our residents will have the wonderful opportunity to discover another Colonial port city with rich history and vibrant culture.”

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey linked the announcement to the expansion of aerospace, and Boeing’s operations, in the state’s third-largest municipality and said it could help spark more economic development.

“New air service will lead to an increase in visitors but also the business development prospects in the hopper,” Summey said. “We have a competitive edge when it comes to attracting industry, and now it will be a little easier for heads of industry to get here.”

JetBlue flies to 71 cities with 700 daily flights and also plans to launch service to Providence, R.I.; Cartagena, Colombia; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; and Samana, Dominican Republic this year.

Seabury Airline Planning Group, a business consultant for airlines, helped with JetBlue’s decision to come to Charleston.

“The city and the carrier are such a logical fit,” said Joel Antolini, senior vice president of Seabury Airline Planning Group in a statement. “As always, the JetBlue team was great to work with in the market exploration process, and when we laid the story out to them they quickly grasped the power and benefits of combining two premier brands like Charleston and JetBlue. The market is going to eat this service up.”

Chuck Crumbo contributed to this report.

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