JetBlue flights from JIA to Puerto Rico flying at capacity, but are they profitable?

A daily JetBlue flight that began earlier this year from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been a hit over the summer months.

But some continue to question the long-term profitability of the non-stop route because of the low price of airfares.

Information from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows that flights in May averaged over 90 percent capacity on the planes to and from San Juan.

Passenger counts past May have not yet been released, but JetBlue and Jacksonville International Airport both said the flights have continued at near capacity over the entire summer.

"It's safe to say that we are very happy with how this flight has gone so far," said JetBlue spokesman Mateo Lleras.

Steve Grossman, executive director of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, which runs JIA, said a successful Puerto Rico connection offered the potential for growth.

"It might allow us to expand service further," Grossman said. "To the Bahamas and the Caribbean."

The challenge will now be keeping service higher in the coming months when it becomes less of a novelty, said JIA spokesman Michael Stewart.

But Steve Crandall, president of Discount Travel Brokerage Services in Jacksonville, said he isn't sure it will be any more than that.

Numberous tickets are selling for $69. On Tuesday Crandall looked at flights for Wednesday and found he could get a ticket for $139.

"That's very low for a next-day flight," he said. "I'm not sure how JetBlue is making money on this."

The plane might be full, but it's full of cheap fares, he said.

Despite its name, JIA has no international flights. An effort to expand to Toronto failed 10 years ago due to a lack of passengers. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory.

Grossman said Puerto Rico was an attractive destination because the majority of cargo to the Jacksonville Port Authority now comes from the island.

Nilda Alejandro, president of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce of Northeast Florida, said word of mouth has been good.

In the past people coming to and from Puerto Rico would usually go through Orlando. This is much easier for the estimated 100,000 people of Puerto Rican heritage who live in Northeast Florida.

"People would go back to visit relatives in San Juan maybe once a year," Alejandro said. "We now have people going more often."

A flight departs everyday at 10:23 a.m. and returns from San Juan at 5:45 p.m. The airplane is an E-190 with a capacity for about 100 passengers., (904) 359-4470



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