JetBlue Airways will indefinitely suspend nonstop flights between Tampa and Cancun on Sept. 9, citing weak demand from the global recession and last spring's swine flu outbreak in Mexico.
"We'll review adding this flight back when demand returns," wrote spokesman Bryan Baldwin Thursday in an e-mail. "Withdrawing service from any route … is a difficult but necessary action given the economic uncertainty and projections for losses from reduced customer demand."
JetBlue's decision is a blow to Tampa International, which traditionally has trouble attracting nonstop flights to markets outside the United States. Without Cancun, its only foreign destinations will be London, Grand Cayman Island and Canadian cities Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
Earlier this month, the airline said Cancun flights would stop for the slow fall travel season but resume Nov. 18. But a week later, JetBlue filed a "dormancy waiver'' with the Department of Transportation to stop the route at least until conditions improve.
"I think they'll come back," said Louis Miller, Tampa International's executive director. "It's not because of (problems with) the destination. It's that people won't spend money now to fly. It's a tough time."
Daily round-trip service began in December with JetBlue's smallest plane, the 100-seat Embraer 190. Half-full flights made money, said JetBlue Tampa station manager Linda Meech.
But the recession cut into travel worldwide. State Department travel warnings about drug violence and swine flu zapped demand for flights to Mexico. "The flight never had a chance," said Trudy Carson, Tampa International's director of air service development. In May, JetBlue sold one-way trips as low as $74.
JetBlue isn't alone cutting international flights. Last month, Delta announced plans to suspend service in September from Atlanta to Shanghai, New York to Edinburgh and Cincinnati to London and Frankfurt.
Steve Huettel can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3384.