New York-based JetBlue’s newly announced additions to its Boston, Fort Lauderdale, and New York JFK schedules are the next steps in its strategy of increasing margins by fortifying already-strong networks in its three focus cities.

The changes, announced Oct. 9 and effective starting early next year, include adding service on nine Boston routes, eight JFK routes, and two Fort Lauderdale routes.

JetBlue also will launch a new route between Boston and Rochester, New York, and three new routes out of Fort Lauderdale: Phoenix, St. Maarten, and Guayaquil, Ecuador. The Guayaquil service, slated to start in the first quarter, adds a second Ecuadorian city to JetBlue’s route map. The New York-based carrier has served Quito since 2016.

While the changes include adding capacity or new flying on routes that do not touch Boston, Fort Lauderdale, or JFK, the moves underscore JetBlue’s intention to leverage its presence in those markets to generate more, and higher-margin, business.

JetBlue carried 37% of enplaned passengers at JFK and 31% at Boston for the 12 months ended June 30, US Department of Transportation figures show. Each figure led the market. In Fort Lauderdale, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines topped the market with 24%, but JetBlue and Fort Lauderdale-based ULCC Spirit Airlines were close behind, at 23% and 20%, respectively. 

“We have an underdeveloped network, and we have so many opportunities to continue to grow the network in our three primary focus cities,” JetBlue EVP-commercial and planning Marty St. George said during the airline’s recent investor day. “After success in building New York and then Boston, we are now pursuing a similar path in Fort Lauderdale.”

JetBlue’s medium-term strategic plan includes specific revenue-generation initiatives that the airline said will generate $350 million-$400 million annually by 2020. Network reallocation is expected to contribute $100 million-$120 million.

The first major changes were announced in April when the carrier revamped its west coast flying, scaling back at Long Beach, in part because the city would not build a customs facility needed for planned international flights to Mexico City and elsewhere. But the airline acknowledges that rising fuel prices played a role as well and will continue to help shape network decisions.

The most recent round of changes includes pulling all service out of Washington-Dulles International Airport, where the airline serves Boston and JFK. JetBlue also will end flights to Daytona Beach, Florida, and St. Croix. In addition, it is cutting service to Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Santiago, Dominican Republic, and reducing double-daily service between Mexico City and both Fort Lauderdale and Orlando to one daily frequency. JetBlue previously announced plans to serve Mexico City from both Boston and JFK, using slots originally intended to support Long Beach-Mexico City service.

“The most important message is that we recognize that we need the best [missions] for every one of these planes,” St. George said. “And certainly, in this current fuel environment, things we may be even more patient about at $40 [per barrel of oil], we're not patient about at $60 or $70.”

Shifting more capacity to its already well-established cities does more than add passengers or boost market share, St. George explained. It builds loyalty, which is key to driving revenue.

“That loyalty translates into earnings through things like better penetration of corporate sales programs, which will help increase yield; lower distribution costs, which are driven by a higher share of direct booking ... increased penetration of your co-branded credit card, and many, many other ways,” St. George said. “We have so much upside as far as share in our focus cities. We do not have a market share goal. We don’t manage by market share. But as market share goes up, we do see a translation of that in improved RASM performance.”

Sean Broderick, sean.broderick@aviationweek.com