Charting JetBlue’s pullback

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What we noticed in the changes announced by JetBlue

JetBlue has had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

First, the NEA was out; then the Spirit merger was out. Not long after, the CEO was out, and now several markets are out.

JetBlue recently announced cuts across its network, including the exit of several markets entirely, including Kansas City, Lima, Quito, and Bogota. The east coast-focused airline maintained a small presence in non-transcontinental flying out of LAX, but most of that has been pulled back as well.

Contrary to some takes from outside the industry, we don’t see LAX as anything earth-shattering or surprising. For an airline feeling as though it’s stuck in New York (a feeling not entirely without merit), the extension of Los Angeles has its potential, even if that potential is “try it and see.”

Given the connection with New York (LAX-JFK remains the most heavily trafficked route in the United States), operating sufficient flights to maintain a presence in the market inevitably results in other opportunities to enjoy aircraft utilization and maximize a crew base.

Granted, these weren’t the only opportunities presented to JetBlue in LAX, and offering very few flights in very competitive markets wasn’t going to produce positive results. But, if Twitter has proven anything in aviation, it’s that airline network planning is far easier from outside than within. Building a market to profitability means withstanding periods of unprofitability, a simple concept most often missed. At the same time, however, knowing when to pull the plug is equally as important.

JetBlue pulled the plug.

The play for market share has given way to good ol’ fashioned profitability. But LAX wasn’t the only target. Notably, Kansas City (MCI) was removed from the network, having only been a dot on the map since March, 2022. Only operating to JFK today, MCI was slated to see the return of the BOS route in June. Now? Not so much.

But the notable cuts from our perspective came from national capitals in South America. Lima, Peru was removed from the network – a monster of a city with a population of over 11 million. Lima was served in JetBlue’s network since 2013.

Bogota was also dropped from the JetBlue network, served since 2009 – a whole crisis ago. Another 11 million people live in the Bogota area could not turn a profit for JetBlue despite the 15-year run.

Finally, Quito, Ecuador, was also cut, while the country’s Guayaquil airport remains served. The ultra-high altitude airport at Quito brings payload challenges, and the country’s unrest is far from ideal, but the market has been served by JetBlue since 2016. Guayaquil, on the other hand, is close to sea level and has 2.5 million residents compared to Quito’s 1.9 million.

These are not “well, we tried them, and they didn’t work” markets. The South American capitals of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru represent large population centers that have been served for years in the JetBlue network.

Something changed. That something was more likely to be in Latin America than in JetBlue’s offices in Long Island City. Latin America was an early leader out of COVID, but also hit a capacity ceiling driving more than a few airlines through restructuring. The market is not showing signs of immediate recovery, at least not to JetBlue’s liking.

Which brings us back to LAX. Back by popular demand is the meaningless trivia with an immediate answer.

Looking at the markets JetBlue currently operates from LAX, the yield performance of the dropped markets stands out. But, there remains one market that looks absolutely stellar (too stellar?), albeit with limited numbers of passengers. What is that market?


The answer:

PBI, baby! New Yorkers love themselves some Palm Beach (both the Western variety and the classic). This is according to OAG and MIDT data when adjusting for stage length but not adjusting for whatever may be skewing the data. Even though the high yields may be an anomaly, the direct connection to LAX seems to work.

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