Blue skies: JetBlue was good for fares locally

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Pittsburghers who travel to New York City are holding their breath following an announcement by discount airline JetBlue that it is ending its twice-daily, nonstop service.

The cancellation of service to John F. Kennedy International Airport, effective Feb. 27, is bad news for JetBlue customers, but the airline said there just weren't enough of them and the flights never were profitable.

A broader concern is what the withdrawal by JetBlue will mean for fliers who use other airlines to travel between Pittsburgh International Airport and the Big Apple, as well as to connecting flights from the East Coast. That's because JetBlue gets the credit for bringing down Pittsburgh-New York fares by 20 percent since it entered the local market in 2006, and it's not yet known how other carriers will respond to JetBlue's decision.

Pittsburghers who travel to Philadelphia took a huge financial hit a year ago when another discount airline, Southwest, discontinued its service between Pennsylvania's two biggest cities: Competitor US Airways, the sole operator in the market, initially raised its roundtrip rates from $118 to $698. Prices have improved since then, but they aren't nearly as low as the $118 fare.

Airport spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny told the Post-Gazette's Mark Belko that she doesn't expect to see a similar, dramatic price hike in response to JetBlue's cutback. Unlike the Philadelphia market, no one airline holds a monopoly on nonstop flights between Pittsburgh and New York. Delta flies to LaGuardia Airport, American flies to JFK and US Airways has service to both airports. Travelers will have to keep their fingers crossed that there's enough competition to tamp down prices.

JetBlue customers who fly to Boston don't need to worry. The airline will continue to operate several flights per day to the Massachusetts city and the airline has no plans to discontinue that route.

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