It seems that, despite JetBlue‘s desire to not operate any airport lounges in their hub facilities there is apparently sufficient demand in their flagship JFK T5 terminal for a lounge to open. AirSpace, the company which currently operates a lounge at BWI and which is opening a lounge in Cleveland next month, will be opening a lounge inside T5; it is expected to open in May 2013.
The lounge will have many of the typical features available at airport lounges, including a bar and snacks/food. It will also have showers, quite useful for a redeye arrival or pre-flight on one of the midnight flights to the Caribbean or evening flights to Europe when Aer Lingus moves in to the terminal later this year. The lounge will be located near Gate 24, towards the end of the terminal where the international expansion construction is taking place. Not much of a surprise there, really.
The lounge lacks windows, which is unfortunate, but I suppose that can be overcome with a free drink (only 1st drink is free with the paid admission) and some food. I happen to think that T5 is one of the best terminals in the USA these days and I’m generally quite happy to sit out in the food court area rather than searching out a lounge, but it is nice to see that the option will be available for those who want it.
Check out the link to Jaunted for some renderings; I’ll see about getting in once it is open to get real world photos.
I’m not particularly interested in American Idol so I had no idea what to expect when I saw the announcement that Phillip Phillips was performing at JetBlue‘s JFK T5 terminal. To be honest, I didn’t even recognize the name. But the show was on Monday and I had the day off for President’s Day and nothing better to do so I headed out to the airport, grabbed a quick lunch and then settled in to watch the show. As they were getting set up for the performance I noticed that his band included a cellist; that was definitely a positive bit. I decided maybe this wouldn’t be all bad.
Phillips filmed a couple PR segments prior to the actual show. Not surprisingly the area was mobbed, mostly with teen and tween girls. I was quite surprised how many managed to get to the airport for the show, though it quickly became clear that most of them were JetBlue crew kids. And there were a few crew who commuted in for the show; the two women sitting next to me were flight attendants down from Boston for the day. Most impressive to me of that scene, however, was that Phillips hung out when he finished filming the promo spots and took photos with everyone there who wanted one. That was a classy move.
And, right when it was supposed to, the show kicked off. Seeing a concert in an airport terminal isn’t especially common. It is always entertaining, however. Watching the people unaware of why it is happening trying to navigate the crowds is quite amusing. And the show itself was pretty good, too. Phillips performed six songs: Hold On; Gone, Gone, Gone; Man on the Moon; A Fools Dance; Wicked Game and Home. There was another photo session after the show for VIPs at the event. I have no idea how the VIPs got that treatment but it was fun to see how excited they all were to attend the show and get the photo. I got a picture, too, though the PR folks haven’t forwarded it over to me.
Here is the video I shot of the concert. Decent, I think, given how far away I was and no tripod. Enjoy.
Definitely not your typical airport experience.
And, more importantly, ever get into a fight when you realize they paid less than you did??
A JetBlue flight en route from New York City to San Diego diverted to Denver last week when a passenger in the Even More Space section of the plane (extra legroom seats) became upset that another passenger was reseated during the flight into an adjacent seat. It seems that the passenger reassigned into the EMS seat didn’t pay the same fee as the passenger who booked it in advance. The passenger who paid became so upset, fighting with the flight attendants, that Federal Air Marshalls apparently intervened and then the plane eventually diverted to offload the passenger. No charges were filed, though the passenger had to find another way to make it to San Diego.
I hate to wonder what the passengers who actually pay for their premium cabin seats would think about me if they knew my award ticket cost so much less. Then again, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with them yelling at me, so that’s probably a good thing.
When JetBlue pulled their Go Big promo offer earlier this year they said there would be other bonus opportunities to replace it. Seems that the first has arrived in the form of the "High Five" bonus.
No fine print, no registration required, no details at all, really. Just a straight up offer of bonus points to customers showing even a smidgen of loyalty. Oh, and six one-way trips counts the same as three return trips, so that’s a nice bit, too.
Figuring that the three return flights should come in somewhere around the same price point as the $500-1000 range of the old Go Big bonuses, this 5,000 points is way better than the 1,500 you would have received for the $1,000 in spend. Of course, it doesn’t scale up the way Go Big did, but for many passengers this is a bit better. Heck, even I have a chance of getting it.
Some rather sad news from the TrueBlue folks at JetBlue to start the 2013 earning year: Two programs for earning bonus points are being dropped from their arsenal.
First up, the Go Places promo expired at the end of 2012. This was a deal which earned passengers 50 TrueBlue points for checking in on Facebook or FourSquare at the airport when traveling. I never really got in to that program but I did sign up at one point and I also got the email announcing the cutting of the offer. Not a huge loss for me personally but definitely a cut to the program.
