Although Hurricane Matthew's path shifted enough to spare Metro Orlando from widespread damage, JetBlue leaders said Tuesday the storm still stopped people from coming to Central Florida.
Hurricane Matthew, the worst of which hit Central Florida overnight Oct. 7 and the following morning, resulted in Orlando International Airport suspending all commercial flights for a day. Before that closure, hundreds of arrivals and departures had been canceled by the airlines. Marty St. George, JetBlue's executive vice president of commercial & planning, said the airline mostly suffered because people opted to not rebook flights.
"People just didn't take their trips at all," said St. George.
Airline leaders said Tuesday the negative impact of the canceled flights in the southeast measures half a percentage point of the quarter's national capacity.
"Columbus Day weekend is the only peak weekend we have in October," said St. George, during the airline's third-quarter earnings call.
JetBlue had operations affected at other airports as a result of the storm, too.
"That timing made for a larger financial impact than the 585 cancellations might suggest and ultimately negatively impacted pre-taxed profit by about $13 million," said Robin Hayes, the airline's president and chief executive officer.
Capacity is expected to increase between 3 and 5 percent during the fourth quarter, airline leaders said.
Other Orlando announcements include new service to Los Angeles and Atlanta. The daily flight to Los Angeles International Airport starts Jan. 5. Start date or frequency for Atlanta routes have not been announced.
JetBlue's quarterly earnings call was made less than a week after the airline announced when service between Orlando and Havana, Cuba, was scheduled to start.
The daily service will begin Nov. 29 with departures leaving Orlando International at 8:35 a.m. and arriving in Havana at 10 a.m. Inbound flights leave Havana at 11:30 a.m. and arrive at 12:52 a.m.
One-way fares begin at $54, according to the JetBlue website.
JetBlue won Orlando's only commercial connection to the island nation after edging out Delta and Southwest in a U.S. Department of Transportation selection process earlier this year.
The airline, the nation's seventh largest, employs nearly 1,400 people between the Orlando Support Center, JetBlue University, Orlando International Airport and its Orlando maintenance hangar.
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