JetBlue's arrival years in making, effect on ticket prices unclear

By Eric

CHARLESTON, SC (WCIV) -- Destination Charleston - the Lowcountry has landed JetBlue Airways.

JetBlue will begin service from Charleston International Airport on Feb. 28, 2013.

The carrier, known for its low-cost luxury, was in town Wednesday afternoon for the announcement. For those traveling to and from New York and Boston, you're in luck. There will be two, non-stop flights a day to JFK International, and a daily flight to Boston.

As if it came out of the blue, Wednesday's announcement of JetBlue en route to Charleston might have seemed unexpected.

It was not for those who made it happen.

"The competition's tough, there are many cities that would like to have a JetBlue come to their city," said Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Chairman Frank Fredericks.

Local leaders and the CVB have been trying to sway the carrier to come for the last 30 months. That included hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing and start-up costs.

Still, the feeling is, it will be well worth it.

"JetBlue gives us 100,000 additional seats for passengers to come, to and from Charleston," said Charleston Mayor, Joe Riley.

In the past, Charleston has had a hard time supporting specialty carriers.

AirTran Airways came, but then eventually flew out of town when things didn't work.

"It is a concern," said John Checketts, with JetBlue. "There are risks any time we enter a new market, but this market has all the right things going for it. Jobs are coming in, Boeing is bringing in jobs."

Checketts said the Lowcountry is also growing in population, and there has been demand from customers in markets like New York and Boston.

Will JetBlue's influence lower rates? That answer will come in time.

"The fares didn't drop significantly after Southwest like we hoped they would," said Charleston Aviation Chairman Chip Limehouse. "My view is we're going to keep packing airlines in here until the fares drop."

One of the reasons fares have not changed, Limehouse said, is because people are willing to pay more to visit Charleston.

JetBlue's prices have not been set.

JetBlue allows passengers one free checked bag. The airline also advertises free in-flight, satellite radio and television.