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.

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

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Kelly
Guest
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… Read more »
Patrick
Guest
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… Read more »
Mitchell
Guest
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… Read more »
Zach
Guest

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?

Zack Rules
Guest
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,… Read more »
scott
Guest

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.

jaime
Guest

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 :)~

CrossCheck
Guest
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… Read more »
jason
Guest

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

Randy
Guest

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

mike
Guest

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!!!!

Joe
Guest
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… Read more »
dorothy
Guest
@ 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… Read more »
joe
Guest
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… Read more »
chip
Guest
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… Read more »
Joe
Guest
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… Read more »
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