by David Chapman
Daily nonstop air passenger service from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico began last week and already airport officials believe it could lead to larger and more lucrative offerings for both the airport and travelers.
JetBlue began the route Thursday with an inaugural flight of 47 people, including JetBlue executives who served as flight attendants, Jacksonville Aviation Authority Executive Director Steve Grossman told the authority’s board of directors Monday during its monthly meeting.
Grossman said he expects the service to be a popular choice among the local business community that both has business and satellite offices on the island.
That includes one of the major economic drivers within Northeast Florida, the Jacksonville Port Authority.
“The Port will be a major user of the service,” said Grossman.
Authority board member Ron Weaver said he believes such a service “opens up the whole Caribbean” market while Grossman expressed optimism that success with the service will entice JetBlue to further expand to Jacksonville.
“It’s really exciting,” said Weaver.
The flight is the culmination of several years of effort by the authority, city and business representatives and falls in line with several more developments with Puerto Rico.
In 2009, Mayor John Peyton signed a “Sister Cities” agreement with Jorge Santini, mayor of San Juan, to promote economic development and cultural and educational exchange.
“We have the great community support behind this initiative to thank for it. Connecting communities, whether it’s for business or leisure, is what it’s all about,” said Scott Laurance, JetBlue vice president of network planning, in a news release.
The nonstop flight departs daily from Jacksonville at 10:23 a.m. and returns from San Juan at 5:45 p.m.