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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21 comments on “JetBlue Releases More Details About Its Coach Cabin, But The Implementation Timeline Has Slipped

  1. Hopefully the onboard product isn’t outdated by the time it’s implemented… that’s the issue with these updates – by the time they’re all in, they’re a generation behind

  2. Wi-fi from the moment you step on the plane to the time you step off is a huge selling point. Would get me to pay for the service more often. Amazing how much of a flight is spent below 10k feet…when flying domestic 2-3 hour flights anyway.

    1. There are no changes coming to the E190 fleet. (No new seats or TVs.) WiFi is being installed this year. (Started last year.)

  3. Ability to stream content from your personal device to the seat back screen? Hmm, how long until the story on CNN about the guy who refused to turn off his porn forcing the SFO-JFK flight to land at MCI and have him escorted off by the Kansas City Airport Police?

    1. This would already be a problem, since he could watch porn on his own device.

      I’d be surprised if the flight attendants didn’t have a way to turn off an individual screen.

    2. JB – I’m with Nick on this. It’s an issue with someone’s tablet just as much as it is someone’s seatback screen. You can already watch some pretty racy stuff on airline-provided content on those individual screens. (Not porn, but certainly some R rated movies.) I just don’t see it as an issue above and beyond someone doing it on a tablet.

  4. Remember when the only inflight entertainment the airlines provided on airplanes were those racks holding magazines and decks of playing cards?

  5. What surprises me the most is that this is a Thales – STV+ system, and not something from JetBlue’s former subsidiary, LiveTV.

    I’d also be curious how much weight the lack of data wiring for the screens will be saving in weight?

    That all being said, this has to be an interesting RF environment to have 200+ WiFi nodes in such as small space.

        1. I caught that after I posted my comment.

          Still in surprised it isn’t a LiveTV branded Thales system or something.

  6. How can two extra rows be better?
    Why you didn’t you mention the wonderful Space Flex Galley which the Delta pax and crews all complain about?
    Yes the IFE and Wi Fi does look great….

    1. Greeleder – Two extra rows can be better if they’re actually using more comfortable seats. Apparently their surveys say just that since this is what’s on the A321 already and it gets higher scores.

      I did mention the space-saving galley.

  7. Nice to see an airline get larger entertainment screens. I find it surprising because United Airlines is blowing smoke about how people prefer their new method of removing the entertainment systems. I got an email from United recently claiming that people are giving their new NON-Entertainment planes rave reviews, but all I heard on my flight to Orlando was how everyone saw it as United’s love to charge more for less money. People were joking that United must have an idiot for a CEO to think that people are happy to receive free peanuts in exchange for them to remove all their Entertainment systems. Then we were insulted even more when the flight attendants stated that there was an error and the free snacks had not been loaded so they only had drinks. Smooth move United.

    The problem I see with not providing Entertainment systems is most people don’t want to eat their battery’s on their personal media devices on the flight. I got an email from United, after I sent a complaint aobut their new policy where they tried to tell me that they did extensive research and found that people preferred to use their own devices rather than use an entertainment system. What a lie, or are they just trying to convince themselves?

    I see the JetBlue move to put in larger entertainment system as proof that others feel that people want these devices in the plane and do not want to use their own device. It’s surprising that United didn’t remove the Entertainment system in first class. I guess that people in first class cant afford to purchase their own personal device.

    Lets get real United is trying very hard to prove that they can be cheaper than the discount airlines and use that cheapness to pay their CEO more money.

    United I feel is now proving to the airline industry that the customer Is just an idiot that will fly with them because they have smoother ad people who will keep promising things that they will say will come in the future or that we really want this lower level of service. If they say we don’t want all those things we use to want we will start to believe that it is our decision to not want those things that we really want to have. United fails to see that when we see that JetBlue and other lower cost airlines are providing better service at a lower cost we will realize that United is really nothing more than a bunch of high priced con artists.

  8. the rear lavatories are going to be smaller than the tiny ones on the Delta 737’s that everyone is complaining about. I personally won’t even be able to fit in them to do a #2. I’ll have to wait to use a normal lav or one up front.

    1. I’d be curious to know what B6’s lav usage rate is compared to a similar stage length on a plane without TVs.. I’ve heard that those TVs can be a bit of seat glue.

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