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JetBlue returns to Ontario airport as the airline battle for Southern California heats up
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JetBlue returns to Ontario airport as the airline battle for Southern California heats up

The competition for Southern California air travelers is heating up, with JetBlue Airways trying to draw new passengers by returning to Ontario International Airport after a 10-year absence and increasing its flights out of Burbank and Palm Springs.

The announcement of the new routes, starting as early as September, comes only months after JetBlue’s biggest California rivals "” Southwest and Alaska airlines "” unveiled added service from Los Angeles and Orange counties.

«The Los Angeles Basin is the second-largest airline market in the country,» said Martin St. George, JetBlue’s executive vice president for commercial and planning. «We think this is a natural extension of our overall strategy.»

Expanding air service makes sense. Most economic indicators point to higher demand for travel among Americans. A record 965 million domestic and international passengers flew on U.S.-based carriers last year, up 3.4% over 2016, according to federal officials.

Stephen Boyd, a senior director at Fitch Ratings, said in a memo to investors this week that «low unemployment, healthy consumer confidence and a boost in personal income are promoting higher discretionary consumer spending "” particularly on travel.»

To take advantage of the growth, JetBlue is returning to Ontario International Airport starting Sept. 5, a decade after the airline pulled out. Although JetBlue is cutting back its service at Long Beach Airport at the same time, the move to Ontario expands JetBlue’s service to a faster-growing market in the region.

The New York-based carrier is returning partly in response to the increasing popularity of the airport that draws travelers from Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. At Ontario, JetBlue is adding a daily nonstop flight to and from John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Passenger volume at Ontario has grown 10% in the first three months of the year to 1.14 million travelers, compared with the same period in 2016. The amount of cargo flown out of the airport has also surged by 16% in the same period, up to 146,000 tons.

Ontario has become more attractive for airlines since Inland Empire governments took control of the airport away from Los Angeles in 2016 and lowered landing fees by 24%, according to Ontario airport officials. For airlines, the overall cost of flying out of the airport, including the cost of renting terminal space, has dropped 13% since 2016, Ontario officials say.

JetBlue is also adding to the frequency of its existing routes from Hollywood Burbank and Palm Springs International Airport to destinations such as Boston and New York…

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