Across the Aisle from JetBlue CEO Dave Barger Part 2: Wi-fi, TrueBlue Changes, and International Partners

Welcome back to Part 2 of my interview with Across the Aisle from JetBlueDave Barger, CEO of JetBlue. If you missed Part 1 which discusses the problems in Long Beach along with the general product direction, then you might want to go check it out.

In Part 2, Dave and I talk about inflight wi-fi, big changes coming to the TrueBlue program, and some future international partnerships, including Lufthansa. Let’s get on with it.

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Cranky: What about wi-fi? I know you have one plane, BetaBlue, with email and instant messaging, but what about a full broadband solution now that many other airlines are doing it?

Dave: We believe that narrow band [the BetaBlue product] is the model. We’re going to start a fleetwide campaign for narrow band by year end. But, if it makes sense for full wi-fi capability, we want to be able to respond. That being said, we believe narrow band included in the price of the ticket for the whole airplane is best.

Cranky: Do you like the narrow band product itself or is it just technically better for you?

Dave: We’re pleased with the product. For us, the product is TV, radio, and connectivity, not just wi-fi. It can also be a great tool for our crewmembers as well as the customer. It could be used for irregular ops. If we need a flight attendant to go to Rochester and overnight there, we will be able to email them on the plane. Then when they land, they can make a call to tell who they need to tell.

Cranky: Or they could just email them on the plane.

Dave: Yeah, exactly. As a quality of life application, it’s good.

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Cranky: Let’s talk about TrueBlue. My wife and I were doing a fair number of flights to the Bay Area last year to prepare for our wedding. We flew JetBlue, but there was no way that I was going to ever reach an award with short haul travel, so I didn’t even want to sign up. The only reason I eventually did was because I wanted to use a credit from a changed flight online and I had to sign up for that purpose. Are you going to make changes to the program?

Dave: I totally agree that it’s not relevant right now. It’s interesting to hear your opinion, and I agree. It worked for its early life cycle, but it needs to change. We are going to roll out a new program in Q2/Q3. You can think of it as TrueBlue 2.0.

Cranky: Glad to hear it. Though I suppose it’s bad news for you that we flew you anyway and didn’t need the frequent flier credits.

Dave: No, these programs are important. They’re very powerful and we need to do better. Partners are an important piece of that. Can you accrue on Lufthansa? What about Hertz? These are important.

Cranky: What can we expect to see with the new program?

Dave: One of the biggest complaints we hear is that people say they can’t get seats. We do have a lot of availability, but people say they want last seat availability.

Cranky: Will you have last seat availability as a standard or will you be looking at tiered rewards like other airlines?

Dave: We believe we will have a best-in-class frequent flier program. It’s going to be very customer relevant.

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Cranky: I know we’re running short on time, but really quickly I’d like to talk about partnerships. You mentioned on the panel today that you were seeing 100 passengers a day connecting into your network from Aer Lingus. That’s really surprising to me. What else might we see?

Dave: Partnerships with Lufthansa and Swiss are next. They’re strategic investors in JetBlue, and we will have partnerships with them. After that, well, I was serious with Ali [Al Rais of Qatar Airways] about doing something with Qatar [as mentioned on the panel today].

Cranky: Could we see some partnerships on the west coast, maybe with Asian carriers? I imagine that would have to go to LAX though.

Dave: Sure. The potential could be there for partnerships at LAX. We can’t do that in Long Beach, but there’s no reason two operations in the LA Basin can’t work for us.

Cranky: Thanks, Dave. Let me know next time you guys are out in Long Beach.

Dave: Will do. And congratulations on your wedding.

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So there you have it. A Lufthansa partnership is on its way, and Dave really doesn’t see a need for full broadband right now. I’m not sure that I agree that the narrow band solution will be enough, but as long as they’re watching this closely and willing to change quickly, then they should be ok. I’m also glad to hear that TrueBlue is going to be fixed, because it really isn’t a compelling program as it stands today.

