Why is JetBlue flying between San Francisco and Las Vegas?

JetBlue added a new route this week -- San Francisco to Las Vegas.  But why?

JetBlue added a new route this week -- San Francisco to Las Vegas.  But why?

You can now fly on JetBlue between San Francisco and Las Vegas. 

The first flight left Las Vegas for San Francisco at 7 a.m. on Monday morning. In all, JetBlue is offering two flights in each direction. And if you act fast, you can find one-way fares as low as $59. 

Many of you know JetBlue as an East Coast airline, with major operations in Boston, New York and Fort Lauderdale. Yes, the airline has a focus city in Long Beach, California, but flights there account for a small part of JetBlue's network. 

So why is JetBlue flying between Las Vegas and San Francisco?

You may remember back back in October when Virgin America announced two new routes from important JetBlue cities -- one between Boston and Las Vegas and the other between New York-JFK and Fort Lauderdale. Those are key JetBlue routes, and the airline presumably wanted to defend its turf. So JetBlue decided to hit Virgin America back by adding a route from Virgin America's San Francisco hub. And that route turned out to be San Francisco to Las Vegas.

Can JetBlue possibly make money? I doubt it. But it's a short flight, and the airline likely had airplanes that were just sitting around, so the route likely won't lose that much money either. 

Airlines do this fairly often, but you won't usually see them admit to adding a route solely because of competitive reasons. Here's how JetBlue Senior Vice President Scott Laurence explained the new route in a statement released Monday:

"With the overwhelming customer response to our premium offering, Mint, now between San Francisco and New York, as well as more frequencies between these two cities, the natural next step for us was to expand our presence in San Francisco, with service to Las Vegas, a market where customers have continually been seeking a better airline experience,"