December 10, 2013

Worcester Operations

It’s been about a month since JetBlue launched the only scheduled commercial service to Worcester, Massachusetts.  It’s not always easy operating in one of the snowiest cities in the U.S. In fact, Worcester was the second snowiest city in America in the winter of 2012-2013 receiving almost 109” of snow.  We checked in with our Air Traffic Systems and Meteorology team for some more information about this unique BlueCity.

When it comes to winter operations, though, snow isn’t the only challenge—things like fog and low visibility can disrupt our travel plans as well. And even though Boston is known as the “city on a hill”, Worcester airport is more than 1,000 feet above sea level. The high elevation means that Worcester sees foggy conditions much more often than our Boston focus city just 40 miles away. Worcester reports, on average, 42 more days of fog per year than Boston, so essentially fog is four times as frequent in Worcester than it is Boston. And remember, if it’s very overcast in Boston with ‘low ceilings’ (as low cloud cover is referred to in airline speak), than it’s entirely possible that Worcester is quite literally in the clouds!

Airport Location

Airport Elevation Above Sea Level

Worcester, MA

1009 feet

Hartford, CT

173 feet

Providence, RI

55 feet

Boston, MA

20 feet

 

Fog can happen any time of year in Worcester, especially in the night and early morning, but is most common in March, followed by February, November and December. The equipment in place at the Worcester airport, including navigation aids and approach lights, only supports landings when the visibility is at least ¾ of a mile, and fog often reduces that to a ½ mile or less.  While the team in our System Operations Center does all it can to predict the weather at time of landing, for safety reasons our aircraft will sometimes have to divert to nearby airports to wait the fog out.

In some situations, it may not be feasible to wait for things to clear up in Worcester, causing us to have to divert the aircraft to an alternate airport, most often Boston Logan.  When a diversion is necessary, our Airports and Customer Support teams will work with our Customers to secure ground transportations back to Worcester. Our customers’ safety always comes first for us, and while we prefer to travel by air rather than land, getting you to your destination in a timely manner is also part of our promise to you.

Even when we do get you to Worcester, we still have a plane ‘out of position’ at the diversion airport, which can also cause cancellations for Worcester departures.. In these situations, like we’ve seen with the fog during the past mild week in the northeast, our teams will look at options for changing the departure to nearby airports and will reach out to those impacted as soon as possible with  options to get you moving.

JetBlue is working closely with Worcester Airport and our partners at Massport who own the facility to explore opportunities to enhance the landing equipment there, which could improve our ability to land in poor weather and fog conditions. While these efforts are underway, we have teams in airports and customer support working closely to improve how we recover from these disruptions to our Worcester customers.

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