JetBlue will soon launch flights at Hartsfield-Jackson (again)

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JetBlue will soon launch flights at Hartsfield-Jackson (again)

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Elaine Thompson/AP
FILE - In this April 23, 2013, file photo, a JetBlue plane takes off in view of the air traffic control tower at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

As JetBlue nears the launch date for its flights from Atlanta, it is raising concerns about the challenges a new entrant faces breaking into the competitive landscape Hartsfield-Jackson International.

JetBlue wants to launch its five daily flights to Boston out of  the spacious and newer international Concourse E on March 30.

But the airline says just a few weeks before it is set to begin the flights, Hartsfield-Jackson sent it a proposal to split its flights between gates on Concourse E and the older, narrower Concourse D.

JetBlue wrote a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration  this week contending: "It appears that actions have been taken behind the scenes, at this late hour, to try to restrict competition at ATL."

PHOTOS: HOW CONCOURSES D AND E COMPARE

Here’s a look at what travelers see when using the concourses.

CONCOURSE D

In 2014, Concourse D at Hartsfield-Jackson got a significant upgrade with the addition of new food options for travelers.

HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

CONCOURSE E

Concourse E, an international facility built in 1994, has a more spacious feel than the airport’s older Concourses T, A, B, C and D.

KELLY YAMANOUCHI / AJC

It’s not the first time JetBlue has faced competitive challenges in Atlanta.

About 14 years ago, JetBlue made its first attempt to fly into Atlanta. It ending up deciding to pull out six months later amid an airline dogfight.

Here’s a timeline on JetBlue’s history in Atlanta:

  • February 18, 2003: JetBlue, a carrier just 3-years-old at the time, announces it plans to launch flights from Atlanta, with daily flights to Long Beach, Calif.
  • March 3, 2003: Just two weeks after JetBlue’s announcement, AirTran Airways announces it plans to add two daily flights to Los Angeles International, which sits about 22 miles away from the Long Beach Airport. AirTran announces introductory fares of $99 one way, or $198 round trip.
  • March 6, 2003: Three days later, Delta announces it will add more flights to Los Angeles.
  • May 8, 2003: Then-Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin christened a JetBlue Airbus A320 with bottles of Coca-Cola before the plane took off for its inaugural route to Long Beach, Calif. 
  • June 5, 2003: AirTran launches its Atlanta-Los Angeles flights, becoming the third carrier flying the route.
  • October 2003: JetBlue announces it will pull out of Atlanta. "We just thought it was a little crazy, " said JetBlue’s then-Chief Executive Officer David Neeleman. "It became a kind of a war between AirTran and Delta, " he said. "We certainly with our cost structure could have stayed in there for a long time just to . . . prove a point, but we're not into proving points. We're just into making money.”
  • 2011: Southwest completes its acquisition of AirTran Airways, including AirTran’s Atlanta operation.
  • July 2016: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution exclusively reports that JetBlue plans to resume Atlanta flights in 2017.
  • September 2016: JetBlue announces it plans to launch Atlanta flights March 30, 2017 with a route to Boston. The airline said it will follow that with flights between Atlanta and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale later in 2017. The airline announces limited-time introductory one-way fares of $47 on the route.
  • March 8, 2017: JetBlue writes a letter to the FAA raising concerns about the gates it has been assigned at Hartsfield-Jackson for the planned launch of its flights later this month. JetBlue writes in the letter that it is “in the position of having to decide whether to postpone the March 30 service launch at the airport, which would negatively affect more than 50,000 customers, or proceed in rushed fashion to ready gate and support space that is less optimal from an operational and a commercial perspective.”

Russell Grantham contributed reporting on JetBlue’s original launch of service in Atlanta in 2003.

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