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JetBlue won't fly here soon

| Friday, June 3, 2005

One airline that will not arrive at Pittsburgh International Airport anytime soon is the much-desired JetBlue Airways.

The New York-based low-fare airline said Thursday it won't start service at Pittsburgh International this year or next

"Pittsburgh's not going to happen soon," JetBlue spokesman Todd Burke said. "Certainly, it will not happen this year, and I don't think we even see it happening next year."

The Allegheny County Airport Authority has targeted JetBlue as one of its most desired airlines for new service at Pittsburgh International. The possibility of JetBlue expanding to Pittsburgh has been the topic of much speculation by regional officials, including authority Executive Director Kent George.

George said he isn't surprised by JetBlue's statement.

"Unfortunately, the possibility of JetBlue coming here has received too much (media) coverage," he said. "An airline will not tell other airlines or let out when they intend to enter a market."

George said the authority will continue lobbying JetBlue, and he hopes the airline will continue looking at Pittsburgh.

"We have a market in Pittsburgh that will be served," George said. "We hope JetBlue will be one of the carriers that will serve it."

JetBlue says it has some interest in beginning service to Pittsburgh. But, for now, it has more interest elsewhere.

"It's not at the top of the list," Burke said. "But it is on the list."

The airline plans to add one more destination this year, Burke said. JetBlue already has added Portland, Ore., Burbank, Calif., and Ponce, Puerto Rico.

"There may only be one more city coming up this year, as opposed to last year when we opened nine cities," Burke said.

Aviation analyst Tulinda Larsen, of BACK Aviation Solutions, in Washington, D.C., said it's uncertain where Pittsburgh fits into JetBlue's plans. JetBlue will add flights in the next five years as it receives up to 20 new Embraer 190s -- 100-seat jets -- each year.

"I don't know when I see Pittsburgh coming on," she said.

Meanwhile, airport authority staff are seeking airlines to pick up routes to San Diego and Seattle, which US Airways has said it will stop serving in August. The authority will pitch the routes during an airline industry conference in Calgary, Canada, June 13-15. Forty-nine airlines are scheduled to attend the 2005 ACI-NA Marketing & Communications Conference.

The authority plans to meet with several airlines, but JetBlue is not one of them, Burke said. George would not say which airlines are scheduled to meet with authority representatives.

The inability to grab JetBlue isn't a crushing blow, officials said.

Southwest Airlines -- the king of low-fare carriers -- began offering 10 daily flights from Pittsburgh in May to Philadelphia, Chicago, Orlando and Las Vegas. It has since added another flight to Philadelphia. In addition, smaller low-fare carriers have started service at Pittsburgh, including Independence Air and Hooters Air.

Frontier Airlines, based in Denver, is among the remaining top-shelf discount airlines the authority can pursue.

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