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JetBlue Takes Delta Head On with Atlanta Route Expansion

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JetBlue battling Delta

In August, Delta Air Lines (DAL) issued a press release stating its plans to grow in Boston, JetBlue’s (JBLU) second-largest market. Though the magnitude of this growth isn’t significant (DAL plans to increase from an 83-peak-day departure to a 90-peak-day departure), DAL has threatened JBLU’s quality in the market.

To learn about DAL’s August 2016 performance, you can read Market Getting a Clearer View of Impact of Delta’s August Outage.

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JetBlue has retaliated by announcing a ~40% rise in its capacity in Boston (200 daily departures compared to the previous 140), including a new service to Atlanta, one of Delta’s key markets. The Boston-Atlanta route is expected to start by March 30, 2017, while other flights to the John. F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport in Florida will likely be introduced by 2H17.

The new market will not be an easy flight for JBLU, considering DAL’s reliability and it’s newly introduced basic economy fares to compete with low-cost carriers such as JBLU and Spirit Airlines (SAVE). Southwest Airlines (LUV) will also be affected in this competition. LUV has 39 departures to Boston and 126 to Atlanta.

Increasing presence in the West Coast

After Alaska Air Group’s (ALK) recent acquisition of Virgin America (VA), it now has a strong presence in the West Coast. For details, read Alaska Air Group-Virgin America Merger: Fifth-Largest US Airline and What Can We Expect from the Alaska Air–Virgin America Deal? Though JBLU was initially in the fray to acquire VA, it gave up after ALK offered an extremely high valuation on VA.

JBLU now plans to grow organically to compete with Alaska Air Group in the West Coast. In July, JetBlue announced more flights from Long Beach to other popular destinations in the area.

JBLU makes up 0.37% of the total holdings of the SPDR S&P MidCap 400 ETF (MDY). Capacity growth helps airlines only if it’s complemented by traffic growth, which is what we’ll look at in our next article.

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