JetBlue Introduces Boring Buy on Board Meals

JetBlue, Meals

You know JetBlue for their blue chips, but now they’ve decided to beef up their offerings. The airline quietly started launching buy-on-board meals this week Nuclear Salamiand the result is underwhelming to say the least.

Let’s make one thing clear. The ample selection and large variety of snacks will stay. That’s not changing at all. But there are some people who want something more substantial, so that’s the point of these meals, which cost $6 a piece and are available on A320 flights of over 3 hours and 45 minutes. You would think that an airline like JetBlue would go with something different and exciting, but you’d be wrong. They’ve gone with shelf-stable crap.

There are five different “meals” and only two (maybe one and a half) look even remotely healthy. Even those aren’t exactly appealing. Here’s my list, in order, of the ones that I’d be tempted to try.

Shape Up
This is what they’ve decided passes for something healthy. It includes pita chips, hummus, raisins, almonds, fruit crisps, and snack mix. Is this healthy? Somewhat, but I’d imagine that some of this stuff is, as a friend calls it, “salty death mix” with a healthy look and feel. I’d rather stick with the free cashews, blue chips, fruit crisps, and cookies that they’ll still hand out.

Cheer Up
They have wine on board, so why not have fruit and cheese as well? Delta actually does a good job with that, but then again, they actually have fresh fruit and tasty cheese. JetBlue is going with dried fruit and what I assume to be shelf-stable Swiss, Smoked Cheddar, and Hot Pepper. Not exactly inspiring at all.

Power Up
After the Cheer Up package, this drops off a cliff pretty quickly. Power Up has chips and salsa, some beef jerky, and some pretzels with dip. If they serve this, they better have that drink service going nonstop, because the salt in these will make you thirstier than a ramp agent in Phoenix in July.

Wake Up
For those who want breakfast, you can pretend by ordering this drek. Yep, a croissant in a bag served with jam and butter alongside a Dole fruit cup, chocolate milk, and . . . Cheez-Its? Who decided Cheez-Its were breakfast food? This one is enough to make you ill.

Beef Up
The clear winner (loser?) in the race for the worst meal is this one. Start with what we used to call “funny salami” as a kid (that stuff that would outlast Twinkies in a nuclear blast), add in some crackers and bagel chips, and finish it off with two types of cheese “spread” and some fruit crisps to give it the appearance of being healthy and you’ve got nastiness. I remember when Southwest used to give out something like this on their long hauls, but they’ve stopped, I believe. Probably because it’s awful.

So, really JetBlue? Is the best you can do? I know that people like crap, but you guys don’t usually seem to stoop to this level. I’ll be curious to see if enough people pay for this to make it worthwhile. I certainly won’t.

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52 comments on “JetBlue Introduces Boring Buy on Board Meals

  1. Amen. People who cannot settle for snacks because they need something more substantial (and maybe ran out of time at the airport) should have at least one healthy thing. I’m thinking about diabetics, the elderly, older children, other illnesses, or dietary restrictions. I’d much rather Jetblue and others come to their senses on their own, but I wonder if this is begging for an ADA challenge?

  2. Thanks, CF. Your description of JetBlue’s “Cheer Up” box and the dried fruit it contains brought back flashbacks of the dried apricots I found in my US Airways snack box last month (US now knows what to do with their old landing gear tires– it’s called recycling!). Yuck!

    To be fair to US, everything else in the snack box was pretty good. And unlike JetBlue, no beef jerky (thank goodness)!

  3. Yeah, it’s all pretty bad.

    I guess JetBlue wasn’t ready to make the leap into perishable items, which I can understand. These boxes could fly around in the galley for months and be no worse for wear.

    …and I imagine that to be the case, as I see no reason to pay $6 for items that are very similar to what is provided gratis.

  4. Seriously people, ya’ll take too much offense to what an airline ATTEMPTS to do. Yes, they are just “boring ole’ snackboxes,” but amazingly enough, what you armchair CEOs won’t pay for, the leisure traveler and their children, who haven’t flown in their entire life, WILL buy it.

