JetBlue CEO on the Express Beverage Service, Wifi, and, Wait, Guadalajara? (Across the Aisle, Part 3)

Across the Aisle Interviews, JetBlue

And I’m back for round 3 of my across the aisle interview with JetBlue CEO Dave Barger. The express beverage service is topic number one today, but make sure to stay for the end when talk of LA to Guadalajara surfaces. (See Part 1, Part 2)


Cranky: It’s funny you talked about the beverage service. There was a lot of discussion on the blog about the express beverage service.

Dave Clark, Director of Route Planning: I forwarded your comments to our Director of Product Across the Aisle from JetBlueDevelopment [Rachel McCarthy].

Cranky: There were a lot of comments about it. For me, it was a minor thing, but I thought that was an interesting one, because people started getting passionate about it. I was just curious if that’s something that might be revisited.

Dave Clark: Rachel and I discussed this. Is it too limited? I mean, some people on the comment board said “Southwest does a full service from Oakland to Reno, 38 minutes block time. Why does JetBlue have an express service?” Rachel and her team were really enthusiastic to get that input. I think it’s something they’re going to be looking at in more detail. I think they’re worried about consistency where we’re not halfway through the cabin and then because of turbulence, the back half of the cabin gets nothing. One of the concerns is that everyone gets something. The comments, especially in your article, now they’re going to look at it. It created a good debate in our offices.


Cranky: I realize it’s not what’s keeping you up every night Dave, but still, it’s interesting.

Dave: Well, the aspect of exceeding expectations is so important, my heritage at New York Air with 146 seats on an MD80 flying from LaGuardia to Boston and DCA with a full service. So it’s not that it can’t be done, it’s can you be consistent? And what the people really want, because people are brining more and more onboard the airplane whether it’s inflight entertainment or food and beverage. But I do think that if someone’s flying from JFK to Syracuse or San Juan to Santo Domingo or Burbank to Las Vegas, the opportunity to say “hey, I’d just like to have a Presidente beer,” I’d like to be able to satisfy that.


Cranky: You talked about IFE there, wireless is something you’re happy to be a follower right now and coming out with something good and exciting soon?

Dave: We want to have a wireless application soon. By design, we were a follower. When you look at today’s offering, for the most part ground-based and the pricing is really something that’s being powered by the supplier and the branding as well. That’s something we do a little bit differently. So I think it’s been prudent for us to first of all validate, which we did through BetaBlue, the ability to use a ground-based network, because it also told us what we couldn’t do. Think about the Caribbean.

I think the ability to be a follower and to partner with some new partners in what their capabilities could be which obviously would be satellite-based, is pretty exciting. And at the same time, if we find that we have to go a traditional path for a couple years until technology is further enhanced, we’ll do that to. I think people think of JetBlue as a leader in inflight entertainment, Brett, which gives us pause too. We have 140 choices today with the TVs, with the premium entertainment, with satellite radio. We’ve had a little bit of a people understanding, but clearly people are looking for wifi especialy on the long haul. Satisfied to be a follower right now because we’d like to leapfrog what’s out there today.


Cranky: It does help when you have LiveTV already on the plane. I’m curious about LiveTV. When I flew down from Sacramento a couple weeks ago, the plane was dark, TVs weren’t working. The captain made it sound like, I don’t know if it’s an increasingly common occurrence or if it’s something that he’s just seen a lot. Have there been reliability issues? Is that something you’re focused on?

Dave: Very much so [as a focus]. Statistically, the system is very reliable. We track a metric called dark aircraft, a metric called number of seats inop by aircraft. We track even the channels if we’re having challenges with individual channels as well. The beauty of the system is that it downloads everything into our LiveTV group so we can track the wellness of the fleet. That being said, a year ago last summer, we were absolutely not pleased with what we were seeing, but we’ve seen huge improvements in the last year. It’s interesting too. What was it? I think a lot of it has to do with new equipment we were putting into the aircraft. I don’t think we’d see JD Power 6 years in a row if we had consistent problems because it’s such a hallmark of the JetBlue brand. We’re really pleased with what we’re seeing today.


Cranky: Sorry I’m kind of digging into the weeds on some of these things, but sometimes I think it’s fun to dig in to get that high level perspective on these things. . . . I think we’re out of time. I could do this all day, of course, but you have other things to do.

Dave: I appreciate the time to talk. As I shared in Phoenix, to come out here to Long Beach and see mounds of dirt and the construction . . . I’m really excited. The airport and the economic impact, and how we can continue to invest, whether it’s commuter slots or whatever it might be, doing it respectfully. Maybe Dave [Clark] can give you some more on that. So are we gonna go to Guadalajara? It’s on tape, come on.

Brett: Guadalajara?!

Dave Clark: There’s an open authority at LAX right now.

Brett: Are you looking at that?

Dave Clark: We’re looking at continuing to accelerate our growth to Latin America, including Mexico, so part of it is knowing where we can fly. It leads to the question of an FIS [customs/immigration facility] in Long Beach. We could fly to Cabo whereas at LAX we can’t.

Brett: Very interesting. Thanks guys.

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16 comments on “JetBlue CEO on the Express Beverage Service, Wifi, and, Wait, Guadalajara? (Across the Aisle, Part 3)

    1. I’m not 100% sure for Mexico but usually each country has a certain number of frequencies to award to their airlines. So those frequencies would go to a Mexican carrier, not an American one.

    2. Nick’s right. Mexicana leaving the route means that it could open it up for another Mexican carrier but not an American carrier. Unfortunately that doesn’t matter on most routes – there’s usually empty Mexican authority on most routes.

  1. Dave: Well, the aspect of exceeding expectations is so important, my heritage at New York Air with 146 seats on an MD80 flying from LaGuardia to Boston and DCA with a full service.

