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jetBlue riding high on new pre-clearance flight

With 700 seats now flying into Nassau every week, jetBlue’s new direct route from Westchester is expected to provide a major tourism boost as the U.S. airline

takes advantage of pre-clearance rules.

The Westchester flight, taking off from a domestic terminal, landed in Nassau yesterday with just two empty seats, according to Alan Sweeting, general manager of jetBlue.

The 100-seater aircraft will now begin daily flights from New York State, representing the only international departure from that airport.

“Today it came in pretty heavy,” he told Guardian Business.

“We had 98 seats occupied. It will take time to grow, but the message is out there. As an operation, pre-clearance is very significant. Without that, we wouldn’t have had the flight.”

The new route it part of a greater surge for the U.S. airline.

The carrier now offers 900 seats daily to a variety of destinations. From Nassau, there are two flights daily to New York City, one to Orlando, three to Fort Lauderdale and one to Boston.

However, what makes the Westchester route significant, Sweeting said, is not just the pre-clearance benefit, but also the ability to tap an area of the U.S. that’s particularly affluent.

According to recent data in the U.S. from the Housing and urban Development, the average individual income in the county was $75,427. It was ranked as the second wealthiest county in New York State and the seventh richest in the country.

This part of the eastern seaboard is known for having a high concentration of high-net-worth individuals.

Vernice Walkine, the vice president of Marketing and Communications at Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD), said the new daily flight targets an “untapped” market.

“It’s going to give us a chance to establish a foothold that is affluent. They [jetBlue] are now looking at a number of other flights because of this – it turns a domestic airport into an international service,” Walkine explained.

Sweeting echoed Walkine’s sentiments, saying “we will look at any route that has potential” and “more flights are on the table”.

According to market research done by the airline, the affluent population in Westchester is prone to travel in Nassau. Whereas before they would have to go through Florida, the direct flight makes the process far more appealing and efficient, he added.

The carrier is now the largest U.S. airline coming in from America with daily flights. The airline will continue to expand its Caribbean flights next month, when it begins direct service to St Thomas and Costa Rica.

“It’s a positive outlook with Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, so bookings are strong going forward,” he said.

“We have been growing throughout. We’re certainly the largest in the Caribbean. We’ll see how it goes and continue to expand the market.”

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