    Just like pillow and blanket packs. They are sold, and Jonny Never Jets buys it for $7 and like a moron, leaves it on the plane, even after being told it is his to keep. And on the next flight, Mr. Never Jets buys it again.

    Shocking…that’s $14 in extra revenue because people can and WILL buy these things.

    I agree, it’s not to JetBlue standards, but seriously, do you think 1 sandwich option on AA with a bunch of chips, nuts and cookies that are NOT free are actually any better, especially when they run out by row 15?

    Eat the free stuff…no skin off the airline’s back…is Continental getting bashed now for getting rid of their free cheeseburger in Economy and joining the BOB ranks? If you want it, pay for it. This isn’t a restaurant nor a hotel.

    1. I’m told that they are selling some of them but they haven’t given me details. My guess is that this isn’t selling well in a place like JFK where you can get great food in the terminal. But in Long Beach? Yeah, there aren’t many other options.

      I’ve tried some of this food on other airlines (they’re using vendors that do this for other airlines as well). But tonight I was the Long Beach Chamber gala and the JetBlue guys had a table. I’ve been invited for a five course tasting of all five boxes, so I’ll have to head on over and report back (assuming my blood pressure doesn’t go through the roof!)

  5. Has this blog overnight become CrankyFoodCritic? It’s friggin’ airline food from a company that’s in the business of transporting people in an aluminum tube across the country at super high speeds. Last I checked, I can still provide my own carefully selected food of choice whenever I travel and don’t feel like junk food. I mean, seriously … ADA challenge??!!

    1. If an article or blog post doesn’t suit my interests I simply skip it rather than comment.

      But since you mentioned it – movie theaters, baseball stadiums and concert venues aren’t known for being in the business of food, but a huge portion of their revenue comes from concession purchases. Similary airlines make revenue on ancillary sales, which makes discussing the quality of the product they’re selling more than topical.

      1. At least airlines still let you bring your own food on board. Unlike Skybus did, so you don’t have to worried about it if you plan ahead.

        A few weeks ago on CNBC they spent a week on a cruise ship, NCL I believe. While a weeks cruise is still a decent price and they still feed you as part of your ticket price, all the big lines now have added other restaurants that you paid for a gourmet meal or even for a Burger King meal. It’s all to get the ancillary sales since the actual cruise price isn’t how they make their money. Where they make their most money is bar sales, and shore excursions. They get like 50pct of the shore excursion cost and don’t have to do anything except show you a pamplet and sell you a ticket.

        So while people may not like it, airlines are no different in selling your the extras, but people still like getting value for their money. What is killing people is having to pay for things that used to be part of the ticket price. Many can’t get past that and feel like they are being taken advantage of, and if the price it to high for these added fees, they are being taken advantage of.

      2. @James — And how’s that great innovative health food that those movie theaters, ballparks and concert venues sell? Last time I looked at the food offering at my local multiplexes, it was popcorn, nachos with “cheese” (probably yellow-colored BP oil), boxes of candy and hot dogs that had spun on those heaters for probably 10 hours.

  6. All of them together don’t sound like they are worth $6.00. As someone who has flown transcon on an airline that didn’t serve food unless you bought it, I just planed ahead and brought items from home.

    But as the big shots will tell you, people who are hungry will buy it no matter what and that’s what they plan for.

    1. Are they worth $6.00? How much is that popcorn at your local movie theater worth? Or the beer at the ballpark? It’s worth whatever people will pay for it. Seems from follow-up posts that they sell quite a few boxes so far.

      1. High Five, Oliver!!

        Exactly. You’ll buy a FIVE DOLLAR coffee in the airport, but, Six Bucks for shelf food items??? How is that outrageous?
        Should Jetblue load 40 FRESH MEALS on one flight and realize that only 7 people wanted meals. Having to THROW AWAY 34 MEALS??? You cant resell them on another flight. I’ve seen entire meal carts full of meals going transcon arrive at it’s destination, all off loaded because NO ONE wanted to buy them. That’s LOST REVENUE.
        Let’s face it, the flying public is CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP. Jetblue is SMART to offer “something” in line with it’s competitors. Enough said.

