Low-cost carrier JetBlue plans to provide nonstop flights between San Antonio and both Boston and New York City beginning this fall, City and airport officials announced Wednesday.

As part of a nationwide expansion into seven new cities, JetBlue plans to add direct daily flights between San Antonio and both Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). 

The new daily flights begin in October, with seats to go on sale in the coming months. 

“This is a national announcement of which we are a great part,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg, speaking to a small crowd of City Council members and others gathered in the airport’s rental car facility. 

“We’ve had our sights set on these cities in particular for the last several years. Boston and New York are key destinations for bioscience, health care, financial, and tech sectors, all of which are emerging industries in San Antonio.”

The new nonstop service is the result of San Antonio airport officials’ ongoing efforts to expand the number of routes, destinations, and airlines, said City Manager Erik Walsh. Boston, in particular, is San Antonio’s largest unserved market.

“It has been a target for us for a long time,” he said.

Founded in 1999, JetBlue is the seventh-largest U.S. carrier. JetBlue started offering service from Austin-Bergstrom Airport to Boston and its largest hub, New York City, in 2006. But this is the first time the airline will provide service from San Antonio.

An average of 150 people fly to and from San Antonio and Boston daily, according to Brian Pratte, chief air service development administrator for the airport. Those numbers are what help the airport make the business case to airlines that San Antonio is a market worth serving.

“Attracting new air service is a long process,” said Jesus Saenz, director of airports. “It’s not one that’s easy, and all while in a pandemic, our team continues to meet with current and future airlines to discuss new nonstop markets, and expanding service and existing markets.”

While airlines dramatically cut service across the country last year due to the pandemic, travelers are steadily returning to the skies. 

Nationwide, Transportation Safety Administration data shows just over 1 million passed through security checkpoints on Tuesday, up drastically from 92,000 the same day in 2020, but less than half of 2019. 

Air travel is gaining ground again in San Antonio. In December 2020, SAT’s seven-day rolling average of passengers was 60 percent of the previous year’s count, with the airport offering only 30 nonstop destinations compared to 41 in 2019. 

Current national passenger counts are up to about 60% of 2019 levels, and San Antonio is ahead of that trend by about 10%.

The JetBlue announcement follows two new air service routes added at San Antonio International in 2021. In January, Sun Country Airlines announced it would offer nonstop service to Cancun International Airport starting in May, and last month, Mexico’s low-cost carrier Viva Aerobus said it will add a new direct flight from San Antonio to Bajío International Airport, which serves the cities of León and Guanajuato in Mexico. 

Other cities and airports targeted for direct air service include Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Sacramento and Orange County, California; Indianapolis, and Reagan International Airport in Washington, D.C. 

Like most airports, the San Antonio Airport System offers incentives to attract airlines and new service. San Antonio’s program offers domestic carriers that meet various requirements $100,000 in marketing incentives and waives 100% of all landing fees during the first year. 

Asked what’s next for the San Antonio airport, Pratte said, “The world.”

“We are actively speaking with a number of airline partners, current and potential, looking not only domestically but internationally as well,” he said. “These planes are multimillion dollar assets so the decision process is very lengthy because they need to make sure that they know that when they decide to fly somewhere, it’s going to make money.”

JetBlue on Wednesday also announced plans to add new routes to Boston and New York City from airports in six other cities, including Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Kansas City, Missouri; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Vancouver, Canada; and Asheville, North Carolina. 

Shari Biediger has been covering business and development for the San Antonio Report since 2017. A graduate of St. Mary’s University, she has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds in San Antonio...