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JetBlue to launch nonstop flights between Charleston and LA

JetBlue Airways A320

JetBlue Airways will initiate the Palmetto State's first nonstop, transcontinental flight to Los Angeles in December from Charleston International Airport. Provided/JetBlue Airways

The Holy City will soon be connected nonstop to the City of Angels.

New York-based JetBlue Airways said Thursday it will launch a daily route between Charleston and Los Angeles starting Dec. 18.

It's the first uninterrupted coast-to-coast flight between South Carolina and California.

"Since beginning flights to Charleston, we’ve seen an extraordinary level of community support that has allowed us to continually expand," Scott Laurence, JetBlue's head of revenue and planning, said in a statement.

The 5¾-hour flight on a 162-seat Airbus A320 aircraft will take off from the Palmetto State's busiest airport at 6 p.m. Eastern time and land in the nation's second-largest city at 8:46 p.m. Pacific time.

The 4½-hour return flight, courtesy of a tail wind, will depart LAX at 9 a.m. Pacific time and arrive in Charleston at 4:29 p.m. Eastern time.

For the leg leaving Charleston during the holidays, the price starts at $280, according to the airline's website. Many of the returning flights from Los Angeles already are sold out at the basic rate during that peak travel season. Seats remained available above the basic rate, as of Thursday.

JetBlue's website shows prices in January starting at $99 for each leg of the flight. 

The cross-country route between Charleston and Los Angeles has long been sought by Lowcountry leaders for both business and leisure travel.

Charleston International CEO Elliott Summey called the new flight "a key strategic objective" providing access to and from "one of the most important airport gateways" in the world.

California has been in the Charleston region's top 10 states of visitor inquiry for at least the past two decades, airport board chairwoman Helen Hill said.

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"Being able to fly nonstop from LAX to Charleston will turn Californians' interest into action," said Hill, who also heads tourism agency Explore Charleston.

"There is no doubt that the new service will provide a timely boost as our visitor industry continues its economic rebound," Hill added.

The carrier first landed in Charleston in 2013 with flights to John F. Kennedy International Airport in its home base of New York City and another route to Boston's Logan International Airport.

It later added flights to Fort Lauderdale and Washington National, but said it would end service to the nation's capital in 2019.

Much of its service fell off in recent months because of the pandemic, but the airline is expected to resume flights to South Florida in October, Hill said.

JetBlue's announcement comes two days after United Airlines said it will restart daily flights Oct. 1 between the Lowcountry and Denver.

Charleston International, like other airports across the nation, has been trying to rebound from the abysmal passenger figures in April when air travel plummeted 96 percent because of the economic lockdown brought on by the coronavirus.

In July, the month with the most recent available figures, the number of air travelers from Charleston had picked up, but was still down about 68 percent from passenger counts before the pandemic.

Those numbers are expected to improve slightly in coming months but not return to normal levels until well after a vaccine has been developed.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524. Follow him on Twitter @warrenlancewise.

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