JetBlue will take off in a new direction Sunday when the discount airline launches a front-of-the-plane premium service that will include lie-flat beds and tapas-style meals on flights between Los Angeles International Airport and New York's John F. Kennedy International.
It will be the first time the airline will include premium seats on its flights. But in keeping with its low-fare roots, JetBlue will substantially undercut the pricing of similar service offered by rivals.
"The business is the driver," said Lisa Borromeo, JetBlue's marketing director. "We are seeing all if not most of our competitors adding or marketing a premium product."
United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines all offer first class on their transcontinental flights.
Michael Boyd, chairman of the Colorado-based aviation consulting firm Boyd Group International, said it was a smart move on JetBlue's part to secure one of the most lucrative routes in the country.
"They have a huge brand following in the New York area -- they are like JetBlue groupies," Boyd said. "This gives them access to a large part of New York traffic but doesn't hurt the economy seats."
JetBlue will have 16 of the so-called Mint seats, including four private suites on its Airbus A321 aircraft. Initially there will only be one flight a day between LAX and JFK. A second flight will be added in July. The airline has no immediate plans to offer premium service out of Long Beach Airport, Bob Hope Airport in Burbank or San Diego International Airport.
The airline plans to have seven LAX-JFK Mint flights daily by the end of the year. Premium service between San Francisco International Airport and JFK will begin in October.
Among the amenities will be free Wi-Fi, 22.3-inch wide seats -- the widest on average in the U.S. market -- 15-inch flat screen TVs with up to 100 channels of DirecTV programming, 100-plus channels of SiriusXM radio and dual 110-volt power outlets with two USB ports at every seat.
Premium fliers will get a pre-departure drink, followed by a cocktail and tapas-style appetizers once airborne. Mint passengers will be able to customize their meals, choosing among five offerings, and also will receive customized men's and women's amenity kits by Birchbox.
Initial fares will be as low as $599 one way. That's a major edge over the competition, which charges as much as $5,000 for premium service.
"This is JetBlue's first move to change their value formula with a new two-tier class," said Tom Parsons, who runs the website bestfares.com. "They decided, 'If we are going to do it, we're going to do it right.' "
He said there has been high demand for the LAX-JFK seats, with only one or two left on each flight over the next few months.
George Hobica of airfarewatchdog.com said JetBlue is outdoing the competition in many respects.
He noted the Mint service provides a window and an aisle seat. While American offers a similar configuration in first class, United and Delta don't. He said the meals, which will be provided by the New York City-based restaurant Saxon + Parole, also appear more interesting than the fare offered on other airlines.
Other travelers also may benefit from JetBlue's entry into the premium transcontinental market. Hobica said other airlines appear to be lowering their fares for their premium class.
"I booked a fare on American Airlines that was half the usual price in business class," he said.
Hobica said the one place JetBlue falls short is that it doesn't have a free lounge at the airports for its premium customers.
Although Mint is aimed at the high-end traveler, economy customers also are in for some improvements. JetBlue's Borromeo said the airline is installing better seats in economy, Wi-Fi will be available to all passengers, and the economy section will have a food bar, where travelers can help themselves to free beverages and snacks.
Contact the writer: 714-796-3646 or firstname.lastname@example.org
(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Visit The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) at www.ocregister.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
Most Popular Stories
- Criminal Investigation Opened Into James Foley's Death
- Is Diversity in the Eye of the Beholder?
- Apple Stock Bounces Back Big Time
- 'Mythbusters' Build Team Gets the Boot
- Investors Betting on ECB Stimulus Measures
- Jennifer Lopez Would Marry Again
- Florida Judge Rules in Favor of GOP Voter Map
- Mo'Ne Davis a Big Winner Despite Loss
- Hackers Get Homeland Security Employee Records
- DHS Warns Retailers About Malware in Cash Registers