JetBlue Releases More Details About Its Coach Cabin, But The Implementation Timeline Has Slipped

Way back at the end of 2014, JetBlue told investors that it was going to overhaul its coach (or “core” as the airline calls it) experience. The problem? It wasn’t going to start until 2016. Well, 2016 is here, and we now have more details about the project. It looks great, but the timeline has slipped. You’ll be waiting awhile before you step on to a JetBlue A320 looking like this:

JetBlue Light Special

Back in 2014, we were told JetBlue would add 15 seats to each A320 aircraft, and it would use the same slimline seats that get rave reviews on the airline’s A321s that fly between LA and New York. It would also install bigger screens, and basically just update the product. Remember, the onboard product has barely changed since the airline launched more than 15 years ago.

That original announcement was full or promise but short on details. Now, we know a lot more.

Fewer More Seats
Apparently JetBlue’s efforts to comfortably fit 165 seats in a cabin where 150 exist today failed. The airline has decided to cut that by three and put 162 seats on each A320 instead. How is the airline adding two full rows? Well, seat pitch today is a standard of 34 inches (vs. 30 to 31 inches on most domestic airlines). It’s going to drop down to 33 inches, but since the seats are slimmer, legroom should increase. If you’ve flown coach on the well-liked A321 in Mint configuration, that’s what it’ll be like.

But there’s more than that. JetBlue is installing these new space-saving galleys and lavs. They’re smaller, but they also use space better. All this comes together to allow for 2 more rows.

Screens Double In Size, Meet Wifi
JetBlue is keeping its free TVs at every seat, unsurprisingly. But the screens are going to get a lot bigger, nearly doubling in size to 10.1 inches. Live TV will now expand from 36 to 100 channels and have a much-expanded library of movies available. It’s also going from standard definition to HD, and it’ll be a touch screen. Here’s a good look at the differences.

JetBlue IFE

What’s more interesting, however, is that the system will be connected to wifi. And remember, JetBlue’s wifi is really fast. It’s not entirely clear what JetBlue wants to do with this integration, but it will allow for “personal device pairing.” I assume that means you’ll be able to show any content on your device on the big screen if you’d like. They’ll also be able to integrate streaming options, create apps, etc. This should be a really useful upgrade.

More Wifi
JetBlue’s wifi is already fast, and it’s now going to be available the entire time you’re on the airplane starting when you board. This is a huge advantage over the likes of Delta, American, and Virgin America (among others) which use Gogo’s air-to-ground systems. Those can’t provide service until you reach 10,000 feet because they need to connect with ground-based stations. By flipping wifi on immediately, JetBlue is going to make those long taxi delays at JFK pass by much more quickly.

Power Everywhere
Of course, if you’re going to have wifi from the time you board to the time you leave, that means there’s an even greater need for power. (Let’s be clear, there’s a great need for power on every airplane, but this just makes it even more important.) Every one of these new seats will have power outlets and USB ports.

There are the little things too. You know, things like fancy lighting onboard and all that. To me, this all sounds like great news. Travelers will get a cabin with full power, fast wifi, and a big screen with live TV. JetBlue has really thought through the entire experience. But it’s just not happening soon enough.

JetBlue will roll this out to its handful of “core” A321s in the second half of this year. Right now those airplanes have 190 seats, and they’ll go up to 200. (The Mint airplanes don’t change.) But it’s the 130-strong A320 fleet that really matters here. And that’s not going to start until 2017 with completion expected in 2019.

I’m hopeful that JetBlue will figure out how to dedicate the new aircraft to certain routes in a relatively quick period of time. After all, the 12 seat difference is a big one, and it’ll be hard for JetBlue to revenue manage this without some sort of dedicated fleet. But maybe that’s wishful thinking. This might just be a crapshoot for years.

I might not mind waiting so long if this wasn’t such a big change. But this cabin looks great, and I’m not patient. Come on, JetBlue. Let’s speed this thing up.

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