Aviation News

September 13, 2007

Green-Strapped Blue Is Bleeding Red

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By: Phil Derner Jr.
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Photo by Melanie Rose
Photo by Melanie Rose
Photo by Melanie Rose

Photo by Melanie Rose via JetPhotos

This week, jetBlue announced that they will soon begin charging passengers for headsets ($2) and blankets, pillows and eyeshades (in a package for $5) in the coming months. In addition, there are also rumors that they want to offer meals for sale on flights to passengers for as much as $20. Seen mostly as a way of adjusting their service in the wake of the early and forecasted popularity of Virgin America, B6 is now playing catch-up.

JetBlue grabbed a very specific niche when they were born. Their attempt has always been that of reaching the average non-business, domestic-flying passenger that wants a cheaper alternative for “simple” travel. In order to reach this, they plus and minus various frills to both lower costs and keep passengers pleased.

Keeping that balance takes a lot of effort, and constant maintenance. Their original idea to find that balance was to cut meals, and add televisions to every seat. However, having technology-driven In-Flight Entertainment means upkeep and progression is needed with various advancements that come along. Though DirecTV was the bee’s knees a decade ago, bigger screens, video games, Wi-Fi and various data and electrical ports at every seat have become available, and are slowly creeping their way into aircraft, and the hearts of passengers as well.

Photo by Mario J. Craig O.D.

Photo by Mario J. Craig O.D.

JetBlue fell behind when Virgin America equipped their planes with a well-stocked electronics package in each economy seat, options previously unseen in the United States. Though there isn’t such strong competition with jetBlue just yet, VAm jumped to the forefront with that IFE while using the same aircraft types as jetBlue. With public relations for jetBlue being at an all-time low, and Virgin America being an appealing, though hardly advertised option, should Virgin America try to compete on more routes as they expand, passengers will know who to choose. Expansion that, mind you, will be at a much slower, and more reasonable speed than B6 chose to pursue.

Charging for blankets and pillows is slightly bothersome to me as well. Passengers have no control over the temperature of the environment, and they should be able to have a blanket by request should they get cold. Keep in mind that airplanes are not always the most comfortable places to be to begin with, and on flights such as red-eyes, people choose them so they can sleep during the ride, and shouldn’t have to deal with the trouble or annoyance of having to pay for a basic pillow and blanket. The eye shades are a good option that you rarely see offered to economy passengers…a must for sleeping on any airplane.

Headsets, pillows and blankets, oh my, but jetBlue still has a lot to worry about these days. If this is their only plan on repairing their poor state, as we’ve seen little else from them, then I think Terminal 5 & 6, as well as a quite a few A320s and E190s might be available very soon to those who so desire them. With that, I think Virgin America chose the A320 for others reasons.