How JetBlue is expanding in Atlanta


Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi

Credit: Kelly Yamanouchi


JetBlue launched flights at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this year, and plans to add more flights next March.

But it hasn't been easy for the airline to carve out a niche in Atlanta.

The FAA has been investigating an informal complaint filed by JetBlue over its challenges getting gate space it wants in Atlanta, in which the airline accused the airport of "discriminatory" practices that have affected its flights.

Here's an updated timeline of JetBlue's history in Atlanta and its return:

  • 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.
  • Feb. 4, 2017: JetBlue's vice president of government and airport affairs e-mails Hartsfield-Jackson's general manager Roosevelt Council to tell him the airline is "frustrated... with uncertainty keeping us from properly preparing for our ATL launch."
  • 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."
  • March 30, 2017 : JetBlue launches flights in Atlanta with a route to Boston. But gate issues persist.
  • June 13, 2017: JetBlue writes a letter to the FAA on a request for informal resolution assistance, outlining its arguments that the city of Atlanta "has taken actions in a manner that is discriminatory against JetBlue's entrance to ATL," violating federal grant assurances and having a "thoroughly negative competitive effect on the public served by the world's busiest airport that is dominated by one carrier.
  • June 20, 2017: FAA airport compliance specialist Heather Haney writes to JetBlue saying the informal complaint has been assigned to her for investigation.
  • August 2017 : JetBlue announces it will add flights to New York, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando from Atlanta starting in March 2018, expanding its presence at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Reese McCranie said: "There's no real gate space issue... We will have gates for all of their new flights." The airport says it will announce new gate assignments early next year.

But JetBlue has said the airport told it that adding more flights "would be challenging -- and that JetBlue could be forced to operate 12 flights from three different concourses and spaces -- a completely unacceptable and discriminatory outcome."

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JetBlue unhappy with gate position at Hartsfield-Jackson JetBlue has raised concerns about the challenges it faces in getting the gate space it wants at Hartsfield-Jackson, pointing to the domination of the airport by a single airline, which is Delta.