In my last column, I wrote about how the city of Worcester should hire Luis Tiant and work with U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern and Massport to entice the government to green-light direct flights to Havana, now that U.S.-Cuba diplomacy has been restored and travel is being permitted.
JetBlue had attempted to gain daily flights for Boston’s Logan International Airport, but did not make the first cut of cities with larger Cuban-American populations and flight demand. Since then, though, we have learned that JetBlue isn’t giving up and has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to reconsider its decision to deny Boston, and all of New England, a direct commercial flight to Havana.
Instead of the daily flights in its initial applications, however, the airline is asking for at least one weekly flight.
Again, I ask: Why not Worcester to Havana, instead of, or in concert with, Boston?
Retain El Tiante, the still-popular Cuban-born Red Sox great, and have him work with Congresssman McGovern and Massport to get this flight. This actually makes even more sense in light of JetBlue’s second quarter earning conference call and this statement from JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes:
We are thrilled to announce our intention to further expand our successful Mint [premium flight] experience by amending our Airbus purchase agreement adding 30 A321 incremental aircraft, which is scheduled to deliver between 2017 and 2023. We anticipate the first 15, which are A321ceos will be configured in Mint. The remaining 15 A321neos can be configured in Mint or in high density. Starting in 2019, we will have the option to convert any A321neos to the Longer Range or LR version.
This enhanced airplane type will be a game changer for us and provide us the ability to start JetBlue flights to Europe from other East Coast focused cities, should we choose to do so.
Did you hear that?!
JetBlue flights to Europe from the East Coast! OK, we are not a focus city at the moment, but maybe if we were to establish a Worcester-to-Havana connection as a successful, profitable flight then JetBlue may consider Airport Hill as the jumping-off point for a European vacation.
We need to stop feeling that Worcester Regional Airport can not compete for a flight like Havana and start selling the benefits of our airport:
- No traffic
- No tunnel
- Short check-in lines
- Short TSA lines
- $42 per week parking rates
If you had two families who lived in Newton, for example, and one left for Logan while the other left for Worcester at the same time, there’s a good chance the family that left for Worcester would be at its gate in less time than the folks headed to Logan … with less stress and out-of-pocket expenses.
Cuba and Europe, let’s go for it.
Instead of waiting for JetBlue to make an announcement for additional Florida destinations, or San Juan, Puerto Rico, to complement the existing service to Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, let’s aggressively market the benefits of Worcester to Havana and Europe.
If we fail? So what!
By aiming for expansion, we would only be furthering the image of Worcester and helping to sell more tickets to our existing routes. The point is that instead of sitting around waiting, let’s start improving our image now.
Who knows, maybe we would be successful. Tiant and McGovern, Massport and JetBlue, Worcester, Havana and Paris? Sounds like a winning team to me.
Bill Randell started and operates the local news website Worcester Herald, and is the owner and author of FlyORH, a website dedicated to Worcester Airport. He is also president and founder of Worcester-based businesses Advantage Benefits and ABG Real Estate.