Things aren't getting any easier for JetBlue Airways ( JBLU). The New York-based carrier, which is trying to broaden its focus beyond routes between the Northeast and Florida and flights across the U.S., is seeing its every move aggressively challenged by competitors. On Monday, US Airways ( LCC) said it will dramatically increase service between Boston and Buffalo, N.Y., starting June 19. That's 11 days before JetBlue puts three daily roundtrip flights into the market. US Airways will add four weekday flights, bringing its total to seven daily. Additionally, US Air will add two Sunday flights, taking the total to five. Meanwhile, AMR ( AMR) unit American Airlines says it will cut fares between Bermuda and New York's Kennedy Airport to as low as $129 each way effective May 4, the day JetBlue begins flying the route. In a statement, American noted that it has served Bermuda since 1975, and that it flew 511,100 passengers to and from the island between 2000 and 2005. "We are grateful for our wonderful relationship with Bermuda and to the many loyal travelers who have chosen American to visit this unique location," said Chuck Imhof, American's managing director of greater New York. JetBlue's competitors "are responding aggressively," said Helene Becker, airline analyst for Benchmark Capital. "JetBlue has said it
plans $5 to $10 increases on their fares, and this doesn't make it any easier." JetBlue isn't surprised by its competitors' responses, said spokesman Bryan Baldwin. "We've been flying over six years now, and we've seen competitive responses on every flight we've flown." However, Baldwin noted that in order to maximize revenue, the airline is now focused on expanding into "markets that have been overpriced, where we're able to go in with lower fares that are still profitable."
JetBlue will begin service from New York's Kennedy airport to Portland, Maine, on May 23, to Jacksonville, Fla., on June 15 and to Pittsburgh on June 30. The carrier wants to return to its original plan to serve mostly midsized cities from Kennedy, "to go back to the beginnings before we got enamored with all this capacity to Florida and East-West," CEO David Neeleman said earlier this month. After 18 consecutive profitable quarters, JetBlue lost money in the fourth quarter of 2005 and said it will lose money again this year. The airline has been plagued recently by high fuel costs, poor on-time performance and problems with the addition of Embraer 190s, its second aircraft type. Previously, JetBlue had been flying only Airbus passenger jets. "It's a trying environment for the airline industry in general," Becker said. "Everybody is trying to eke out a profit."