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AUSTIN, TEXASNew York-based low-cost operator JetBlue Airways prepares to suspend some nonstop services from Austin although other carriers are bulking up their offerings at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.



The company is modifying its schedule as travel starts to return to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic and traffic patterns become more clear, JetBlue officials said in a statement. Austin service to San Francisco, Orlando, and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, are among the nationwide cuts, an ABIA spokesperson confirmed.

"During the pandemic, we added new markets to provide service where there was the most demand to help generate cash for operations during a very difficult time," low-cost carrier JetBlue said in a statement. "As our customers return to more expected booking patterns, we will continue to adjust our schedule and add new destinations and routes that support our long-term network strategy and grow our focus cities so we can compete with the legacy and ultra-low-cost carriers."

The bulk of JetBlue's (Nasdaq: JBLU) suspended flights will go into effect this fall. That's the time when the Austin airport typically records more business travel instead of leisure travel, though airport officials aren't sure yet what business activity will look like or when it will return in earnest following the pandemic.

Travel blog The Points Guy reported that service from Austin to Orlando will end this month, citing Cirium aviation data, and the blog later received confirmation from the carrier.

It's not clear if JetBlue plans to eventually relaunch the three routes at ABIA, and airline officials couldn't be immediately reached for further comment. JetBlue confirmed to The Points Guy that a few connections nationwide would only be cut through April 2022.

However, other airlines will still offer nonstop connections to Orlando and Raleigh-Durham from Austin, including Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, according to ABIA's website. Alaska Airlines and United Airlines will have flights to San Francisco. JetBlue's service to Orlando started in 2008, and flights to Raleigh and San Francisco launched during the pandemic, according to The Points Guy.

After taking into account the confirmed cuts, it appears JetBlue is still planning to operate its flights from Austin to Fort Lauderdale; Boston; Los Angeles; Newark, New Jersey; New York and Cancun, Mexico, though an ABIA spokesperson was unable to confirm this information. Overall, airport travel has rebounded a bit recently. More than 841,000 passengers traveled through the airport in April, up from 735,270 passengers the month prior. April activity was down 30% from the same time in 2019, which was a record-setting year for air travel activity, according to an airport spokesperson.

Of the April activity, JetBlue recorded 37,523 passengers, or 4.5% of the total, according to airport data. For all of 2020, the airline recorded 3.3% of ABIA's passenger traffic.

Despite the cutbacks in local service, JetBlue expects its overall operations to grow.

“With demand for travel returning, JetBlue-operated flying, as measured by available seat miles, is expected to increase by 3% over 2019 in October and includes some 40 new routes set to launch in the coming months,” the company said in a statement.

Meanwhile, other airlines are betting big on the Austin airport.

Beginning Nov. 19, Alaska Airlines will offer nonstop service five times a week to Palm Springs, California — the first local connection to the a city about 100 miles east of Los Angeles known for its golf and tourist appeal.

JetBlue's partner airline American Airlines Group Inc. announced 14 new, nonstop routes through ABIA to cities in the U.S. and abroad. That's on top of the 10 other connections it announced earlier this year, plus a new flight to the Bahamas.

Alaska Airlines and Spirit Airlines this summer will fly to Boise, Idaho, and Pensacola, Florida, respectively. Hawaiian Airlines began a nonstop flight from Austin to Honolulu in April, and Taos Air recently announced it will restart direct flights between Taos, New Mexico, and Austin in July. Flights will also take off next year to the Netherlands.

Allegiant Air announced in April that it is investing $75 million to create a permanent operations hub at ABIA, and the carrier has also announced new nonstop routes to Bozeman, Montana, and Bentonville, Arkansas.

Delta Air Lines Inc. also recently reaffirmed its commitment to Austin, as a company executive told an investor conference in March that Austin is one of two "focus cities" for the company, along with Raleigh, North Carolina.
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