Topic of the Week: JetBlue Goes Premium

In annoyingly terse brief this week, JetBlue announced that it would introduce a “premium transcon product.” I call it annoying because they told us virtually nothing else except that plans will be revealed later this year. So, that leaves us to make wild guesses. If you were JetBlue, what would this look like?

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36 Comments on "Topic of the Week: JetBlue Goes Premium"

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Neil S
Guest
I fly JetBlue all the time, out of JFK. For business and vacations. I always buy the EML seats – love the fast security line, and the extra legroom is amazing. The only thing I’d pay EVEN “even more” for is no one in the middle seat. Either make the first few rows 2-2, or block the middle seat like some of the European airlines do in business. I can get more legroom. It has a TV. The snacks, drinks, and first bag are already free. The security line is already solved at most of their airports with even more… Read more »
Ben G
Guest
I think that the most likely product to emerge is a “euro-biz” style blocked middle seat. The giveaway is that the premium product will only be available on daytime flights, not redeyes, so there has to be some flexibility in the fleet to be able to quickly change what product is offered. I think that they will also add things like free movies, complementary snack boxes and alcohol, and free WiFi. Those things would all be easy to implement. I do think that there is an outside chance that they offer different food options above and beyond what is currently… Read more »
noahkimmel
Member

Jetblue posted on their blog that it will be on all flights (not just daytime).
No ovens installed, but VX manages to make cold sandwiches work just fine.

noahkimmel
Member

I should clarify–blog says all transcons day/night. Not all flights

Sanjeev M
Guest

If its just on transcons, then they are dedicating fleet to it? So this is clearly about the transcon market. I thought Jetblue might fly some mid-hauls with a better product as they’re feeding many more carriers at JFK now.

I’m confused!

Fred
Guest

Blocking a middle seat, free movies, and different food are all things that can be done without changing the aircraft at all, so a dedicated fleet wouldn’t be necessary.

XJT DX
Guest

Well IF they install 2-2 seating up front (doubtful), that will spark many more B6/VX matchup conversations…

noahkimmel
Member

I would think its more of “killing VX.” As we have discussed previously, it is highly unlikely for any M&A as B6 doesn’t want or need Virgin, and won’t pay a premium for it. If VX goes bankrupt and b6 can buy assets for no premium or even under value, then maybe. Otherwise, I just don’t see it…

Bill from DC
Guest
just two rows of 2×2 lie flat type biz class seats might make sense but i don’t think that would work revenue-wise given jetblue’s loads. two rows of 2×2 would take the place of at least 4-5 rows of extra legroom seating? i don’t think there’s any way that 8 premium seats could take the place, revenue-wise, of even 24 EML seats (4 rows of 3×3), could they? only if they think they could actually price and sell them at a factor of 3 or 4 times above the EML seats which would be at least $1,200 or more one-way… Read more »
Bill from DC
Guest

all that being said, i agree that middle seat blocking offers a great deal of flexibility and a nice incremental benefit that many passengers would be willing to pay for without breaking the bank (for the airline or the px). the market is not just singles who want more space but this would be great for couples flying together who would be willing to “upgrade” to select aisle/window seats around a blocked middle. i know i would!

but does that qualify as a “premium transcontinental product”? i’m guessing not…

Ben
Guest
I agree with Ben G and Neil S on the strategy here. Blocking off the middle seat would be extremely cheap to implement, since you don’t have to change anything. Those seats already have more legroom, so it is really a nice upgrade option that JetBlue can offer at cheaper prices than airlines with a traditional first class. Offering better meals and free movies would be a nice touch as well. I’d be willing to pay extra for this in a heartbeat. I’m curious to see which cross country routes they will offer it on. Is it just t routes… Read more »
Ben G
Guest

There has been so little announced at this point that I don’t think we really know. They said “transcon” that is really limited to just JFK and BOS right now. FCO’s only transcon service currently is via AUS, as the distances between FCO and LAX/SFO are well beyond the range of an A320, even with sharklets.

noahkimmel
Member

I think the first routes will be JFK-SFO/LAX, coinciding with the likely first a321 routes. Eventually, I see BOS and JFK for most/all nonstop transcons. Long term development may see some florida routes as PBI, RSW, and to some extent FLL has premium demand for reasonable prices.

However, just blocking the middle seat and giving free food/drinks/blankets isn’t revolutionary. It doesn’t “beat” competitors offerings, but really matches VX (plus middle seat).

Shane
Guest

It can “beat” the other offerings if it costs significantly less.

jboekhoud
Member

Isn’t FCO Rome?

Bill from DC
Guest

Yeah, I was also confused!

Eric A.
Member

I agree with Ben, it has to be some type of European model ‘quick change’ cabin config and not a material seating change. Can be done on all aircraft types if the experiment works out. Any rev premium gained from an enhanced product would be wiped away with aircraft subs; end up giving away your premium product to Y pax or p*ssing off people who paid for it and it is unavailable.

Soft product stuff like priority check in, security lane, free bags and booze and boarding gratis cold salads and sandwiches is easy.

David SF eastbay
Member

Unless they put aside planes to only be used transcon, don’t expect much. Only by outfitting certain aircraft with special seats/flat beds, it will still be the same Jetblue but with maybe some extra perks.