The other cut was rather less publicized (or maybe my email was lost en route) and likely affects many more TrueBlue members: JetBlue has terminated the Go Big earning promo option. This promo earned bonus points based on a tiered base point earnings (i.e. spend more cash, earn bigger bonuses) and for customers spending more than $2000 annually on JetBlue airfare the earning potential from the Go Big offers was quite significant. Alas, it is no more. Apparently the terms were too confusing to customers:
I actually can believe that it was too confusing for customers. The tier levels were progressive which meant great for earning more as you spent more but also not the easiest to follow along and predict earning. I was actually surprised a couple years ago when a Go Big bonus posted to my TrueBlue account, mostly because there was never a good way to track the earning. I think that a relatively simple status bar – similar to what was implemented for the Mosaic elite tracking – would have solved much of the confusion but I don’t get to make that call.
I’m obviously looking forward to seeing what the replacement offer is. Hopefully something with a similar potential upside for the folks spending big bucks on JetBlue.
JetBlue is continuing to grow their operations in Boston, focusing on business markets in a big way. The carrier announced today that they will offer service between Boston and Philadelphia with five daily flights beginning May 23, 2013. This is not a small entry into a market, testing the waters to see if there will be resistance. This is a major move with the expectation that they have to show up with a solid offering or be beaten out of the market by US Airways.
Speaking of getting beaten out of the market, Southwest tried to attack US Air on this route recently. The carrier added service in June 2010 and competed with US Airways for 20 months before throwing in the towel. As of February 2012 Southwest killed the route, leaving US Airways once again as the only carrier on the route. JetBlue is no stranger to competing with an incumbent on a major business Boston route. The New York-based carrier has previously established similar service at Washington’s National airport and Newark.
The route schedule offers reasonably good timings for business travelers:
It would be nice to see one early morning flight out of Philadelphia and a later flight out of Boston – as it stands a "day trip" out of Philly is really only about half a day – but the schedule has potential. That said, JetBlue will be competing with 15-17 daily departures on US Airways. The shuttle-type service will be tough to match. JetBlue faced a similar schedule discrepancy in Washington, DC and eventually grew their operation to 10 daily flights to keep pace. The Philadelphia operation may need to grow to succeed, though it is not clear that demand exists for both JetBlue and US Airways to run "shuttle" operations on the route.
Also worth noting is that, despite the reputation of Philadelphia as a massive US Airways fortress hub, the carrier isn’t nearly as dominant there as some other airline hubs around the country. Not that the JetBlue service appears to be focusing on connecting traffic, but there could be an opportunity here. If nothing else it should help bring fares down for passengers. Currently a one-way fare in the nonstop market is $404 while return trips can be had for as low as $260 return. Even aside from the introductory $17.76 fare sale there is the opportunity for the lower one-way fares to make a big difference for both leisure and business travelers. And to cut at US Airways’ bottom line.
It is not surprising that, eventually, younger airlines have to compete on major business routes to try to win customers. JetBlue has taken a relatively conservative approach lately on this front. They’ve been somewhat selective and limited in their moves but they seem to be working as the carrier has maintained loads and yields as they’ve expanded. Still, this is a market where such an effort has been staged before and the challenger lost. It will be interesting to see if JetBlue can succeed.
Want a free trial of the online streaming media service Hulu Plus? That’s actually pretty easy to get. Just go to the website and you can get a free week of their premium service. No big deal there, really.
Want a full month of the free trial? Turns out that loyalty to an airline can get you that extra bit of free time on the trial program. JetBlue‘s TrueBlue program has partnered with Hulu and they’re giving members a full month of access to the Hulu Plus service for free when signing up through the special link.
Certainly not the most aggressive promotion ever offered but it is a nice nod to their members. Also, it is posted as a limited time offer but no indication on when it will be expiring. So get in while the getting is good if you want it.
I will admit that I was rather confused when I received an email this morning from JetBlue regarding flight change policies and Sandy. After all, the storm was a few weeks back and most affected customers had made the necessary changes already. When I read that the policy applied to flights in February I was even more confused. It isn’t often that a change fee waiver comes out 2+ months in advance of the affected dates. But that’s exactly what JetBlue is doing. Change fees (but not fare differences) are being waived for travel to or from the NYC area, including White Plains and Newburgh, between February 14-25, 2013. Those dates are when the schools in the area normally have a holiday break but, because of the extra days they were closed in November, many are cancelling that holiday this year. Passengers can also cancel their flights and convert the value of the ticket to a credit without penalties.
Very generous and very classy.
Apparently this has been around for a few months now but I hadn’t seen it previously. Now that I know it exists, however, I’m a huge fan. For customers with flexibility in their travel plan JetBlue has the ability to search for flights over a month-long period rather than the default display of only one week (which is still better than what most other airlines offer on a default search result page). Pick a city pair and month and you get something which looks like this:
Adding in the holidays is just an added bonus over the quick view of fares across the schedule. Oh, and it works for TrueBlue award redemptions, too:
Not revolutionary by any means, but a great option in the flight search interface. A very nice update to the JetBlue site. Check the tool out here: http://jetblue.com/bestfarefinder/.
