Delta to add 4 flights from Syracuse to JFK
Wednesday, March 8, 2006
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BYLINE: By Rick Moriarty Staff writer
Delta Air Lines, which is reorganizing its finances in bankruptcy court, said Tuesday it will start service between Syracuse and New York City Aug. 1.
The airline said it will operate four daily flights from Syracuse's Hancock Airport to John F. Kennedy Airport.
It's part of a plan to add 46 daily Delta and Delta Connection departures to 17 nonstop destinations from JFK. Besides Syracuse, the new destinations in New York are Albany, Buffalo and Rochester.
Delta will be putting itself in direct competition with discount carrier JetBlue Airways in some of those markets, including Syracuse. But Jim Whitehurst, Delta's chief operating officer, said the main purpose is to feed passengers to Delta's many long-haul international flights, as well as connections to other domestic destinations, from JFK.
"Obviously, there is some overlap and we compete with JetBlue here, but most of this is not directly competitive with JetBlue," he said in a teleconference from New York City.
JetBlue operates three daily flights from Syracuse to JFK.
Delta said its new service will be operated by Delta Connection carriers Comair and Freedom Airlines, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mesa Air Group, with a mix of 50-seat regional jets and 37-seat turboprop planes. JetBlue uses 153-seat Airbus A320 jets for its service between Syracuse and Kennedy.
Anthony Mancuso, Syracuse aviation commissioner, said Delta should have no trouble filling the flights if its fares are competitive with JetBlue's.
Delta apparently is planning to compete with JetBlue on price, at least initially. Tuesday afternoon, its Web site showed it was matching JetBlue's lowest one-way fare to Kennedy $64.30, including taxes and fees for an Aug. 7 flight.
Bryan Baldwin, speaking for JetBlue, said JetBlue's larger planes, which feature leather seats and have televisions on every seatback, will keep customers coming its way.
Kevin Schwab, an airline consultant to the Metropolitan Development Association, said the new flights open a "new, convenient avenue" for international travel from Syracuse. However, he said he did not think the Delta service will hurt JetBlue.
"JetBlue certainly enjoys a lot of loyalty here in Syracuse," he said. "I don't know that these new flights will do a lot to change that for people. But for people who are flying to points beyond New York, this may prove to be an attractive alternative."
Syracuse passengers have other options to get to New York City. US Airways flies to LaGuardia Airport in New York City and Continental flies to Newark, N.J.
Delta filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of U.S. Bankruptcy Code on Sept. 14, citing high fuel costs and heavy debt and pension obligations. It continues to operate under a bankruptcy court's supervision while it works out a financial reorganization plan.