Again, if you missed Part 1, click here.

19 Responses to Across the Aisle from JetBlue CEO Dave Barger Part 2: Wi-fi, TrueBlue Changes, and International Partners

  1. Kelly says:

    I LOVED THIS!! Thanks cranky Flier. I work for JetBlue and love my job. The great thing about it is that we have advocates and people who push us to our excellence. We make the changes and form the partnerships because people like you take the time to ask with interest in our sucess as a company. I hope the changes with TrueBlue and the partnerships will excite you as much as they are exciting us.

    LIFE ISN’T ABOUT WAITING FOR THE STORM TO PASS…..
    IT’S ABOUT LEARNING TO DANCE IN THE RAIN!

    JetBlue is about raising the bar and setting the industries standard. Hope the competition can keep up.

  2. Patrick says:

    Having been born and raised in Long Beach and the surrounding area, which I moved away from many years ago because of the crowds, I find it ironic that the same arguments are going on with regard to LGB. It’s the same argument thats been going on for the last 40 – 50 years. People! You moved into the airport neighborhood, you knew it was there. It’s not going to go away. It is also an economic money maker for the city and a great convenience for those locals that don’t want to deal with LAX. A comment was made in the answer section of the first part of this story. If there is an employee of another airline on the city council and as mentioned an emplyee of the competition, I can only assume that this is Alaska Airlines, I certainly hope this person recuses themselves from any vote or discussion about airline issues at LGB. If they don’t, this has huge ethics violations written all over it.

  3. Mitchell says:

    This is a great company. It has a great foundation, and as long as we stick to it, we will do well. It is time for a change with the TB program. It is the most complained about program we have. It is too complex for not as frequent fliers. I can see great things coming. People even suggest that we have a family TB plan, where the parents get pts for when the child flies because children can’t get an amex card. It will be interesting to see what comes next; people get pts for pets, why not little kids! Who knows!!! I do keep in mind it is a frequent flier program, but I am keeping in mind the people who only fly jb and who never get rewards from it!

  4. Zach says:

    Lufthansa? Swiss? Hmmm…

    How, if at all, will the Star Alliance come into play here? I would assume that JetBlue won’t be joining–or will they? Any chance that they might be floating interest in broader partnerships or perhaps even joining one of the major alliances?

  5. CF says:

    Zach – Remember, Lufthansa owns Swiss, so it’s really just one company they’re dealing with here. But still, I suppose the natural question is whether they would want to join Star. My guess is that the answer is no for now – there are a lot of requirements for joining an alliance, and those can be expensive for an airline. JetBlue may very well choose to keep partnering for now, but of course, you never know what happens down the line.

  6. Zack Rules says:

    What about general aviation? There were 398,433 aircraft movements in 2008 making Long Beach the 25TH busiest airports by traffic movements in the ENTIRE WORLD! That works out to by 1091 movements per day compared to around 43 daily flights per day on Alaska Airlines, jetBlue Airways and US Airways Express. Also, add in a couple of ABX Air, Fed Ex and UPS flights per day. Why pick on commercial aviation? It seems that overwhelmingly, charter flights, private aviation, flight schools, law enforcement flights, helicopters, advertising blimps and planes towing advertising banners are really the ones making all the noise, not commercial aviation. If these folks are really worried about noise, why not out aircraft by noise? 727’s, DC-9’s and older jets shouldn’t be allowed to use the airport. Perhaps jetBlue should back some opposing candidates in the next Long Beach City Council election.

  7. scott says:

    I work for jetblue, it’s not the great airline that everyone thinks it is. Bad middle management, sups don’t have a clue… i.e. in-flight, airports etc…pilots cry about everything….more money…cmon…this day age be happy you ave a job…..jetblue won’t be around for ever.

