JetBlue, which will begin serving Charleston International Airport on Feb. 28, promises to offer some things that travelers appreciate: low fares, a free checked bag and credit if flights should be canceled or delayed. And, according to its website, it throws in “a little thing called humility.”
In return, the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is throwing in nearly three-fourths of a $1 million incentive package. The Charleston County Aviation Authority is throwing in just over $200,000 through infrastructure costs, a two-year waiver of landing fees and about $10,000 for marketing. The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce is contributing $117,700 of in-kind marketing.
While the industry can be fickle and financial incentives have to be carefully weighed, the JetBlue deal looks like a winner.
Aviation Authority Chairman Chip Limehouse called it “a good bargain” and “an early Christmas present for the Charleston region.”
With its arrival, JetBlue will have one daily direct flight between Charleston and Boston — and two between Charleston and New York City’s JFK airport.
Each jet will carry 100 passengers. So JetBlue could far more than make up for last year’s loss of a daily flight to New York’s LaGuardia airport.
Helen Hill, executive director of the CVB, sees JetBlue as a critical link to Charleston for tourists in the Northeast. That explains why the two-and-a-half-year effort was made to lure the carrier here.
Travelers are hopeful that the competition JetBlue will bring to Charleston will result in lower fares. When low-cost AirTran left Charleston in 2009, fares increased significantly.
After Southwest Airlines began service between Charleston and Baltimore, Chicago, Nashville and Houston, rates fell.
Tourism shouldn’t be the only beneficiary of JetBlue’s arrival. Every new route to and from Charleston also makes it easier for industries to do business here. As South Carolina and the Lowcountry work to enhance their allure to job-providing enterprises, JetBlue could be a key asset.
More tourism. Lower fares. And more accessibility for businesses. Welcome, JetBlue.