JetBlue is set to make its mark in St Lucia in a big way. The airline has been operating in St Lucia for just over a year and in December, there was already talk of increasing service to St Lucia going into the holiday season.
JetBlue serves territories including Jamaica, Bahamas, St Maarten and Barbados and in October 2009, St Lucia was added to the list of Caribbean islands where the airline operates.
A team from the airline met up with tourism and media personnel last week as executives, including vice president and chief operating officer, Rob Maruster and president and chief executive officer David Barger paid a visit to the island. Their visit was on the heels of a recent FAM trip organized by the St Lucia Tourist Board that was intended to breathe life back into the tourism industry post hurricane Tomas.
During a press conference at the Hewanorra International Airport in Vieux Fort, David Barger recognized the difficultly the island faced after Tomas. He said seeing the destruction first hand was heartfelt. Barger recognized that immediately after Tomas traveling figures to St Lucia were down, but the CEO said things were already rebounding. JetBlue came into St Lucia on Christmas week with nearly a full aircraft out of New York City.
“The awareness is out there,” he said. “Let’s face it. The Internet is very powerful. Websites are advising visitors that St Lucia is open for business in a significant way.”
The team’s visit was part of the airline’s ten-year anniversary visit and airline executives made a point of visiting every single one of the 63 locations JetBlue serviced.
“It’s great to be here,” Barger said. “I learned an awful lot through tourism minister Allen Chastanet, the hotel association, travel agents, tourism boards, that we can take back to our colleagues back in New York City.”
Before executives could get into the nitty-gritty of the conference, reporters wanted to know how the JetBlue name came about in the first place.
“The name didn’t mean anything,” Barger revealed. “We specifically didn’t want it to have a meaning because we wanted [the customer] experience to really drive [their] feeling about the brand, and that is what has happened in our first ten years. The name JetBlue is not as important as how people feel about the company, how they feel about that name. We’re really pleased with the branding of JetBlue in the first ten years.”
Barger said the JetBlue model was very different than the other airlines, from their pricing philosophy, productivity, efficiency, younger airplanes and the proper technique with motivating crewmembers and dealing with business partners.
“At the end of the day that drives efficiency and you can really offer a fare that’s reasonable,” the CEO said. “People can say listen, this is a good experience and repeat the trip. That’s the whole thing. We’re not looking for some one to fly with us once or twice, we want to get you for a lifetime.”
In speaking about their outlook for the New Year, Barger said JetBlue started with three frequencies a week into New York from St Lucia and the airline was now at five frequencies per week. They were hopeful of moving into daily service in 2011.
About their performance thus far in St Lucia Barger said: “I think the first year with our partnership has been very good but there is still an awareness issue in terms of people knowing that JetBlue is flying non stop from JFK, our home base of operation. I think the
people here know that we’re here. We want to get the word out then expand it.”
The airline began 2010 with top rankings for customer satisfaction, and was even awarded a customer satisfaction award for a sixth consecutive year in the JD Power and Associates 2010 North American Airline Satisfaction StudySM. JetBlue’s fleet consists of 112 airbus A320 aircraft and 43 EMBRAER 190 aircraft. JetBlue amenities include comfortable leather seating, free satellite TV, live in flight entertainment, free XM satellite radio and spacious cabins which offer the most legroom in couch of any US airline.
“We’ve been very successful in our first decade with having the right fare, something that drives a nice margin for JetBlue—a nice product without nickling and diming the traveling public as well. This fair fare philosophy has worked well for us.”
JetBlue operates out of the Hewanorra International airport, and of the airport’s redevelopment plans the JetBlue CEO had this
to say: “We found throughout the Caribbean that those countries making those investment decisions, you can see the return on invested capital very quickly because we’re bringing carriers in, and even more of them and other airlines are doing the same. It drives efficiency too, so I definitely applaud what’s happening here with the airport re-development master plan.”