JetBlue Airways plans to start flying out of Worcester Regional Airport in November, launching the first regularly scheduled passenger service at the beleaguered airport since Direct Air shut down a year ago.
JetBlue will offer two daily flights from Worcester to Florida, one to Orlando and one to Ft. Lauderdale, starting Nov. 7 on a 100-seat Embraer 190 aircraft. JetBlue chief executive Dave Barger was at Worcester Airport Wednesday morning for the announcement, along with Governor Deval Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, who is a former mayor of Worcester.
City, state, and Massachusetts Port Authority officials have been wooing the airline for the past year, and delegates from the Worcester business and civic community have turned out to greet visiting JetBlue executives.
Massport, which owns the airport, is giving JetBlue a $275,000 break on airport fees and charges for two years, and giving the airline $150,000 worth of free marketing, part of an incentive program the agency offers at Logan International Airport to attract new international service. JetBlue is the largest carrier at Logan.
The Worcester airport has faced a number of challenges, including fog, outdated landing systems, and a road to the airport that winds through five miles of city streets, and has had trouble retaining airlines in recent years.
In 2001, the airport had four carriers: Delta Connection, American Eagle, US Airways Express, and Pan American, but by 2003, they were all gone. When Direct Air started flying out of Worcester in 2008, it hadn’t had regularly scheduled service for two years.
Passenger traffic in Worcester peaked in 1989 at 354,000. In 2011, 107,434 passengers flew in and out of Worcester on Direct Air.
Massport, which took over ownership of the airport from the city in 2010, has invested $8.9 million in runway maintenance, heating and air conditioning systems, and terminal upkeep. The agency announced last month that it will add a parallel taxiway and install a new instrument landing system that will allow planes to land in the lowest levels of visibility.