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February 28, 2017

JetBlue adds NYC nonstop from Worcester

Courtesy Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus at Tuesday's announcement of new JetBlue service from Worcester to New York City.

JetBlue will begin flights from Worcester Regional Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, it was announced Tuesday, adding a third commercial destination from the city.

JetBlue, the only commercial line flying in and out of Worcester, now connects only to two Florida cities: Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced the new line in a press conference with city officials and Thomas Glynn, CEO of the Massachusetts Port Authority, which owns and operates the airport.

Service will take place once a day upon completion of a new $30 million airline-guiding equipment system that will better allow for safe landings and take-offs during less-than-ideal weather. No date was given for the first flight to JFK, but the system is expected to be complete by the end of 2017, according to Massport.

Edward Augustus, the Worcester city manager, called the announcement "a game-changer" for the Worcester airport and the region. "It really is the culmination of a lot of people over a long period of time working together," he said.

Worcester Regional Airport has recovered from a low point about 15 years ago. In 2002, American Eagle, Delta and US Airways all stopped service in and out of Worcester. JetBlue brought back commercial service in 2013.

Massport is expected to invest more than $100 million in airport improvements by 2020, including a $35-million landing-technology system installed in 2015.

Tuesday's announcement from JetBlue comes on the heels of Hyannis-based Rectrix Commercial Aviation Services saying in October it will offer passenger service starting in 2017 from Worcester to Baltimore/Washington International Airport. The airline will then offer continuing service onto Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, where Rectrix already has private jet and maintenance facilities.

Officials from Rectrix were not immediately available Tuesday morning to provide a specific time of that Worcester-to-Baltimore flight. Rectrix opened an operations base for private jets in a 50,000 square-foot hangar at the Worcester airport in 2015.

Worcester Regional Airport is being outfitted with what's known as a CAT III instrument landing system, which helps improve reliability of commercial service by allowing aircraft to land at the airport under virtually any weather conditions.

The airport, which was built on top of two hills, has long been unreliable because of fog.

Without the CAT III system, pilots must divert to other airports for landings when conditions are poor, according to Massport.

JetBlue's expanded service was called a sign of confidence in the airport and its role in Central Massachusetts by officials who spoke at Tuesday's announcement.

"This really is a celebration of another milestone, another step in the evolution of Worcester Regional Airport," Glynn, the head of Massport, said.

Michael Angelini, the head of the Massport board of directors, is also the chairman of the Worcester law firm Bowditch & Dewey. He was one of several speakers who saw the announcement as another sign of Worcester's importance in the state.

"I can assure you that, at least in my tenure, there has not ever been a meeting in which Worcester is not mentioned," Angelini said of the Massport board.

Instead of a ribbon-cutting or ceremonial groundbreaking, officials unveiled a new terminal billboard for the new destination: "New York City."

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