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JetBlue plots course for Atlanta market

JetBlue Airways will fly in to Atlanta in March, bringing new competition to some of the most heavily traveled routes from Hartsfield-Jackson International.

The airline, which had previously said it planned to launch service in about a year, now plans to start with five flights a day between Atlanta and Boston beginning on March 30, 2017. The airline is offering introductory one-way fares of $47 on the route for sale through Thursday, subject to restrictions and limited availability.

JetBlue said it will follow that with flights between Atlanta and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale later next year.

It will mark the return of JetBlue 13 years after its first attempt to crack the Atlanta market, which lasted only six months after withering under a vigorous response from Atlanta giant Delta Air Lines and AirTran Airways.

Marty St. George, executive vice president of commercial and planning at New York-based JetBlue, said there is “zero” chance of that happening again.

“We’re a very different airline than we were years ago,” St. George said. The airline, which started flying in 2000, had nearly $6 billion in revenue in 2015 and operates to more than 85 destinations. “We are absolutely convinced we are primed for success in Atlanta,” he said.

Atlanta is the carrier’s most requested new destination, according to JetBlue. The launch of Atlanta service is part of a broader expansion of JetBlue’s operations in Boston, which along with New York, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale is among the carrier’s “focus cities.”

“We have some large corporate accounts in Boston that have been talking about Atlanta service for many, many years,” St. George said.

A Delta spokesman said, “We welcome all competition and look forward to earning customers’ business every day through our industry-leading operational performance, customer service and products.”

Delta has been building its own operations in Boston and has numerous daily nonstops from Atlanta.

JetBlue contends the Atlanta airline market is “overpriced and suffering from insufficient competition.”

Delta and Southwest Airlines, which bought AirTran, are the predominant carriers at Hartsfield-Jackson.

JetBlue does not have a global network of flights like Delta. But it has assigned seats, unlike Southwest, and is known for more creature comforts than some other smaller domestic carriers such as Frontier and Spirit.

JetBlue has been the highest-ranked carrier in J.D. Power’s North American airline satisfaction study for 12 consecutive years.

Roosevelt Council, interim general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson said in a written statement that the addition of JetBlue “will provide additional choice for our passengers and further increase competition at the world’s most traveled airport.”

Hartsfield-Jackson is eager to attract new airlines, but some carriers that have eyed Atlanta struggled to get adequate gate space.

JetBlue has been working with the airport to get two suitable gates. It plans to use Airbus A320 jets with 162-seats on the Atlanta-Boston routes.

St. George said the airline is “very interested in being on the T Concourse,” which is closest to the domestic terminal, security checkpoints and baggage claim. “It’s certainly the best gates at the airport,” he said.

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