    Can it be consistant? I can answer that question. NO. Serving 146 passengers in 32 minutes is not only difficult, it’s unsafe. I cant tell you how many times, during this brief flight time, that flight attendants feel pressured to get up way too early in the flight to “try” and complete this task. New York Air also had THREE OR FOUR flight attendants on the MD-80, while compared to today’s crew compliments, most B737’s and MD-80’s now only have THREE flight attendants. The segment, LGA to BOS was the hardest shuttle flight to do when it was full. ALOT of the time, NYAir flight attendants couldnt complete the “beverage” service. Heck, there were plenty of times, when the DC-9 couldnt be completed. Flight attendants were landing in the aisles, I would know. I was one of them.
    Here’s an upcoming article for you, Cranky. Does Southwest have a higher rate of On the Job injuries with Flight Attendants then other carriers? I bet they might.
    And, why does JETBLUE have an “express” service, when WN does not on a 38 MINUTE flight? It’s called, safety. (I would hope)

  2. Personally I’d rather have a cup of water early on in the flight than having to wait until X mins before landing and then getting a full service.

  3. What’s really funny about all this inflight service talk, is that are you drinking and snacking every hour of the day at home and/or work? Seems people think they should have a snack and drink for a one hour’ish flight and get mad if the airline doesn’t service anything.

    For someone who has a medical condition and needs to snack or drink something, they will be prepared and carry what they need. Everyone else can do without for an hour or so. The less food and drinks an airplane needs to have onboard would save the airline money, including saving money on fuel since less weight onboard means less fuel to carry that extra weight, so fares may not need to go up as often or as high.

    If Jetblue as an example flys a plane back and forth within California or short in and out of JFK flights, then they don’t need any food or drinks onboard. Or if the planes have a first class, then just some drinks for those higher priced ticket holders. The rest can bring their own.

    Now that I’ve said that, where’s my bag of peanuts! …..LOL

    1. Written by David SF eastbay on August 5, 2010.
      What’s really funny about all this inflight service talk, is that are you drinking and snacking every hour of the day at home and/or work? Seems people think they should have a snack and drink for a one hour’ish flight and get mad if the airline doesn’t service anything

      common sense. Imagine that. Nice post, David. I grew up in the East Bay. Great memories of Concord, Martinez, Pleasant Hills.

  4. I travel a LOT for business and if I had to choose, I would select seat-back entertainment over WiFi every time. If the plane I’m on has WiFi, I feel guilty if I don’t whip out the laptop and start doing work (after a 12 hour day). I much rather not have the ability to work and sneak in a movie or a show.

    1. I haven’t used Wifi on board planes, but is it enough to stream movies? Speaking of which, why hasn’t anyone partnered with Netflix yet for movies? Thats a co-branding gold-mine waiting to happen.

      1. It’s probably marginal for streaming movies. I’ve tried WiFi on AA twice; it was fine, but I don’t know that there’s enough bandwidth for heavy duty stuff like movies, especially if several passengers tried to download at the same time. Also, the signal cut out briefly a couple of times, which would be mucho irritating were it to occur while trying to watch a movie.

  5. At Southwest, on short flights like that which I have taken on multiple occasions, the flight attendants make an announcement saying that the flight is very short and that they will try to get your drink order in if you really need a drink on a 35 minute flight and that if they don’t get to you, head for the nearest concession at the airport on arrival. of course, all done in a lighthearted manner. and at most, maybe half the plane orders something and the flight attendants take drink orders on the ground.

    When i took JetBlue, they made an announcement about their express service and came whizzing thru to get everyone a drink without pressuring them not to. Once they were done, I asked them about their service and why don’t they take drink orders on the ground and make an announcement like SW…they were horrified and said they were not allowed to take orders on the ground and would also get in trouble for making announcements like that. She said they just need to do what’s fair for everyone onboard, to make sure everyone gets a drink and choice of snacks without anyone being left out and not having time to finish their drinks or snacks. Makes sense.

    Regarding the turbulence issue–ony my Long Beach to Vegas flights, the turbulence is ridiculous consistently. I can’t imagine the crew trying to do a full service with the plane tossing and bobbing up and down from the heat (at least that’s how the pilot explained the turbulence going in and out of Vegas).

  6. On jetBlue express flights not only must drinks and snacks be served but headphones and pillow/blanket kits have to be offered for sale. The cashless device used on board requires seven entries inputed before the credit card can be swiped. Lets call that one minute per sale and lets say ten people choose to make a purchase, that is ten minutes. F/A’s are in their jumpseats for at least five minutes during take offs and landings, that is another ten minutes. That is twenty minutes of a thirty eight minute flight expended before one flight attendant can even begin their beverage service and ten minutesgone by for the others.
    There are two express services, AM and PM. PM service is a choice of a bottle of water, Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite and a sweet and a salty snack. AM is coffee, orange juice and water plus the same snack choice. On the AM flights many people want all three beverages not to mention the special coffee orders, light…dark…milk… 1/2&1/2 and a choice of sugar, sweet and low, equal or splenda. jetBlue’s policy is all you want snacks and beverages however the clock is not sympathetic. Add to this having to sell beers and out comes the cashless device again. Dave, there comes a point when you reach “A bridge too far.”

  7. Hello,

    I enjoy your blog. I have to say that I agree that on short flights the cabin service could easily be elminated. If the traveller can’t have the foresight to drink somehting before getting on the plane then they can wait. If the traveller hasd a medical reason for having drink/food then bring something along.

  8. We need JetBlue to add LAX-GDL service. Prices have gone way up since Mexicana’s bankruptcy. There is much less competition now.

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