If I didn’t love loyalty programs so much…

…I’d always fly JetBlue domestically.

I flew from Tampa to New York today on JetBlue, and it’s the first time I’ve flown them in years. Going back a decade when they first started flying, my dad used to commute between Tampa and New York and flew them every week, and he’d always bring me home Blue Chips, so I do have a warm and fuzzy feeling towards JetBlue.

That being said, I haven’t flown them in at least five years, and all I can say is… WOW! Flying an airline like JetBlue is a completely different flying experience than flying most legacies.

I paid $40 to upgrade to their “Even More Space” seating, which features an unheard of (for coach) 38” of pitch. That’s the same as domestic first class, and it actually translates to even more legroom, since the seats don’t take up as much room as first class seats.

I’ve also been flying American so much on their 737s and 757s that I completely forgot the benefits of an Airbus 320 from a comfort perspective. Seats on the Airbus 320 are about an inch wider than on Boeing narrowbody aircraft, and that makes a huge difference when you don’t have an empty middle seat. I can sit comfortably and work on my laptop without feeling cramped. Now, SeatGuru doesn’t actually reflect that, though the seats were definitely wider.

Beyond that JetBlue has DirectTV, XM Radio, and a moving map. Now, I’d trade all that for wifi, but it’s nice to have. I mean, admit it, you wanna know in the case of 18 month old Trisha whether Joe is the baby daddy, don’t you? Or you could be like my mom and refuse to go to the lavatory until you find out the verdict in the People’s Court. Or you could be like me and completely tune out of everything else that’s going on as soon as Honey Boo Boo Child comes on the TV.

You also can’t beat real, free snacks. It might not be the healthiest stuff in the world, but a bag of Blue Chips will keep my happy till later this afternoon, so it sure is nicer than being on an airline that serves nothing in coach (though in fairness American does offer Executive Platinum members in coach free snacks and drinks).

All that being said I won’t be making the switch from the legacies to the low cost carriers. With low cost carriers you typically get what you pay for – reliable, comfortable, humane (mostly – I’m looking at you, Spirit!), friendly travel.

With the legacies, on the other hand, you rarely get what you pay for. If you’re an elite member you get a lot more than you pay for – first class upgrades, first class award tickets on Cathay Pacific, lounge access, etc. But if you’re traveling in the cabin you paid for (be it coach, business, or first class), your money is typically better spent elsewhere.

So while I almost always “push” legacies, I totally understand why the average traveler resents the legacies and will do anything they can to fly an airline that treats them well.

And one final note – it’s amazing how far you’ll get just by treating the crew with respect. Flight attendants put up with a lot. A LOT. They announce the snack selection twice on the PA, and then half of the passengers still ask what snacks they have when they get to their seat. Passengers don’t take off their headphones when the flight attendants talk to them. They don’t say “please” or “thank you,” but instead say “I want” and “get me.”

Perhaps it’s more a sad reflection of what flying has become, but it’s amazing how far just being nice gets you. I always say “please” and “thank you,” take off my headphones when the crew is trying to talk to me, and respond quickly. Just for that the flight attendant told me how nice I was and proactively offered me extra snacks (which I declined, but it was a nice gesture). Even if a crew isn’t overly friendly, I find just treating them like a human will make them smile and change their mood.

Comments

  1. cyby says

    I was so used to flying transpacs that coming back to the US to fly a legacy domestic leg just kills me. For the longest time I flew JB and VX whenever possible in the US, even though that meant hell as far as points/miles were concerned…

    I have some friends now that no longer remember free snacks and meals on domestic flights, and when they flew over to HK, was surprised to get free meals, drinks, and alcohol, even in economy! Such a sad state we’re in now…

    That much said, I second your point on treating crew nicely. A little “please” and “thank you” goes a very long way…

  2. mommypoints says

    Totally agree – I love JetBlue. They aren’t convenient for me anymore, but it is a better flying experience than coach on the legacies – especially when you don’t have status.

  3. dhammer53 says

    My first recent experience with SouthWest was more than a pleasant surprise. It won’t be long before longtime legacy flyers start flying B6, Virgin, and SW. Ha. Who’d a thought.

  4. says

    Economy comfort on Delta’s 737s are nice. They come with TV AND wifi with 4 extra inches of legroom so plenty of space. Granted TV id not on every flight but wifi iS which I prefer. And I’ll take biscoffs anyday over blue chips.

    Good to see JetBlue’s product. Can’t really fly them out of ATL so thanks for sharing.

  5. Despina says

    We flew JetBlue roundtrip SFO to LGB and loved it. Like you, we are always polite with FA’s and service was spectacular. Not only that, but the FA’s were trying to force extra snacks on all the passengers. The DirectTV was down on the way home, and they announced at the gate that we’d all get $15 off coupons. The next day the coupons arrived via email. Very impressed with JetBlue.

  6. brianna says

    I love Virgin but I vastly prefer how JetBlue handles the extra legroom thing. Personally, all I want is 36+ of legroom so I can sit without bumping my knees against the seat and work on my laptop without being chopped in half by the tray table. Virgin bundles the space together with drinks and free movies and early boarding and charges 3x – 10x the price of coach for it. While I’d happily pay $40-$100 each way for the legroom, I won’t pay $400 each way for legroom + cocktails.

  7. Mike says

    Moved to SoCal and travel up Te PAC NW often for business but not enough to realy get more than base level status. As such, JB out of Log Beach has become my favorite thing in the world. You just can’t beat the seats, entertainment and snacks. Dont forget the free piece of checked luggage if needed. F9 was like them for awhile bit now more like spirit but without the cheap prices.

  8. Dave says

    I have been addicted to ‘miles’ for a long time and most of them are with legacy carriers…..but I’ll take a flight on JetBlue or Virgin America any day of the week, if they happen to be serving the destination I need.