  7. Of all these, the Cheer Up would be healthiest, IF it was real chopped up fruit in a plastic bowl, and not the dried fruit that is loaded with sugar and preservatives. I don’t find that “fruit” the least bit healthy, and to my body it acts more like candy.

    I’m a type 1 diabetic, so having food on hand during long stretches is equally as important as carrying my blood sugar meter and insulin. I buy the occasionally BOB box, but for the most part I keep my own tiny little pantry in my travel bag which allows my to eat on my own schedule and not the flight’s feeding time.

    I keep oatmeal packets, which area a great snack and all you need is hot water, nuts, raisins, crackers and/or powerbars. Before leaving I grab some fresh fruit, (apples and bananas – also great with oatmeal,) and I’ve even found non refrigerated cheese. I always keep cold cooked chicken in the fridge, and will grab some to have a few hours later or mid day if early flight. (Perfect with mustards.)

    My choice anyway – beats paying $7+ or a a pungent bag of soggy McDonald’s fries.

    Regarding the ADA comment? I take care of myself, and wouldn’t expect an airline to have real food on hand anyway.

    1. Re: DC and James

      …and james hits the nail on the head. Nowadays, it’s safe to assume that food on a domestic flight, if it even exists at all, is pretty much junk. That fact ain’t news – airplane food has been a mainstream joke for years! When you buy a ticket from an airline, you’re buying travel – not the right to absolution of all responsibility to take care of yourself. Last I checked, most foods seem to make it through security (just steer clear of those oh-so-threatening cherry pies…), so you’re always welcome to bring your own snacks if the ones on the plane are inadequate (as I mentioned, that’s probably a safe assumption). If there are things you need to make it through a flight (snacks, allergen-free foods, medication, etc.), then it’s ultimately your own responsibility to bring those with you, and not the airline’s responsibility to anticipate each of the massive range of conditions/allergies that could possibly exist among their passengers.

  8. CF, help them brainstorm then. What would be a better snack, while staying within the constraints of being relatively non-perishable?

    It’s easy to criticise.

    1. I’m assured that this is just a first step and they will be moving into better things eventually. But I like the oatmeal idea for breakfast. Not sure if they have milk onboard, but cereal would work well too.

      While fruit is perishable, things like apples will last longer than a couple days. They should be able to at least keep that onboard. Gimme a PB&J and I’m in heaven too.

      The issue of cost and ease of distribution is a big problem, of course. But I’ve come to expect JetBlue to provide a better product.

  9. I thought these dreadful snackpacks were long dead, but if people buy them, why the hell not. Do B6’s 320s or 190s have ovens onboard? I’m guessing no.

  10. Feeding the masses is not something airlines have done well, especially since the advent of “low cost carriers” in a post 9/11 environment. I remember the meals served in coach at Alaska Airlines, the trays even adorned with prayer cards. The food was actually pretty good. Those days are long gone. Added to the fact that Americans are fixated on low cost junk food (just look around you) then it’s easy to see why Jet Blue and others aren’t too concerned about quality. We Americans eat more junk food on the ground than any other society – why not continue the tradition at 550 mph?

  11. I hope everyone realizes the every decision Jetblue makes is based on customer feedback. This is why at least 6 customers from every flight receive a survey after completing a trip. While I TOTALLY AGREE that the snack boxes are not typical of Jetblue’s standards and they are not worth $6, please keep in mind that Jetblue was simply providing what customers asked for. If you are displeased with the MANY offerings that Jetblue provides PLEASE CONTACT and let them know. They are great with customer feedback.
    They recently started stocking Presidenté beer and Plantain Chips due to customer feedback on Domincan Republic flights. They also are now carrying Blue Moon and Fosters due to customer feedback.
    Also, keep in mind Jetblue does not have refridgeration capabilities because that is not how their Airbus 320’s were configured. This limits the options for Buy-Onboard food sales tremendously.
    On the sales side: Yes, the SnackBoxes are selling quite well! I would say about 18-20 snack boxes are sold on each flight carrying 150 customers. This is a lot considering Jetblue offers so many snack items for free already.
    I hope this was helpful. :)

    1. Those plaintain chips are good too. But wait, somebody actually asked for Fosters?!? Clearly no Aussies were involved!