The European style of a fold down middle seat to make a ‘table’ would help, but not much else they could do. At least that type seat could be used in other markets they deem ‘business’ markets where they could sell a higher fare to have no middle passenger.

noahkimmel
Member

I think there are certain planes that currently do more transcon based on fuel burn. But I agree, this would require dedication. And if they dedicate transcon, then do they dedicate high-density carribbean? Its a slippery slope to an operational challenge.

At least for now, with LAX and SFO not having much other flying, most are turns JFK/BOS. LGB poses another challenge as I think many planes go JFK/BOS-LGB-west coast-LGB-JFK/BOS. But I suppose that could also change as needed

Nick Barnard
Member

Noah, a tangent I’m curious on, do two planes that are generally identically configured (e.g. same engines, Airbus built them with the same plans, etc.) have significantly different fuel burns?

noahkimmel
Member

I know there are different weights and engine performance. Not sure how often it is the primary factor in a/c choice and “operational” decision (vs. scheduled). I think b6 has 2 different v2500 engines, some with the “selectone” PIP package and others without it. Its not big differences, but even 1% may avoid a fuel stop

noahkimmel
Member
I see 3 distinct choices: 1) Premium shell / lie-flat seats. This is unlikely as it is a major change in service and orientation. As was mentioned above, it would take so many rows out that it is unlikely to make more money than 3-4 rows of EML, no hot meals, etc. It also would be hard to roll out fleet wide and would require huge operational tradeoff in a320, a321, a321 with beds. I assume many a321s will go down to the DR (STI, SDQ) as they are cash cows, but there is no premium demand on those routes.… Read more »
Zack Rules
Guest

I agree that the euro biz won’t be the product. It is not revoluntionary (although this is the same company that brought us lame snack boxes). i think they will have 12 fully lie flat business seats 48 eml seats and 108 regular coach, 168 total,on 9 A321’s, 3 for sfo 6 for lax. It beats VX and matches United Delta and AA business (new biz). Maybe there will be some premium food offerings as well, although cold, free in biz but extra everywhere else.

DesertGhost
Guest

Aren’t “wild guesses” the whole idea behind airline and air travel blogs?

DesertGhost
Guest

Having written the above, I must say I don’t have a guess. But I often refrain from guessing and predicting. I don’t like to predict sports outcomes, for example.

There are a number of possibilities, but I do hope jetBlue will do something unique. Why shouldn’t airlines have distinctive offerings? I think there’s room for each carrier to offer some products and services that set it apart from the run-of-the-mill.

BNA TOM
Guest
Sound like a little more than “virtually nothing”. We announced this morning our intent to introduce a premium transcon product. Just as we started JetBlue with the mission to ?bring humanity back to air travel,? we?ll continue to deliver the best core product and service in the skies with the things you?ve come to know and love like: the full can of soda, free TV and radio at every seat, the most legroom in coach, first checked bag free, and excellence in customer service. We?ll plan on introducing a premium experience that offers a better product at a lower price… Read more »
apanelli
Member

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this is a prelude to a B6/VX tie-up. My guess is that the negotiations have been on-and-off, and never getting close to agreement on relative valuations, so now B6 is stepping up the pressure.

Nick Barnard
Member

Why would B6 want VX? The only point to that would be to kill VX. That might work, but I’d be curious how many of VX’s customers B6 would be able to keep after merging the VX into B6’s product.

Don
Guest

b6 would have to buy buy VX’s massive debt (what is it now….close to $700 million with no chance of declining). I don’t think b6 could afford that.

noahkimmel
Member

and even if they could, for what benefit? If VX is agreeing to a buy out, they likely dont have a future. B6 doesnt need the gates, planes, people, routes or debt. Not to mention any headaches of integration…

Don
Guest
They will put it where they can make the most money. Look at what they have done to the Caribbean. Maybe they might deploy it to the West Coast to compete with VX. Transcons don’t make carriers that much money unless you have more cash coming in from something other than coach seats anyways. I always wondered how these $200 fares per person make money when going from BOS to LAX. It will be interesting to see. But I don’t see it as a direct attack on VX. They saw a profitable opportunity and went with it. If it hurts… Read more »
Bill from DC
Guest
its not just VX they compete with, there’s already united’s p.s. (which announced new upgrades) plus delta and american have each announced premium transcon service. now that i think about it, B6 is actually in a very defensive position here, not the norm for them. they are likely doing something now in order to not lose their “premium” NYC business to the legacies, all of which are stepping up their x-con games in the near future (or already had a premium service like UA, even though it doesn’t actually fly out of UA’s NYC area hub which I find quite… Read more »
Don
Guest

I agree. United and AA (and sooner or later the new AA) will be a true test for b6. Let’s see how this will affect them.

I agree on the other part too. No IAD, LGB, OAK, and SAN. I can add to your “etc.”

No BUR, SMF, SLC, DEN, ANC, SEA, PDX

Bill from DC
Guest

lol yeah whatever the product is i think the final answer will be it will only be on JFK, LAX and SFO. BOS, maybe, but I’d still think not because the premium demand just isn’t there compared to NYC.

Brad in Brooklyn
Guest

How about the Skycouch product like the one Air New Zealand offers? Three economy seats turn into a flat bed. If no one buys the “Skycouch” you can still sell the three seats individually.

http://www.airnewzealand.com/economy-skycouch

Joe
Guest

Look what was posted on WorldAirlineNews.com about JetBlue’s A321’s…
http://worldairlinenews.com/2013/08/04/jetblue-airways-new-airbus-a321-cabin-is-leaked-on-vimeo/

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