  9. Joseph May says

    I have status with Delta (GM&KM) but JetBlue is my alternate Airline. Their regular coach seats are more than fine and their crews are almost without exception excellent. I haven’t flown Virgin America but so far JetBlue is, in my estimation, the best domestic coach experience.

  10. Murphy says

    At almost 6’3″, I actually find JetBlue’s normal seat pitch of 34″ quite adequate, even for the transcons.

  11. Tracy T. says

    I’m so glad you wrote about this! I have a DCA-SJU trip coming up at the end of October and am deciding between flying JetBlue (never flown them before) or AA. JetBlue costs a little more, but AA requires a stop in Miami (an airport I’ve never been to). I’m only Gold with AA, so assuming I don’t get the upgrade I’d be in economy seats for both. Which would you recommend?

  12. Dax says

    I live in a city of well over a million folks but still no sign of JetBlue. When dealing with flight attendants I usually make a point of invoking every available pleasantry but that doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in the coach cabin of most airlines. Maybe it keeps the staff from throwing the drink in my face, in which case I suppose it’s working after all.

  13. lucky says

    @ Tracy — That’s a toughie, and I guess it depends on what your travel goals are. I’m still “all in” for the legacies, because at the end of the day their generous frequent flyer programs and lackluster product allow me to experience products like Cathay Pacific first class. Furthermore the fact that American has wifi on most of their fleet means I’m more productive on them. So I guess it all depends what you’re looking for.

  14. Dax says

    I know that a lot of frequent fliers groan at the thought of flying Southwest Airlines, and when it comes to services and award redemptions I agree there’s nothing to get excited about. However one thing that Southwest does better than anyone else are nonstop and (actual) direct flights. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve flown Southwest just to make my trip faster. Three hours on Southwest versus six hours on a legacy connecting through some oversized fortress hub? I’ll take the three hour flight almost every time.

    Lounge or no lounge I’ve long since lost any interest in spending extra time at stateside airports. I feel like I’ve flown from, to, or through nearly all of the larger ones at one time or another, and they’re all pretty dull in my view. I’m not sure why US airports are almost universally bland and boring, but it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. My vacations are generally pretty short in duration, so the less time I have to spend at the airport the better. For me it’s hard to argue with the “luxury” of a much quicker trip versus a much longer trip with access to a basic no-frills lounge.

  15. Lantean says

    @lucky

    also remember that when you fly jetBlue you can collect AA miles on certain routes to/from JFK and BOS. TPA is not one of them but SRQ is if you’re willing to drive… AA miles are always handy! ;)

  16. Pepe says

    The owner of JetBlue started up Azul ( Blue ) in Brazil 4 years ago. They are a huge success and the product looks very similar to JetBlue ( seats, IFE, snacks )

    They fly Embraer 190/195 and ATR´s 72 on shorter routes and in 4 years got around 10% market share of domestic Brazilian flights.

    They are based out of VCP ( Campinas), 90 kms northwest of S. Paulo.

    They announced a merger with TRIP Linhas Aereas that is subject to approval.

  17. SAN Greg says

    Like you I generally do not fly LCC’s except Frontier once in a while. But I did fly my mother from ORD to LGB even though it is farther away from where I live (near Carlsbad). The staff in LGB went the extra mile to assist her with boarding as she is older and quite frail. They were all wonderful. I’m booking her trip for next month and am bummed to find out they do not serve the route any longer. Definitely worth paying a premium price for the great service.

  18. says

    Flew American Airlines Los Angeles to New York JFK on 767 this week. Smooth flight, “Brave” available on overhead bin monitors for free. Flight attendants handed out earphones. Regular drink service in economy class.

    I sat in aisle seat on middle 3-seat section in back third of plane.AA flight attendant made gate number arrival and gate numbers for connecting flights announcements when we were arriving in Newark.

    Flew United Airlines Newark to San Francisco today. “Free earphones, take one” prominent signage as passengers walk on 737 plane.

    Video monitor on each economy seatback. Credit card swiper also on seatback. Free earphones, but fee video.

    I sat in aisle seat on plane with two 3-seat sections and center aisle 737. Passenger in middle seat. Woman in window seat pays for video.

    First half hour of 6-hour flight there is complete shutdown of video. Announcement by flight attendant rattles off a web address to get a refund.

    Never during the remaining 5 1/2 hours of flight to San Francisco does does any staff offer any kind of print version of the web address for the refund nor any other compensation for passengers who paid for video and received no service. The web address was mentioned once and I did not hear it repeated.

    As a teacher I give these flights
    American Airlines 767 LAX-JFK A-
    United Airlines 737 EWR-SFO D+

    Apparently I have not flown United since the Continental merger. I could not get my frequent flyer account credited at the airport when I realized the PR agency that bought the ticket did not have my frequet flyer account on the reservation (SPG AMEX Star sponsored flight to New York for US Open). I had my UA frequent flyer account for over 20 years and the consolidation with Continental apparently means the airport agents can’t correlate my 20+ years Mileage Plus account with the 2012 Mileage Plus account.

    I sure hope this does not mean I have to send in my boarding passes to receive frequent flyer miles. With the crappy paper they use these days the United Airlines staff probably can’t read the Boarding Pass print after 9 hours in my pockets.

    As a United 1K for several years about ten years ago, I was astounded how different my travel experience today was from my earlier travels as a consumer familiar with United for more than 20 years.

  19. N1120A says

    The seats aren’t wider – the aisle is. More leg room also gives the appearance of more room generally.

    That said, both B6 and WN have fantastic products for Y. Like you, I would fly them religiously if I didn’t have top level status on a legacy.

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