JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Starting Thursday you can fly directly to Los Angeles from Jacksonville. The news comes as more Americans are getting the itch to travel again.
In just 5 hours and 52 minutes, you can be in sunny California. The first flight takes off at 5 p.m.
A new direct route to get to the west coast, which hasn’t been offered in more than a decade.
“It started right during the economic crisis in 2008, so naturally it went away,” said Mark VanLoh, Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO. “We’ve been hammering on this with different airlines for 12 years.”
VanLoh said JetBlue’s non-stop from JAX to LAX will dramatically help our tourism.
“Over 200 people per day were flying from Southern California to Jacksonville before the pandemic,” said VanLoh.
But flyers like Puja Solanki had to connect thru Dallas, Houston, and Charlotte or drive south to catch a direct flight.
“Before the pandemic, I was going pretty much every other month,” said Solanki. “I actually went in February and I just recently came back.”
Solanki is thrilled with the flight with direct access to see her brother who lives in LA.
“This is going to save time and it’s just so convenient,” she said.
VanLoh says more Californians are coming to Florida right now. JAX data from 2019 shows LA area airports fall at the top of the list without nonstop service. There were 271 passengers daily each way making it Jacksonville’s largest unserved domestic market.
On the other hand, Jacksonville was LA’s number one nonstop market before the pandemic. It’s now number three.
VanLoh is hoping with the rollout of the vaccine becoming more widely available – more people will want to return to the skies.
This is JetBlue’s first daily nonstop service from JAX since a flight to Newark was added last July. It also added a twice-weekly nonstop to Raleigh/Durham earlier this month.
“The way that Florida, the economy in Florida has responded, as we move through and began this recovery. We’re seeing a lot of interest in travel to Florida, and you know, Jacksonville certainly playing a role in that,” said Scott Laurence, head of Revenue & Planning with JetBlue. “As we get Los Angeles flying, we’re looking forward to some additional flying up to the tri-state area and potentially serving all three New York area airports with service to LaGuardia at some point soon.”
Right now the airport is still operating under 50%, but officials hope that as more of the country opens up and more people get vaccinated, the travel industry will make a huge comeback.
Film and TV industry
Jacksonville was America’s original Hollywood and now with these new direct flights from here to LA, the local film and tv industry is hoping to make a huge comeback.
Producers, directors, and actors are all accustomed to direct flights.
“It saves time, time in this industry is money,” said Todd Roobin, Manager of Jacksonville Film and TV Office. “Jacksonville will be a much more competitive level playing field versus our neighbors that may have nonstop flights such as Orlando, Tampa, and Miami.”
Roobin says as the COVID pandemic shut down shooting on the west coast, Jacksonville started seeing an increase in filming here. Now he says he’ll use this JetBlue’s JAX to LAX non-stop flight as a tool to attract even more production executives to northeast Florida.
“It’s going to be very good lots of business travelers flying from Los Angeles and that whole region to our Jacksonville market business as it relates to production whether it’s a motion picture and television commercial business,” said Roobin.
According to Jacksonville Film and Television, the movie ‘G.I. Jane’ starring Demi Moore brought in more than $8 million for the city. ‘Recount’ had a more than $3 million impact locally.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have a wonderful history dating back to the early 1900s to the silent film industry, but even present day we have our diverse locations, our excellent crew. We have a wonderful infrastructure here in Jacksonville that supports the industry,” said Roobin.
Jacksonville offers a thriving film community and a world of locations and now with direct access to a major film hub on the West Coast to bring it east.
The film industry is mobile and this flight helps make Jacksonville more competitive.