  8. jaime says:

    scott get a life u dont work for jetblue.. if u do.. it was a mistake having u in this company… u are a bad apple that sooner or later will be roten.. good bye bad energy.. lastly GET A LIFE SCOTT :)~

  9. CrossCheck says:

    Somebody had asked why the city hasn’t stepped up to the plate regarding improvement of the airport and replacing the temporary shacks…

    From what I remember hearing was that the airport, city, and airlines were forced to conduct a study to understand the environmental impacts these new facilities would have… turns out, a new terminal would actually be MORE environmentally friendly, INCREASE safety, and IMPROVE efficiency for the airport. The proposal was to simply improve the terminal building, not expand the airport or change the rules which limit the airport to 41 slots. So, again, with selfish backwards thinking, the NIMBYS threw a fit claiming a new terminal would suggest additional growth and flights from Long Beach…

    These are the same residents that complain about traffic on the 405 freeway and hassles of LAX, but then turn around and still use LGB while complaining to the airlines about congested trailers, walking thru puddles to board an airplane in the rain, or while waiting for the parking lot shuttle and the lack of concessions and long security lines…

    The airport has be around for YEARS, long before most residents even lived in the area. Sure, the area was a little more quite before the arrival of jetBlue, HOWEVER, there were the years that McDonnell Douglas weas building DC-9, DC-10, and MD-11 aircraft – some of the loudest planes flying! Not to mention FedEx’s daily 727 departure that I could hear all the way in Belmont Shore… Nobody asked you to move into a home under the approach and departure ends of the runways!! Just like you are forced to purchase a home along side the 710 or 405 freeways!!

    It is STUPID and disappointing of the city to not follow thru on its promise to serve their customers and communities in improving the LGB airport. Furthermore, allowing the incredibly quite E190s to use the commuter slots is a real shame. Simply because the E190 doesn’t qualify as a “commute aircraft” due to weight, it makes no sense to continue to allow the lighter 50 seat CRJ-200 aircraft to operate which are at least twice as loud. Lastly, most of the private business jets that use the airport are the actually loudest aircraft to operate at the airport – the Citation , Learjet, an d Gulfstream aircraft are just as loud as some military fighter jets.

  10. jason says:

    JETBLUE SUCKS!!!!!!DAVE BARGER IS FULL OF B@#$S@!$.

  11. Randy says:

    Quite an erudite contribution Jason. Cranky, this is the first post I have ever seen that should be erased.

  12. CF says:

    Randy – There has been a lot of good discussion here, and you’re right, Jason’s comment is not contributing anything helpful. But, I do my best to avoid deleting comments unless they’re clearly spam. So, I’ll leave this up and let people simply gloss over his comment since it adds no value.

  13. mike says:

    I agree, jetblue has sucked for the last 4 years. Maybe we’ll merge and become one of the big six. Jetblue, not so great!!!!

  14. Joe says:

    I used to love Jetblue and I’ve actually talked to Barger on the phone before but the new Trueblue program is very frustrating. I understand they need to make profit, partner and all that stuff but simply navigating the new Trueblue webpages has been a horrendous experience.

    It truly seems that whoever re-designed the Trueblue site never used the old site. Seriously, how many clicks do they want from me just to get a boarding pass?

    Next, the disposition of old trueblue points becomes another pitfall that must be navigated carefully. I think they recently “re-worded” some things to help make it more clear that you don’t convert old points into new ones but rather the other way around. You convert new points into old points until you have enough points under the old program for an award flight. Well, just say that in the 1st place!

    I guess what their “partner” really wants you to do is throw your hands up in confused frustration and take some magazine subscription for your old points?

    I’m sorry, I really used to enjoy Jetblue having flown JFK-SAN over 100 times in past 3 years but it sure seems like they’ve suffered a major loss interest in their customers. At least this frequent, until recently, loyal customer.

    yeah, I’ve been on flights diverted to LGB – those temp shacks are cheesy but good luck getting my support for more CA tax money to help a company that can’t offer an apology for the recent Trueblue mess… Must be nice to have such full airplanes on every route, eh?

