Back in March I posted about JetBlue’s announcement at an investor’s meeting that they’d be adding premium seating on their transcontinental flights between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco sometime next year.
JetBlue already offers “Even More Space” seating, which I’d say is almost on par with the first class products offered by many airlines domestically. So my first thought was that maybe they would offer a product similar to that of European airlines in business class, where they block the middle seat and have an enhanced meal service. That would make sense, since it would allow them a lot of flexibility in terms of meeting demand for their premium product.
Boy, was I off. Way off. Via APEX, JetBlue seems to have totally different plans:
“The cabin proposed for the Jet Blue Airlines A321 (U.S. operator) is a two class layout, with 16 business class seats and 143 economy class seats (159 passengers),” says Airbus.
“The Business Class includes 4 single seats that are ‘mini-suites’ types. These mini-suites consist in a seat with surrounding furniture’s, intending to provide privacy to the occupants. Typically, the complete closure of the single mini-suites is possible by means of a sliding element, moving parallel to the aircraft longitudinal axis.”
I had to read that about a dozen times before I believed my eyes. So it seems JetBlue plans on installing 16 business class seats, four of which will be mini-suites with doors. I was first shocked when I read they’d have 16 business class seats, but even more shocked when I read that they’d have two types of business class.
So if JetBlue follows through with this they’ll probably have the most premium product in the market, even better than American’s A321s. It’s a bit ironic, because they’re going from having the least “premium” product in the market to potentially having the most premium product, while United eliminates first class on the route altogether.
But I can’t help but think they’re missing the mark here and should stick to the core of what they do well. Southwest, JetBlue, etc., are doing well because they run a lean, consistent operation. Conversely, Virgin America kind of tries to go after all parts of the market, and they still haven’t turned a profit.
The thing is that even if JetBlue did have the best premium transcontinental product, I don’t think they could make it work profitably. On one hand they have an opportunity to steal market share from United, which is cutting first class on the route, but at the same time could JetBlue ever pick up a Hollywood contract, if for no other reason than their reputation (not that they have a bad reputation, but just not one for a premium airline)? They don’t have a lounge or anything, so unless they add that they’re really still not competitive.
In the back of my mind I wonder whether this has something to do with JetBlue’s partnerships with some premium airlines, like Emirates, Lufthansa, Qatar, and Singapore. Do they think they’ll pick up traffic from passengers connecting in New York? I can’t imagine that’s the case when Emirates, Lufthansa, and Singapore already fly directly to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and I have to imagine Qatar would still choose American over JetBlue for codesharing to the west coast given that they’ll join OneWorld soon.
To sum it up, WTF JetBlue? Can anyone make more sense of this than I can?