      Thanks for the info – good stuff.

  12. Entertaining post CF, these options really are truly awful, though I suppose if you are desperate you might take the plunge. It seems from reading the replies above Jetblue has some constraints to what they can provide. The big problem is that the food options at most US airports are so poor that there is so little healthy food you can take on the plane. Then it wouldn’t matter what the airline offers. A nice healthy sandwich would be nice, is that too much to ask?

  13. In case of nuclear war, jetBlue with it’s non-perishable rations will be my airline of choice to fly over the apocalypse; however in the meantime, I think I’ll stick with my new favorite, Virgin America, when traveling to California from NYC.

    1. Totally agree. Laughing out loud while reading it at DFW. And, by the way, talk about a place that’s hard to find healthy food…that’s DFW. Would you like Wendy’s, Manchu Wok, McDonald’s, BBQ, or ice cream for lunch?

  14. It’s an airline not a f’n restaurant. If you have that many issues eat before hand or bring your own meal. Regardless of anything most of you will always be pathetic cranky fliers that can never be pleased. Your pleasure only comes from bitching. Obviously there are logistics and costs involved to deliver the 3 course meal you are looking for. Jetblue should just become a non profit airline…flying and feeding everyone for free. Would that please all you narcissistic bitching passengers who only want MORE MORE MORE and care about ME ME ME. Probably not.

  15. I fully get the whole idea that its an airplane not a restaurant, but I expected something more interesting and innovative from JetBlue. At least their names are something interesting.

    But seriously, take a queue from Starbucks: Breakfast=Oatmeal. Keep it instant and just add hot water. They could even have it prepacked in the serving bowl.

    That being said the Power Up option seems reasonable innovative.

  16. Good for you Tony flying on Virgin America. Way to take a swipe at b6. I’m sure b6 is crying right now. I wonder how that Tornoto thing is working for VA. How many cities were they suppose to open this year……5. And so far only one opened and one was pushed. And b6 is opening up 4 right on schedule. After my experience with VA, I’m sticking with jetblue. The prices and legroom, and entertainment selection is by far better.

    1. Virgin America said it was going to launch 3 more cities this year besides Toronto which started yesterday and Orlando in the fall. But since we are a week away from July they better get those plans lined up an announced so they can start selling tickets for them.

      1. Don’t hold your breath on VA opening up many new cities. With Toronto and Orlando, I’ll bet they only open just one more (best case scenario). I’ve flown them and don’t like the first class seperation thing. But that’s just me.

    2. The beauty of the free market; we can make our choices based on the things we want. For my dollar, the cross country experience is better on VA than any of the other carriers flying New York-Los Angeles. Personally I do sometimes depart without eating, and I’d like a decent choice of by on board food for a 5.5 hour flight, as well I prefer a dimmer more ambient cabin, and I use “GoGo” pretty much on every trip.

      Because VX has these particular offers, and B6 doesn’t it just makes it a better value for MY dollar.

      Now in markets that are not served by VA, guess what? I still have to fly, and in those cases if jetBlue serves that market, it would still be my first choice.

      No B6 won’t shed a tear over one person no longer patronizing one of their routes, however if there are more who feel the same way, it would certainly raise interest on what their competitors are offering. My comment was not a personal slander on jetBlue, it’s just their product simply is not inline with my personal demands at this time.

  17. Wait, so now its “whiny” if you point out that a particular product offered by a company isn’t worth it? Then whats the point of reviewing anything? Yes, providing food is not the main business of airlines, but any company that offers ancillary products above and beyond their main series of products

    Honestly what really undermines food during travel is the insistence of using the handful of large concession companies for every airport and airline. While I understand scale and reliability are two of the things that such large customers are looking for, it also undermines anything near approaching local flavor. Why, no matter how far I travel, I’m greeted by the same poor choices of food and retail options? I get that they have a captive audience but this is ridiculous.

    1. @Sean S. — have you been to SFO? Lots of local food providers.

      But I agree, the selection at most airports is not very good and doesn’t reflect local flavors. The same, of course, is true of other places where fast food is present (say, near major freeways).

