By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Worcester – In the four months since JetBlue Airways started operating out of the Worcester Regional Airport, 30,000 passengers have flown either to or from Orlando or Fort Lauderdale. Now, officials are hoping with the tentative promise of a new, upgraded instrument landing system, the company and airport will continue to grow.
At the Central Mass Business Leadership Briefing held Feb. 24 at the Worcester DCU Center, officials from JetBlue and Massport discussed with local business and government leaders how the airline has fared since coming to Worcester and what the plans are for the future.
Critical to that future success was the announcement of tentative approval of a new landing system. U.S. Representative James McGovern, 2nd District, who was praised by other officials in attendance for his work in helping to bring JetBlue to Worcester, made the announcement.
“I am thrilled to announce that we recently received confirmation – in writing – that the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] will assume ownership and maintenance of a new, upgraded instrument landing system at Worcester Airport,” he said.
[The letter that McGovern referred to was written by Cordon L. James, director of the Eastern Service Area Technical Operations for the U.S. Department of Transportation, FAA to Edward C. Freni, director of aviation for Massport. In the letter, James said, “This facility has been tentatively approved for FAA assumption of ownership and maintenance provided the installation meets FAA specifications and standards.”]
Too often, McGovern noted in his remarks at the Feb. 25 meeting, inclement weather, especially fog, had caused delayed or cancelled flights at the airport. The new landing system, called CAT III, “will increase the chances of JetBlue flights being able to land safely despite poor conditions,” he added.
Massport had plans to commit more than $80 million over 10 years – including $30 million for the CAT III landing system – to the airport, he noted.
“Massport believes in the future of Worcester Airport,” he added. “So does the FAA. So does JetBlue. And so do I.”
Thomas Glynn, Massport CEO, and David Canty, director of loyalty and partnership marketing at JetBlue Airways, also spoke briefly about JetBlue's future plans in a discussion moderated by Michael Angelini, a Massport board member.
“It's important for Worcester, the commonwealth's second biggest city, to have a world-class airport,” Glynn said. “That will help not only JetBlue to hopefully add more routes, but to also attract other airlines in the future.”
“The first 107 days have been a roaring success,” Canty said, helped, he noted, by the two busy holiday periods, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
JetBlue is “committed and invested” in Worcester, he added, and “looking forward to more growth, but we need to monitor it.”
Angelini noted that people were not as likely to travel to Florida from the central Massachusetts region during the hot summer months. He asked Glynn and Canty how the airline planned on managing those months, particularly if the monitoring period would take into account a whole year.
“That's a valid concern,” Canty agreed. “But it's not just snowbirds that go to Florida. There's a lot going on there.”
Both Glynn and Canty stressed that it was important not just for Worcester businesses to promote the use of JetBlue but companies across the whole region as a way to help stimulate economic growth.
Timothy Murray, the former state lieutenant governor and current president and CEO of the Worcester Chamber of Commerce, said that several events would be held at the airport in the next few months to promote the area to travel professionals.
The hope was, he said, to help establish the airport as well as Central Massachusetts as a gateway of sorts to the rest of New England.
For more information on JetBlue and the Worcester Regional Airport, visit https://www.massport.com/worcester-airport