JetBlue Operated Its First Flight 20 Years Ago Today

On February 11th, 2000, JetBlue’s first-ever flight departed John F. Kennedy International, New York for Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 20 years later, the New York-based airline is now the sixth-largest carrier in the United States by passengers carried and it is determined to keep growing.

JetBlue livery
JetBlue has accomplished a lot despite only flying for 20 years. Photo: Getty Images

Time to celebrate

Today, those traveling on this route were treated to breakfast treats and surprise gate-side giveaways at the operator’s hub at JFK Terminal 5.

The firm was incorporated by airline specialist David Neeleman in 1998. The businessman has a habit of changing brand names before they takeoff. JetBlue was initially promoted as NewAir before the company went by its current moniker.

It was introduced as a low-cost airline. However, it set itself apart from its counterparts by offering extra amenities such as Sirius XM satellite radio and inflight entertainment screens on the back of every seat.

JetBlue livery before and after
JetBlue’s livery is much sleeker than before. Photo: JetBlue

This approach managed to get the carrier off to a great start, as it was an instant hit. Moreover, it was the only airline to bag a profit in the months that followed the September 11th attacks.

SeatMaestro reports that the first time that the firm reported a quarterly loss was in February 2006. However, it swiftly returned to a profitable operation less than a year later.

JetBlue A320
JetBlue’s first flight was operated by an Airbus A320. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr

International growth

After nearly reaching a decade of operations, JetBlue was confident enough to expand on its long haul services. In January 2009, it started flying to Bogotá, Colombia, marking the first time that it flew to South America. Thereafter, it added Costa Rica to its list, which was the first time it flew to Central America.

JetBlue soon fancied its chances with premium-class offerings. Therefore, in June 2014, it introduced Mint on flights from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco. This service was well-received and became a favorite for fliers seeking alternative solutions to traveling in comfort.

In 2016, the company’s success in Latin America spurred it on to become the first US airline to resume commercial flights to Cuba after more than half a century of suspensions. It started regularly scheduled flights from Fort Lauderdale to Santa Clara. This move highlights the company’s ambitions despite still being relatively young.

JetBlue sees value in both domestic and international expansions. Photo: Getty Images

Great achievements

According to a press release, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes is proud of how the company has managed to succeed over the last two decades. He believes that its approach to customer service is one of the key reasons for its growth.

“No one believed that a start-up airline in 2000 could survive 20 months, much less 20 years,” said Hayes, as per the press release.

“But JetBlue proved that taking care of people and bringing low fares to the market could not only be a viable business model but could also completely disrupt an industry. Others have tried to imitate JetBlue but no one has ever successfully copied our 23,000 crewmembers and the incredible culture that they’ve built.”

Altogether, 470 million customers have been served by JetBlue since its founding. The company estimates that it has saved customers over $12 billion that would otherwise have gone to the four major players.

This month, the company is preparing for future expansions with the delivery of its seventh Airbus A321neo aircraft. It is also getting ready to announce details regarding exciting transatlantic services with flights to London set to begin next year.

Were you one of JetBlue’s early passengers? Let us know your thoughts about how the company has progressed in the comment section.