  18. Since this is something new for them, things will chance. It’s the paying public who will decide if the offerings are good or bad. Once they see how it goes, they will changed their selections. No airline or restaurant will keep something on the ‘menu’ if no one is going to buy it.

    It’s kind of funny, as nothing on their new menu sounds good, but how many of us has ever purchased one of those mystery sandwiches from a vending machine before because we were starving and that was the only choice….lol

  19. @Oliver the international terminal at SFO is extremely limited on food options, especially at night when most redeye flights are departing. This also happens to be Jetblue & Virgin Americas terminal.
    Even the food court outside of security only offers diner food & Chinese. Not anything healthy.

    1. I don’t know what the situation is like on the secure side of the international terminal, but there are actually two food courts outside security and from the SFO web site it looks like most of the places are open until at least 11pm.

      Most of my SFO meals are inside Terminal 3 during layovers while flying on United, and am pretty happy with my options that include Boudin Bakery, San Francisco Soup Company and Japanese and Chinese restaurants. It’s certainly a lot more appealing than the same national chain operations (Burger King, Quizno’s, Pizza Hut) franchised by HMSHost that dominate airports around the country.

  20. As someone who looks after Ancillary Revenue for an airline (not Jetblue), I can tell you they are simply selling what has been asked for. Nothing is added to the menu without extensive testing, feedback and most important facilities on board and how it can be administered. I have no doubt these are probably doing OK sales wise on board as Jetblue of all airlines are very Guest focused and would not add anything unless requested.

    Is the food crap; yes. Could more healthy alternatives be added; yes. Will the Guest pay for a healthy alternative if offered; not so many but a few I’m sure. We introduced Muesli (Granola) Bars on board, and we still have them, but sales wise it’s horrid! But they are light, take up little space and always available if requested. Sometimes it’s just good practise to offer an alternative to the minority (key word here as we have to cater for the masses and unfortunately the masses dictate ‘crap’ rules)

    Why does ‘crap’ rule; probably because people feel like they are on holidays and it’s time to relax which means eating habits relax too. There is lot’s of reasons really but I have no doubt the focused groups selected and/or approved these items for Jetblue.

    Ancillary Revenue is not always about squeezing every last cent out of a Guest, it’s about finding a product that your guest want and are willing to pay for, or in some cases (not so much today) an add on product/service to enhance the Guest experience.

  21. You wait and see. We are mocking it now, but watch how much money the company will pull in with these things. Pillow and blanket sets and headsets. We all laughed when we said, we’ll bring our own. But I’ll bet the company makes over $50 million alone a year on all those things alone. Forget the money they make with liquor and movies too. They will make a lot, no matter what our opinion.

  22. Honestly, I just flew on a Jetblue flight from LGB – FLL and they didn’t sell anything close to 18-20 boxes. “TheApproach” must be an employee of Jetblue that is blueberrying us without all the facts. Maybe “TheAprroach” means 18-20 snack boxes a day fleet wide! Also, I should mention that I was seated in row 25, so I know what left and came back from the galley.

  23. Yes, I am an employee. Not like I’m trying to hide it. You could have just asked me. ;o)
    I am simply reporting my crews personal sales.
    I do not work FLL flights.
    To be fair, sitting in row 25 doesn’t mean you can monitor everything that happens on an airplane holding 150 people. There is more than one galley.
    True, I’m sure there are flights that don’t sell any at all. I agree.
    Point being, if you are upset with the choices by all means please tell Jetblue. That is the only way to be heard and as I stated before they are great with customer feedback….that is, afterall, why they started offering the snack boxes in the first place.
    Have a great day! :)

  24. Here is an idea, be responsible for yourself and bring your own food, blanket and headphone. The airline is not your Mother, grow up.

    1. Most people prefer to be responsible for themselves. Even people with special needs. If you’re thinking purely of most people during normal operations, you’ll miss the point. What about an elderly person traveling from BTV to LGB via JFK. They booked plenty of time in JFK to buy a sandwich. WHat if they lose that time to delays? If you really hate government or legal intervention so much, shouldn’t we agree that Jetblue should put 10 more minutes of thought into what they offer? Once you start accepting money for food, the rules change.

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