The skies will get a little bluer over Charleston Thursday. That's when JetBlue Airways tacks on two more daily flights at Charleston International Airport.
Departure and arrival times for the new JetBlue service:
Charleston to Reagan National
Reagan National to Charleston
Note: Saturday schedule varies slightly
The new service will travel between the state's busiest airport and Reagan National Airport outside Washington, D.C., giving business travelers, tourists and politicians closer access to the nation's capital via JetBlue.
Charleston area officials hailed the airline's added flights as a huge plus to the tourism and business travel market.
"It's another boost for our airport," said Paul Campbell, director of airports for the Charleston County Aviation Authority. "We'll have a little ceremony here Thursday."
The earliest flight leaves Charleston at 7:25 a.m. The latest flight from Washington arrives in Charleston shortly after 8 p.m.
JetBlue is picking up the Washington routes because of the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. The merger required what will become the new American Airlines, the world's largest air carrier, to give up 52 landing slots at Reagan National to offer more market competition. JetBlue gained 12 of those slots in January.
US Airways now offers five flights from Charleston to Reagan National, commonly called Washington National. They are expected to remain in place.
"We have no changes planned to our flight schedule at this time," said American Airlines and US Airways spokeswoman Michelle Mohr.
JetBlue started serving Charleston in February 2013 with two daily flights to JFK International in New York and a third to Boston. It later added a second flight on Saturdays to Beantown.
The new flights to Washington will be served by 100-seat Embraers.
Charleston's air travel continues to surge in part because of the spin-off from Boeing Co.'s growing airplane assembly operation at the airport and because of Charleston's rising tourism star.
Nearly 2.9 million travelers passed through Charleston International in 2013, a record number that's expected to continue to grow. Officials project the number of passengers to climb to 3.5 million by 2022.
The extra seats being added could also affect fares positively as JetBlue bites into US Airways' domination of flights from Charleston to Washington National.
Based on the latest available figures from the fourth quarter of 2013 from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average airfare in Charleston was $397.
The national average for the fourth quarter of 2013 was $381, down 0.3 percent from the same period a year earlier. Charleston's rate ranks 40th highest among the nation's top 100 airports.
JetBlue's new Washington National flights ready to take off Thursday