20 years ago: JetBlue revolutionized low-cost travel

Seth Wenig/AP

  • JetBlue Airways is celebrating 20 years of operations, having had its first flight on February 11, 2000. 
  • Under the leadership of airline entrepreneur David Neeleman, JetBlue started with two planes in 2000 and quickly grew into one of the country’s top airlines.
  • JetBlue thrived at a time when other airlines were failing and consolidating to stay afloat. 
  • The New York-based airline can now be found flying across North America and South America, with plans to expand into Europe in 2021. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Twenty years ago, a small start-up airline changed the aviation industry in the US forever. 

With just two planes in its stable and a plan to offer a simpler approach to air travel, New York-based JetBlue Airways operated its first flights on February 11, 2000.

The first day of flying saw the new carrier fly roundtrip from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Buffalo Niagara International Airport and back, then onward to Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport. Though they are now common routes in JetBlue’s network, they were the start of a revolution in the airline industry.

At a time when most US airlines were beginning to scale back on their services, JetBlue would offer more. As a result, all of JetBlue’s aircraft at the time of its launch – a fleet of Airbus A320s – would offer enhanced amenities such as seatback in-flight entertainment screens and leather seats. 

Its success was against all odds as the time period was better known for airlines declaring bankruptcy and disappearing from the skies. Despite the industry seemingly collapsing around it, JetBlue was able to successfully navigate the cloudy skies of the early 2000s and emerge as a major player in US aviation.

Now flying with a fleet of over 250 aircraft, the airline can be seen at major airports across the country and going toe-to-toe with the nation’s top carriers.

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