JetBlue’s presence would benefit business
By St. Clair Murraine
Tallahassee attorney Johns Derr simply wanted to get to a morning meeting in Fort Lauderdale.
Getting there from Tallahassee required a nighttime flight the evening before and booking a hotel. That adds up to a cost higher than his client would have to pay if he could have taken a direct flight the morning of his meeting.
The scenario is similar for many other business people who have to travel to South Florida. Most everyday travelers from Tallahassee have the same problem, whether their final destination is South Florida or somewhere else to make a low-fare connection.
And, that’s the travelers’ dilemma that former Tallahassee mayor and current city commissioner Scott Maddox is hoping to solve if he could woo JetBlue, a low-fare airline, to add the city to its route. Hopefully by next year, Maddox said.
But meanwhile, Tallahassee residents who fly will have to endure high fares. Especially to South Florida, with only three airlines serving the city.
As part of the plan to get JetBlue here, the city has been running a pledge drive to persuade airline officials that it could be profitable. Through a website (www.getbluetallahassee.com), businesses and everyday travelers have been making pledges of the estimated amount they would spend traveling with JetBlue.
The campaign has already surpassed $2 million, a goal set by Maddox. Florida State made the biggest single pledge of $1 million.
“FSU supports the community initiative to bring JetBlue service to Tallahassee,” said FSU president John Thrasher in a statement to the Outlook. “It would certainly benefit our faculty and staff who travel throughout the state and nation to conduct the business of Florida State.
“On top of that, about a-quarter of our 42,000 students call South Florida home. The addition of affordable and convenient flight options to and from that region would certainly be welcomed by FSU’s students, parents and fan base.”
Now it’s wait and see if JetBlue comes.
Business travelers like Derr is ready.
“I would think that anybody in any kind of service profession would be able to save their money,” Derr said.
Even the number of entertainment acts in Tallahassee is limited because of high airfares, said promoter Scott Carswell. “It’s a sticker shock” for many performers when they hear the cost of getting to Tallahassee, said Carswell, owner of The Moon nightclub who also promotes many of the shows held in Cascades Park.
“There are many, many acts that are one-of,” he said. “They fly in and fly out so it definitely affects the amount of entertainment we can get. Airfare is a big part of concert promotions. No questions about it.”
Carswell said he made his travel pledge for JetBlue early in the campaign.
“I think lower price and more availability of (lower) airfare is tremendous. It’s a huge help to the business community; mine and everybody else’s.”
Currently only Delta, USAir and Silver airlines fly out of Tallahassee. Maddox said he’s also in talks with United to get flights from Tallahassee to Chicago and Houston.
“The bottom line is we need to serve more areas, have more flights and lower fares,” Maddox said.
Maddox also led a recent show of interest in the return of Amtrak with service from New Orleans to Jacksonville. Tallahassee has been without train service for 10 years.
He said he is optimistic that both will eventually happen. JetBlue might come sooner, said Maddox who led a party of government officials to meet at JetBlue’s headquarters in New York last November.
Maddox said he was impressed with the talks.
“It was a very good impression,” he said. “We spent a lot of time in their headquarters talking over how we thought the service will do well in Tallahassee. We were encouraged by their response.”