JetBlue to cut some routes as it pushes for profitability

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The JetBlue drop-off area at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Oct. 31, 2023.
Leslie Josephs/CNBC

JetBlue Airways told staff this week that it will cut some routes and service as it struggles to return to profitability and grapples with the fallout of its blocked plan to buy Spirit Airlines.

JetBlue said it will stop flying from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to Portland, Oregon, and to San Jose, California, and from Westchester, New York, and Martha’s Vineyard, according to an internal memo, which was reviewed by CNBC. The airline will also suspend service from New York to Ponce, Puerto Rico, and to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in October.

“We can’t fly everywhere we’d like, so we need to be highly selective about where we point our aircraft in order to turn a profit, support our overall network strategy, and offer a reliable operation,” wrote Dave Jehn, vice president of network planning and airline partnerships, in a note to staff.

The airline is instead focusing on leisure routes, adding service throughout the Caribbean and to Paris, the memo said.

JetBlue is also exiting Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Jehn said. He added that the carrier will “provide a number of options moving forward” to staff there. The airline said it would still serve the area with service from Washington D.C.

Jehn said the changes were in the works for almost a month, before the court decision that blocked JetBlue’s planned $3.8 billion acquisition of Spirit on antitrust grounds. Judge William Young’s opinion only blocks the merger that the companies agreed to in July 2022, not a different proposed combination, should the airlines take that route.

JetBlue said in a statement that the changes were in “no way” related to the judge’s decision.

We constantly adjust our network to support our strategy and these recent changes are a necessary quick step to help return our business to profitability,” JetBlue said. “All the routes included have recently underperformed our expectations and these changes come as post-COVID travel patterns continue to evolve.”

JetBlue also said it’s trying to improve its reliability.

“By removing some of our less in-demand flights, we will give our operation more breathing room as we plan for air traffic control challenges in the northeast,” the company said. 

JetBlue ranked 9th in on-time arrivals among U.S. airlines in the first 10 months of 2023, according to the Transportation Department.

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