JetBlue flies into Charleston Thursday
Blackbaud employees often travel to Boston, where the Daniel Island-based software maker has a large satellite office in nearby Cambridge, Mass.
Founded: 1999First flight: Feb. 11, 2000Based: New YorkDestinations: 76Departure times:JFK to Charleston: 7:45 a.m., 2:59 p.m.Charleston to JFK: 11:50 a.m., 6:12 p.m.Boston to Charleston: 9:35 a.m.Charleston to Boston: 1 p.m., 7:45 p.m. (Saturdays only starting April 6 for the later flight)Departure times for Feb. 28 may be slightly different because of first-day launch activities. Flight times are roughly 1 hour 45 minutes to just over 2 hours.Source: JetBlue Airways
Starting Thursday, they will have a direct route from Charleston to Beantown.
Low-cost carrier JetBlue will fly into the Holy City, offering three daily flights to the tourist-and-business-traveler-rich Northeast corridor: one to Boston’s Logan International Airport and two to John F. Kennedy International in New York.
“The addition of JetBlue flights out of Charleston will provide our travelers with more options and will spur more competitive fares, both of which we are looking forward to,” said Stephanie Thomas, manager of Blackbaud’s corporate travel program.
While the inaugural flights aren’t sold out, New York-based JetBlue, with its first-bag-flies-free offer, is so satisfied with the demand in Charleston, it will offer a second flight to Boston on Saturdays starting in April.
“That’s unusual to add it before they start service,” Charleston International spokeswoman Becky Beaman said.
“What a credit to Charleston for advance sales,” said Helen Hill, executive director of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, which lobbied nearly three years to bring the airline to the Lowcountry.
“We are very pleased with the bookings,” JetBlue spokeswoman Allison Steinberg said.
The airline’s arrival could add up to 175,000 travelers annually to and from Charleston International, she said, boosting the airport’s passengers count well above the current 2.5 million each year.
It also gives Charleston year-round nonstop access to Boston, something the airport doesn’t offer now, as well as more flights to JFK.
Equally important is that both airports offer direct links to international passengers, giving those travelers direct paths to Charleston, a port city steeped in history that readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine voted the No. 1 tourist destination in the U.S. and the world in 2012.
“Both of those cites are major international gateways,” said Perrin Lawson, deputy director of the CVB. “This opens up the Northeast corridor.”
JetBlue and Southwest Airlines, which began serving Charleston in March 2011, are the two premier low-cost carriers, Lawson said. “JetBlue (like Southwest) is an airline you like serving your community,” he added.
When passengers arrive in Boston and New York for the first two flights headed to Charleston, they will be greeted at the gate with “an essence of Charleston breakfast,” Steinberg of JetBlue said.
While she didn’t name all the menu items, she didn’t rule out grits as a possibility.
On the inaugural flights, passengers will be treated to Charleston and JetBlue goodies, including a chance for a free flight for one passenger, Steinberg said.
Shortly after the first plane from New York touches down in Charleston around 10 a.m., a festive atmosphere will greet passengers.
Airline leaders, airport officials and government leaders will roll out the red carpet for JetBlue through a press conference followed by a reception.
Later in the day, JetBlue officials will be treated to a private reception by the CVB, which pumped nearly $700,000 into startup marketing incentives to woo the airline.
The Charleston County Aviation Authority kicked in just over $200,000 through start-up infrastructure costs, a two-year waiver of landing fees and about $10,000 for marketing.
“I’m glad they did what they did to bring JetBlue in,” said Aviation Authority Chairman Andy Savage, who was not chairman when the airline announced in September it was adding Charleston to its route system.
“Charleston is becoming ever more popular as a tourist destination,” said Savage, who will be on the inaugural flight to Boston on Thursday to visit his former high school principal.
“We also have national and international corporations here, and people living here are looking for quality at a fair price,” he said.
The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce also pitched in $117,700 in in-kind marketing through its website and other promotions.
Charleston-area travel agents such as Hazel Berry said the addition of JetBlue is a ticket booster for the travel industry, especially the direct link to Boston.
“I just think it will benefit us regardless,” said Berry, president of Travel Leaders of Charleston in Mount Pleasant. “People are familiar with JetBlue and have been talking about it.”
Frequent traveler and local businessman Steve Parker called the airline’s arrival “a great benefit” for Charleston.
“When I lived in New York, I loved flying on JetBlue,” said Parker, chief executive officer of Levelwing, a Charleston digital marketing and business analytics company off Clements Ferry Road in Berkeley County with another office in New York City.
“I don’t know if I will use them for every flight, but I will certainly use them,” he said. “It depends on the schedule. From an option standpoint, it’s a win-win. If it impacts prices, that’s better.”
Beaman, the airport spokeswoman, said JetBlue’s arrival should definitely bring down airfares to those markets.
“Anytime you have more service, you will have better airfare because of the competition,” Beaman said. “The more competition the better.”Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.