JetBlue on final approach to Charleston International - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

JetBlue on final approach to Charleston International

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North Charleston, S.C.(WCIV) — The skies above the Lowcountry are going to get a little bluer starting Thursday. JetBlue, Charleston newest low-cost carrier, is set to touch down in the Holy City.

The discount carrier is bringing with it new destinations, non-stop flights, projected cheaper fares and another boost to the thriving Charleston tourism industry.

Charleston County's Aviation Authority has been working to woo JetBlue for the last several years, offering a strong incentives package valued at close to $10,000. The airline will also be exempt from landing fees for its first two years of operation.

JetBlue officials say they were eager to make a mark in the Charleston marketplace, first inquiring about service from Charleston International Airport back in 1999.

After years of market research and cost analysis, JetBlue got the green light and they plan to hit the tarmac running.

The airline's ticket counters, kiosks and staff are already in place and readied. Shiny new signage and flashy infrastructure are sure to attract the eyes of business and pleasure travelers like.  The smiling staff of 11 is prepared to make the check in process as quick and easy as possible.

The man in charge of ensuring a smooth transition, JetBlue Charleston General Manager, Chris Plunkett, says he is excited for the first Airbus A320's and Embraer E190's to land.

"We're really excited," Plunkett said. "I think all that hard work is going to come to fruition when we turn on the lights and we get the first customer in and start checking in. That's what we do best."

Despite the creature comforts like industry-leading leg room, leather seats, complementary snacks, and in-seat satellite televisions, JetBlue is poised to finally bring those sky-high ticket prices down.

Aviation industry insiders say JetBlue's arrival in a new market has historically caused fares to nosedive up to 60 percent, which is welcome news for flyers and Charleston County Aviation Authority Chairman Andy Savage.

"Southwest did so much for us in Charleston," Savage said. "We are looking for another bump in the reduction of air fares to many destinations, and competition is always good thing."

In 2010, Charleston area passengers were thrilled at the prospect of Southwest Airlines bringing lower fares.  While the Houston-based airline did lower fares, many frequent fliers were left wanting more.

The aviation board saw a need and jumped at the chance to bring in a second low-cost option.

"[JetBlue] saw this market and they wanted to be here," Savage said. "We didn't have to go out and beg them to come here. They saw the passenger levels here and the potential for tourism. They said it was a good business proposition."

And JetBlue's arrival is good business for the Lowcountry. 

Early projections show the new airline could generate millions of dollars for the local economy by giving business travelers more options for work by unlocking the destinations in the Northeast corridor, while at the same time pumping in much needed cash for another of Charleston's biggest businesses: tourism.

Charleston was recently named as Conde Nast Travelers top tourist destination in the world, a factor not lost on JetBlue or the aviation board.

"We are the No. 1 in the world," Savage said. "So we have to think about moving forward at the aviation authority. Are we are up to the task of supporting and promoting the No. 1 destination in the world? And I think we are."

Passenger demand has already been so large, JetBlue added another non-stop flight to Boston on Saturdays before they even opened the ticketing desk.

JetBlue also features perks for weary travelers who are fed up with fees. Your first checked bag is free. Passengers can also pay for a special upgrade to get through check-in and security lines quickly.

While it remains to be seen if JetBlue's arrival will send airfares at Charleston International to plummet, many Lowcountry flyers say the sky is the limit.

JetBlue will begin service Thursday.

Stay with ABC News 4 for more on JetBlue's arrival in the Lowcountry and kick off event.


  • Jon Bruce

    Email: jbruce@abcnews4.com Reporter Profile




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