Hey, Philly. Airfares to Boston are going to get cheaper - a lot cheaper.
JetBlue Airways announced today it will begin five daily nonstop flights between Boston and Philadelphia on May 23, with "low fares and an ideal schedule for the business traveler."
JetBlue will offer a special $17.76 one-way "independence" ticket for travel between May 28 and June 19, if booked at www.jetblue.com between now and midnight tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 14.
A check of JetBlue's website showed fares as low as $64 one-way for other days, once the service begins.
"Five JetBlue flights every day definitely beats a long drive, or the current air alternative," said Scott Laurence, JetBlue vice president of network planning. "We're pairing this convenient business schedule with fares accessible to all."
Philadelphia International Airport CEO Mark Gale said, "We are really, really excited about this. JetBlue is an award-winning airline. We don't have any competition on the Philly-Boston run right now - it's solely operated by US Airways."
"To have some competition on that route by a low-cost carrier, we believe ultimately is a great thing for the consumers and the users of our airport," Gale said.
US Airways Group has a monopoly on the route, after Southwest Airlines stopped flying to Boston from Philadelphia in February. In January, Southwest also dropped Philadelphia flights to nearby Providence, R.I. and Manchester, N.H.
Airfares to the Boston area suddenly skyrocketed.
A check of US Airways' website for travel to Boston next Monday, Dec. 17, lists a $279 one-way nonstop coach seat to Boston, and a $647 return nonstop fare on Thursday, Dec. 20. US Airways has 19 weekday round-trip flights to Boston.
Airport officials tried for years to snag JetBlue, based at JFK International Airport in New York, with 750 daily flights including to the Caribbean and Central America.
The perky carrier, with a reputation for customer friendliness, didn't bite - until now.
Boston is a "focus" city for JetBlue, which has added about five new destinations a year since 2004. The carrier said it now serves more cities from Boston than any other airline at Logan airport.
The $17.76 introductory fare between May 28 and June 19 - priced to recall the signing of the Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776 - won't last long. But fares will remain low.
Southwest launched Philadelphia to Boston service in June 2010 with $59 one-way fares. Before Southwest dropped the route, ticket prices remained $79 each way.
Passengers can expect US Airways to match the JetBlue fares. US Airways matched the Southwest fares when both carriers were flying there.
The new flights to Boston will depart at 8:45 a.m., 10:55 a.m., 1:25 p.m., 5:25 p.m. and 8:25 p.m. daily.
The Boston to Philadelphia flights will leave at 6:40 a.m., 8:45 a.m., 11:24 a.m., 3:15 p.m. and 6:10 p.m. daily.
"We are absolutely thrilled that travelers in the Philadelphia region will now have convenient access to JetBlue," Mayor Nutter said. "I want to congratulate JetBlue for recognizing the value of doing business with the Greater Philadelphia region and business community."
Philadelphia will be JetBlue's 78th city. The airline claims to offer travelers "uncommon perks" including a first free checked bag, more legroom in coach than any other U.S. airline, unlimited brand-name snacks and drinks, and seatback entertainment that includes 36 channels of free DirecTV and more than 100 channels of free Sirius XM radio.
The airline, which will fly 100-seat Embraer E190 jets between Philadelphia and Boston, was named "top low cost airline for customer satisfaction" by JD Power and Associates between 2007 and 2011.
JetBlue is the fourth airline to announce new service at Philadelphia International Airport this year. Virgin America and Alaska Airlines began flying to the West Coast in the spring. On April 4, Spirit Airlines will begin nonstop daily flights from Philadelphia to Dallas-Fort Worth.
For consumers, the advantage of competition is lower fares. Airlines that have a monopoly on routes can charge what the market will bear.