By Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Hathaway

Baltimore is undergoing a once-in-a-generation revitalization that is building an economy for the future. While we are having remarkable success in bringing new businesses to the city, attracting residents, and bringing life to our streets, our community needs strong partners to help move us forward. When I heard about JetBlue’s merger with Spirit Airlines and its plans for Baltimore, I realized this is another opportunity for our city to grow and thrive.

JetBlue’s merger with Spirit would make the airline a stronger, national competitor to the ‘Big Four’ airlines that control 80 percent of flights in the U.S today. At Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), JetBlue would become the second largest airline, allowing it to better compete with a carrier like Southwest. This competition is critical to keep airfares more affordable for Marylanders, as well as the travelers who fuel tourism in the state. As a low-fare disrupter, JetBlue has a proven record of driving down airfares. Known as the ‘JetBlue Effect,’ when JetBlue enters a route, fares with legacy carriers typically decrease by about 16 percent. That’s real savings for Maryland families.

Expanding JetBlue’s national network with more low-fare flights is critical to growing the number of business and leisure travelers coming to Maryland. JetBlue’s network includes destinations in the Caribbean and South America, as well as cities across the U.S., meaning low-fare flights to Baltimore will become much more abundant. With expanded access to JetBlue’s network, Baltimore’s tourism and hospitality industry will thrive and welcome more domestic and international travelers. That’s good news for our economy and our workers.

Key to the health of our city is the availability of jobs. With more revenue flowing into Baltimore, we can give our youth and adults more opportunities. This builds our economy from the ground up and helps us to achieve our goals of a safer, brighter city – one where all Baltimore residents have the opportunity to enjoy not just economic security, but economic prosperity. Not only will the merger bring more revenue and jobs in tourism to Baltimore, but it will also bring more jobs, specifically in the aviation industry.

JetBlue has committed to keeping all of Spirit’s team members and insourcing its contract employees, keeping Marylanders employed and offering them greater potential with the expanded airline. JetBlue has also said it intends to expand its workforce development program, JetBlue Gateways. This program will provide underserved Marylanders the opportunity to pursue highly skilled careers in the aviation industry, such as becoming a pilot or maintenance technician.

As an original organizer of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD), supporting opportunities where we can create leaders in our community is of great personal importance. I’m excited to see a company like JetBlue fully invest in the success of our community by offering these types of programs in our city. Diversifying Baltimore’s economy is key to generating short- and long-term economic growth for our communities, and JetBlue can help us do that.

We have immense potential to reshape the future of our city and we should seize on opportunities that support our current efforts. JetBlue will be a critical partner in creating positive change for Baltimore and Maryland, and I encourage our elected officials to join me in supporting the company’s plans to merge with Spirit. Together, JetBlue and Spirit can help unlock a new era of prosperity for the people of Baltimore now and into the future. Let’s fly together.

Rev. Dr. Alvin Hathaway served as Senior Pastor of Union Baptist Church from 2007 through 2021.  He is president and CEO of the Beloved Services Corporation.