Continental Channels JetBlue with TV, Email

Continental, Inflight Entertainment, JetBlue

JetBlue lovers rejoice! In addition to their existing service, you can now fly JetBlue to hundreds of new destinations all across the US. When you get to the airport, it may look like you’re flying Continental on the outside, but it’ll be all JetBlue on the inside. Um, ok not really. What the heck am I talking about?

Continental announced yesterday that they’d begin equipping their domestic fleet with the same live television that JetBlue has. In addition, they’re going to roll out the somewhat-lame-but-still-useful-for-somebody Yahoo/Blackberry Email/IM service that JetBlue is testing on one aircraft right now. Ok, maybe this isn’t JetBlue, but it’s pretty close, and in some ways even better, as you can see below.

08_01_30 jetbluecomath

You won’t have JetBlue legroom, and you will have to pay $6 to watch TV (free in First Class), but you will get the best onboard product of any network carrier in the US. And yes, Continental will still serve you a meal on the long hauls. Take that, JetBlue.

Of course, this move isn’t squarely aimed at JetBlue, even though they do have a great deal of overlap in the New York area. At least, JetBlue must not think this is a direct shot at them, because they own the company that’s selling the technology to Continental. They must think that Continental is more focused on continuing in their role as the undisputed leader among network carriers in terms of overall experience. Continental usually wins awards for being the best (though we know how much I hate vague awards like that), and this should only help cement their standing.

The details of this are pretty simple. Unlike Delta, which is only outfitting some of each aircraft type with their live television system, Continental will put it on all next generation 737s (-700, -800, -900) and on the 757-300s. Since the 757-200s are now part of the international fleet, they will not have this product and neither will the 777 and 767 aircraft. That’s good, because this only works over land, so it would be a useless box over water. I believe the overwater fleet is getting audio/video on demand at some point.

Besides the Express fleet, the only ones left out are the 737-300s and -500s. To be fair, that’s a pretty big chunk of the fleet. Airfleets.net says that they have 108 that won’t be outfitted with the new system and 170 that will. Of course, the old generation 737s are used primarily on shorter routes while the next generation ones go on the longer runs, so that makes sense. The good news is that you will be able to look at your aircraft type when you book, and barring a substitution, you’ll know if you get it or not. At least, that’ll be the case by next January. Until then, it’ll be luck of the draw as they work to outfit the entire fleet.Actually, you won’t have to worry about it until a year from now when they start installation.

I assume that the email/IM capabilities will be installed at the same time. It’s unfortunate that they haven’t decided to go with a full internet solution, but that’s what happens when you go with LiveTV. At least it’ll be free.

Really, the worst part of this whole announcement is that Continental doesn’t fly to very many places from LA, so we don’t get much of a chance to try them often. This definitely widens Continental’s lead at the top of the standings from a customer point of view. Nice work.

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9 comments on “Continental Channels JetBlue with TV, Email

  1. A better comparison would be to Air Canada, since it is another network carrier with varying aircraft types. Of course AC decided to do on-demand and it is across the entire fleet.

  2. According to what I’ve read, the LiveTV will only be free in BusinessFirst, and not in coach. It will cost $6 for people flying Economy to watch the TV.

    Reason being that the investment of the TV is going to be primarily from LiveTV and all the money from it goes to LiveTV.

  3. I just flew Continental round trip from my med school in the Caribbean to LAX for a wedding. I know that generic awards don’t tell the whole story about an airline, but I did feel compelled to share how impressed I was with Continental. It was the first time (in hundreds of flights) that I have flown Continental, and I was so pleasantly surprised and impressed with their level of service, friendliness, and attitude that I may very well be hooked! They just had an overall positive “aura” about them and it was a nice change from the usual flights I’ve taken on my regular carrier.

    Highlight of the trip: they used a 757-200 for the red eye from LAX to EWR with the BusinessFirst product installed (I was flying first because it only cost $200 more than coach when I booked). I wasn’t sure if they usually used this aircraft (they didn’t when I was flying to LAX from EWR the previous weekend), but if they do, it makes it quite a relaxing trip. Plus, boarding Continental at LAX was so super easy – there was NO line at security (regardless of having a First class ticket) and the Business lounge was very relaxing, clean, and had a great view outside.

  4. So I’d guess LiveTV’s/JetBlue’s calculation boils down to: “we can sell it to them, and get some money off of it, even though it helps our competitor compete against us. Either that or they can buy Panasonic and have a similar service and no extra money for us.”

    LiveTV always seems like a weird subsidiary for JetBlue. I get that they bought them initially to make sure they’d have the product available and their competitors couldn’t get it. But if you’re selling it to competitors anyway?

    Cranky, do you think with JetBlue’s new management and liquidity situation an IPO of LiveTV is in the cards? (I don’t know financially what LiveTV’s position is, perhaps it is a nice cash flow generator?)

  5. I’m glad to see someone else is disappointed in the “internet” offering that CO has chosen to pursue. The fact that 99% of email accounts will not be accessible via this solution and only Yahoo Mobile content will be available, severly limiting the utility of the “internet” though at least CO will be givingit away for free.

    Also, they aren’t starting the deployment of the new system until January 2009, with completion expected by the end of 2010. And the older planes will have the “internet” offering, but no TVs. It is not clear if they will have the XM radio offering ot not.

    Yeah, this is a step forward, but still not a great offering for anyone trying to get work done online during a flight.

  6. Thanks Seth – I definitely messed up on the installation timeline. It’s been fixed now.

    Nicholas – I really wouldn’t know if an IPO is in the cards. That would certainly be one way to raise cash if they needed it, but that’s what the Lufthansa investment was for. They shouldn’t be desperate unless they think it will start losing value as the product becomes more of a commodity.

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