I often enjoy reading economic analysis of the aviation industry. I usually feel like I’m learning something new and the nuance is generally interesting. I was quite surprised when reading an OpEd piece in the New York Times last week to uncover what would appear to be a rather ridiculous suggestion: Small and mid-size markets in the USA would benefit from foreign carriers being given permission to operate on wholly domestic routes. The basic claim is that there is insufficient competition in the market today, allowing fares to creep higher and planes to be more full. And service to small and mid-size markets is enduring the brunt of the pain; most of the "heartland hubs" (CLE, CVG, PIT, MEM, STL) have seen major capacity cuts in recent years, with their status as a hub in question. And the solution, according to Mr. Winston, is opening the skies over the USA to anyone who wants to operate here.
That is, unless policy makers do what they should have done a long time ago and allow foreign airlines, including discount carriers like Ryanair and global players like Qantas and British Airways, to serve domestic routes in the United States. Why, after all, should an industry that has ingeniously used free-market principles to squeeze the most revenue out of each middle seat be protected from competing in a real free market?
Well, we can start with the part about how that isn’t actually a "real free market" based on a lack of reciprocity in the other countries. And even if that were made available it still is an unlikely solution. Or at least not likely a good one. After all, what’s the value proposition being suggested? Apparently the key to improving the UA aviation market is to flood it with more capacity, driving down fares. But that increased supply will somehow also drive demand. Last I checked that’s not how the basic supply/demand curve works, though I will admit I dropped my Econ class after the first exam because I didn’t really like it.
There is a certain amount of discretionary travel demand which increases as fares drop below a certain threshold. I believe that number is roughly $100 each way these days. But just flooding the market with inventory to drive the fares down that low doesn’t mean that enough people will necessarily buy the seats in a volume which pays for the service. In fact, it is rare that flights operated at that discretionary demand point are profitable to the airlines at all.
Mr. Winston notes that passengers have likely saved $5bn annually thanks to Open Skies agreements between the US and Europe. Not surprisingly the airlines are trying to claw some of that revenue back, cutting service and striking joint ventures which allow them to cut costs and pool revenue and collude on prices. Are these agreements good or bad for passengers? If only measured by average fare paid then they are probably bad. But that’s not really the only metric. Look at the carriers who have gone bankrupt in the interim. For those customers – and those employees and creditors – the $5bn in annual savings means a lot of losses, not gains.
Mr. Winston also suggests that one upside of the competition is that it will help reduce unemployment:
Competition from foreign airlines would put downward pressure on wages, something that union workers may object to. But by reducing fares and expanding service, it would also increase the demand for air travel and related services — thus, presumably, creating additional jobs during a time of persistently high unemployment.
Can someone explain to me how cutting the salaries of US-based employees and creating an environment where the domestic airlines will struggle more to maintain their margins is actually going to increase the employment rates?
So if the fares are driven sufficiently low, to the point that they cannot cover the costs of operating the flights, then other airlines will want to jump in to the market, right? Certainly then Singapore Airlines will show up to operate on Sarasota – Cincinnati, making the service better and the price lower, right? That’s what is being claimed in the piece.
The reality is that opening up the US skies to foreign carriers would see those carriers do the same thing that pretty much every other start-up airline has done in recent years: cherry pick. JetBlue started by cherry picking routes between JFK and upstate New York or Florida. Virgin America has picked heavy business routes and seems to be losing a ton of capital doing so. Oh, and that’s with the fares higher now; things would be much, much worse for them were the fares depressed further.
So where can these foreign carriers make money operating in the USA? Certainly the grandmother trying to get from Sarasota to Cincinnati (his example, not mine) worried about fewer flights and higher fares won’t benefit from Qantas getting local traffic rights on their LAX-JFK flight. And even if Singapore Air could operate to Sarasota, why would they? The market demand there isn’t very high. So instead of the smaller markets getting more service the carriers who serve them today suffer from lower yields on their more profitable routes. That means they scale back the less profitable routes. So grandma gets even fewer options, not more.
Maybe easyJet or RyanAir could set up shop in the USA and make it work. But SkyBus certainly couldn’t. Maybe the others would actually serve the airports in the cities they advertise, but they often don’t in Europe. RyanAir’s idea of service Paris is an airport 60+ miles away. That’s like flying in to Trenton for service to New York City.
Competition is good. Monopolized markets are not very consumer friendly. But neither are unstable markets. A few people might win, playing in the margins, but the big picture effects of pursuing open skies on all domestic markets would be a disaster for the US economy. And for the passengers such a change supposes to help.