    OMT to Jetblew – fix the dang volume between crew PA and TV – it blasts peoples ears when they make annoucements.

  15. dorothy says:

    @ Kelly:
    wow just read this artcle sitting at home in ny with my luggage in houston. by the way my flight was cancelled and i did not make 2nd and only flight by waiting stand by now im told the next available flight is 4 days away. how could this be? this is destoying my Christmas Holiday. I cant get anyonw on the phone to help me. I can t change anything on line becasue I was using true rewards points website says to call. yet no one answers the phone and I get disconnected. i will never fly jet blue and I will tell every one I know not to fly jet blue.

  16. CF says:

    @ dorothy:
    Yesterday’s storm has absolutely wreaked havoc on every airline with a major presence in the mid Atlantic/northeast US. Flights have been pretty full getting toward Christmas and mother nature really packed a wallop with this one. So it’s going to be tough on every airline to recover, not just JetBlue. If you’re still stuck and need help, you can try my Cranky Concierge service (crankyconcierge.com). I certainly wish you luck on this one.

  17. joe says:

    Here’s a shout-out to DELTA airlines for waiving change fees hours before many airlines including Jetblue due to recent weather delays.

    I told a friend of mine what Delta did and when he tried to change his flight with Jetblue due to the weather they attempted to charge him change fees. Until he mentioned his “friend” who had just changed his flight on DELTA with NO CHANGE FEE.

    As for me – ‘got out well ahead of the recent storm and fiasco – I wasn’t stuck for days trying to get back on track – I was enjoying the sun and fun in San Diego a few hours earlier than originally planned is all.

    And with the recent merger of Delta/Northwest I’m finding much better prices and schedules for my frequent trips compared to JetBlew. And NO, Jetblue hasn’t even attempted to offer an apology for the Trueblue & website mess they’ve made that has offended me for years to come…

    They know exactly who I am and they ignore me – I guess the feeling is mutual? And ya know, I don’t mind using the old Delta #2/3 terminal at JFK – at least it’s not a mile walk from the airtrain to security!

  18. chip says:

    The new TrueBlue program is an absolute joke…..while it does help reward those that primarily fly short haul routes, it is a complete slap in the face to those of us that only fly mid – long haul flights. I commute from JFK to San Diego or LGB on a fairly regular basis. With the old program it cost me roughly 900 dollars to earn a free round trip reward……with the new program: $2,600. Of course with their new labyrinth program it will probably only cost around $2,000 dollars because of their “Go Long” or “Go Big” or “Promise not to ask for two bags of Terra Chips” bonus programs. This $2,000 figure is also only valid providing I am able to find a flight that would originally cost $99 dollars. Any suggestions for a new airline….excluding United and US Airways……oh yeah and not Delta, AA, Continental, Alaska, NWA……Damnit! I guess its just our turn (long-haul flyers) to virtually never earn a reward flight. It was good while it lasted.

  19. Joe says:

    Hey Chip – give Delta another look. For me, they’ve got a much better schedule in/out SAN-JFK than jetblew-it. Might not earn as many award flights but if you carry large Skymiles balance you will get plenty upgrades and discounts towards other things that have made my frequent commutes much more comfortable. With long security lines, lengthy taxi at JFK and 5-7hr flight, gold/platinum treatment can be a very welcome thing.

    Delta in-flight wifi via Gogo also kicks major booty over DATED Direct TV that barely works or, on those rare occasions when it does work – blasts your ears between listening volume and PA announcements. Do these people actually use their own service?

    I flew 186 this past week and the in-flight entertainment system was totally fubar and the irony next day – I got a “tell us what you think?” invite from Mr. Barger. LOL… I gave ‘em a piece of my mind and will continue to do so until my last breath or they get it together with this very CRANKY FLIER…

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