Today’s news:

New route, record-breaking sales for JetBlue

JetBlue Airways Chief Executive Officer David Neeleman presided Tuesday at a history-making inaugural flight — the first ever non-stop run between New York and Long Beach, Calif. — and said business on his low-cost carrier was good.

In fact, Neeleman, beamed as he acknowledged it was even better than that for the Kew Gardens-based airline, which had a near record $2 million ticket sales day on Monday.

The $99 fare from Kennedy Airport to Long Beach, 19 miles from the more congested Los Angeles International Airport, may have helped.

“It was one of our biggest booking days yet,” Neeleman said, adding that seats on the Long Beach run were heavily booked for weeks to come.

Neeleman, JetBlue President David Barger along with two top officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - Aviation Director William DeCota and Executive Director Neil Levin, discussed JetBlue and its plans at JFK, where an $11 billion renovation project is underway.

The airline and Port Authority chiefs spoke at a news conference just beyond Gate 12 from which the inaugural flight to Long Beach was scheduled to depart at 6:10 p.m.

JetBlue has plans to take control of Terminal 6 at Kennedy Nov. 1 in a $60 million lease under an agreement with Gov. George Pataki and the Port Authority. At the same time, Long Beach is to become its West Coast base of operations.

“We plan to increase our number of departure gates from six to 10 and increase our flights out of JFK from 80 to 200 by the end of 2002," Barger said.

Long Beach becomes the 17th destination for JetBlue, which already flies to Oakland, Calif., a short distance from San Francisco International airport.

In the 18 months since the airline began flying, JetBlue has become the third-largest domestic airline at Kennedy. The carrier has 1,000 employees in New York state.

JetBlue was voted the No. 2 domestic airline for comfort and service in the 2001 Zagat Airline Survey.

The airline flies new, Airbus A320 jetliners equipped with leather seats and a television set for every passenger. All fares are one-way and seats are assigned.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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