A recent expansion by JetBlue in Colombia through new flights from Fort Lauderdale appears to be just the beginning of the carrier’s plans to expand in the country and throughout Latin America. JetBlue envisions replicating the success it has achieved in the Colombian market, which it first entered in 2009 with a daily Orlando-Bogota flight, by increasing destinations in Colombia from Florida and possibly New York. Its success in Colombia may also persuade JetBlue to decide to penetrate further into South America, possibly with widebody aircraft at some point in the future.

Currently the Caribbean and Latin America region accounts for about 25% to 30% of JetBlue’s total capacity. The carrier during the last few years has made a concerted effort to build-up its presence in the Caribbean from its hub at JFK and its large bases at Orlando and Fort Lauderdale in Florida and at San Juan in Puerto Rico. But its Latin American network now comprises just four destinations: Cancun, Mexico; Liberia and San Jose, Costa Rica; and Bogota, Colombia.

JetBlue made a key strategic move in its Latin American expansion in May-2012 when it launched service from Fort Lauderdale to Bogota, joining the carrier’s existing Orlando-Bogota pairing. The case for adding a second flight from Florida to Bogota was straightforward for the carrier as it enjoyed the highest load factor among US carriers serving Colombia during 2011.
JetBlue’s Orlando-Bogota service has been highly successful

Data from the Colombian CAA show loads on JetBlue flights during 2011 between Bogota and Orlando were 89%. In comparison, Spirit Airlines had an 84% load factor on its Colombia-US flights in 2011 and American Airlines had an average load factor of 80%. Spirit serves Bogota and Cartagena from its Fort Lauderdale base while American serves Bogota, Cali and Medellin from Miami.

During 1Q2012 loads remained relatively strong on JetBlue’s Orlando-Bogota flights at 80%. Spirit’s loads were 2 ppts higher at 82% while American’s load factors were 78%, according to Colombian CAA data.

JetBlue CEO Dave Barger told CAPA at last week’s IATA AGM in Beiing that “Colombia has been really, really good for our airline” and the carrier is now looking to further expand in the Colombian market beyond the recent launch of Fort Lauderdale-Bogota.

JetBlue currently accounts for about 67% of the weekly seats from Orlando to Bogota compared with Avianca’s 33% share. JetBlue’s quick success on the Orlando-Bogota route prompted Avianca to launch services to Orlando last year.

JetBlue now accounts for about 31% of capacity on the Fort Lauderdale-Bogota pairing, putting it on par with Colombian flag carrier Avianca and 6 ppts below Spirit’s 37% share. Colombian LCC Aires also previously operated Fort Lauderdale-Bogota but the route was dropped as part of a restructuring at Aires after the carrier was acquired by LAN, opening up a potential opportunity for JetBlue to enter the market. Aires, which was rebranded LAN Colombia late last year, has since launched services to nearby Miami.

American, Avianca and LAN Colombia all now serve Bogota from Miami, which is 43km from Fort Lauderdale. American accounts for about 50% of the seats offered from Miami to Bogota, followed by Avianca’s 34% share and LAN Colombia’s 16% share. There are approximately 12,000 one-way weekly seats available from the greater southern Florida metro region to Bogota.

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