IzziD travel logo

Topics

Home

Air Travel

Misc

About

Other IzziDs

IzziDassorted

IzziDcode

IzziDwetlab

IzziD

A review of JetBlue Airways

Article created: Jul 01, 2007
Article by: Jeremiah Faith
Summary: JetBlue offers a clear ticket policy, no overbooking, comfortable planes, lots of leg room, a TV for every seat, quality snacks. Unfortunately, they offer few destinations unless you live in either Boston or New York, and their frequent flyer program is not the best. Despite their problems, JetBlue is by far the best value in air travel, and I fly JetBlue whenever possible.

JetBlue airways was founded as a low-cost airline in 1998. Contrary to the common low-cost airline model, JetBlue was determined to provide both low prices and conveniences often found only in first class such as leather seats, ample leg room, and a TV for every seat. JetBlue is not the cheapest airline operating in the US, but a combination of low prices and quality service makes JetBlue the best value in modern commercial airlines.

The Good

the tickets

JetBlue offers a no-nonsense ticket. There aren’t fourteen types of tickets, each with different policies. JetBlue offers one type of ticket: it’s single-class, nonrefundable, you choose your seat when you buy the ticket, and your seat is guaranteed because they do not overbook. JetBlue focuses on selling direct flights, which means that you are unlikely to spend your entire day hopping from airport to airport (though increasingly they are allowing the purchase of these multi-stop tickets too). Although all JetBlue tickets are non-refundable, the cancellation fees are lower than those for non-refundable tickets at other US domestic carriers. As of this writing, the cancellation or change fee for a JetBlue flight is $25 for each flight (so changing an entire round trip will cost $50). Unlike most US carriers, JetBlue tickets are actually sold as one-way tickets (for most of the major US carriers, buying a round-trip is almost always cheaper than buying a one-way ticket). This feature makes it easy to make more complex scenarios like flying Boston -> New York -> Orlando -> Boston.

the planes

One of the ways JetBlue is able to keep their operating costs low is by only buying new airplanes (which require less maintenance) and by keeping the number of different airplane types in their fleet low (so they don’t need a crew of mechanics to fix fifteen different types of airplanes). Initially JetBlue only operated A320 airplanes from Airbus. The A320 is generally regarded as the most comfortable airplane for domestic flights. They have the typical 3 seats - aisle - 3 seats configuration found in the 737.

JetBlue offers only one class of seating - comfortable. If you’ve never flown JetBlue, one of the first things you’ll notice is how much leg room you have compared to other airlines. Sure the leather chair and the TV are nice, but the extra leg room is what makes flying JetBlue comfortable.

More recently JetBlue purchased and began operating a new type of aircraft - Embraer 190. These smaller planes allow them to provide direct flights to more destinations. I was a little worried when I heard JetBlue was buying smaller planes, as I’m not a big fan of being crammed into a small airplane. But I’m happy to say, that I actually prefer to fly in the Embraer 190 planes over the A320. The new planes seat 100 passengers as opposed to 150 on their large plane. But essentially all they’ve done on these littler planes is remove all of the middle seats. The plane feels pretty big inside, is at least as comfortable as the larger A320, and doesn’t have the uncomfortable middle seat that everyone avoids.

the TVs

One of the first things people notice on a JetBlue flight (and the reason many people fly JetBlue) is every seat has a TV on the back of the seat in front of them. You get an ample set of channels from Direct-TV (including ESPN, ESPN2, TLC, History Channel, and CNN). On long flights there are usually a couple movies to choose from. And one of the channels allows you to watch the progress of your airplane from your departure to your destination - a nice feature for people that like to know where they are. These audiovisual features are relatively common on international flights, but almost unheard of on domestic US flights. If you’ve never flown with such conveniences, they certainly will help pass the time. In my experience, the TVs don’t really work until after takeoff, and if you encounter rough skies along the way, the TV reception does come and go a little. On the whole, the TVs work for the vast majority of most flights

the snacks

Free airplane meals became an endangered species on airplanes back in the 80s and 90s. With 9/11, free meals went extinct. Since all we’re left with are snacks, let’s at least discuss JetBlue’s offerings. In typical JetBlue fashion, the snacks are great. You don’t get standard Lay’s potato chips; no, you get TerraBlues - a high class potato chip. They also have cookies and a few other snacks to choose from (yes you get a choice). When they have a lot of snacks left over on a flight, the flight attendents often offer you more than one snack.

As for the drinks, JetBlue does something very smart that I wish other airlines would copy. On JetBlue they come by and take your drink order. Then they go to the back of the plane and bring your drink up to you. This might seem slower, but in practice I think it is at least as fast as on other airlines, because JetBlue’s method doesn’t clog the aisle with the stupid cart that most airlines use. With the cart, the flight attendants spend half of their time trying to let people get by.

The Bad

few destinations unless you live in Boston or NYC

If you live in Boston or New York, JetBlue can take you almost anywhere in the US. If you live anywhere else in the US, JetBlue can probably take you to Boston or New York. Check out their flight map for details. Their minor hubs of DC, Ft Lauderdale, Long Beach, and Oakland also have a fair number of destinations.

flights aren’t available from major travel search engines

JetBlue flights are only available from their website, and do not show up on orbitz, travelocity, expedia, etc… So if you want to fly JetBlue, you have to search and buy your ticket from the JetBlue website.

TrueBlue frequent flyer program is close to useless

TrueBlue is the frequent flyer program offered by JetBlue. The good thing about the program is that the rules are easy to understand. You need 100 points for a free JetBlue flight. You get 2 points for short flights, 4 points for medium flights, and 6 points for long flights. Unfortunately, the points disappear after one-year. I’ve flown JetBlue a lot over the last six years, and I’ve never reached 100 points. I’ve hit 80 points many times. But just when you get close, your points reach one year and you start losing them. One of the problems is that you can’t reach all of your destinations with JetBlue, because they only fly to major cities. So unless you fly back-and-forth between major cities a lot (in which case you probably fly for business, and businesses likely make you fly on a major US carrier), you’re unlikely to get a free flight from the TrueBlue program.

holiday fairs are pricey

Unless you book your ticket extremely early, JetBlue is unlikely to be the cheapest way to fly home for the holidays. Their holiday prices are typically very high.

weather delays

JetBlue was famously involved with some major weather delay mistakes on the East Coast during the winter of 2007, including leaving an airplane full of passengers on the JFK tarmac for almost nine hours. I was flying to Boston from DC that day. Both Boston and DC were involved in the storm as well. It was annoying that JetBlue waited so long to cancel their flights. But at least at Dulles where I was supposed to fly from, I must say a lot of the blame also belongs to the Dulles airport. The airport said, “the runways will be open in an hour” for many hours. This false information made it difficult for the airlines to decide what to do. In the end, I took a train home, JetBlue refunded my money, and gave me a substantial credit towards a future flight.

After their weather mishap, JetBlue publicly apologized, and they wrote a customer bill of rights detailing the specific compensation you receive for future JetBlue mistakes. True to their word, JetBlue had to cancel a later flight I took with my girlfriend from DC to Boston due to airplane repair. However, JetBlue chartered two small airplanes to fly the passengers back to Boston, and true to their customer bill of rights, we all were given $25 vouchers for use on a future JetBlue flight.

Conclusions

JetBlue is the best value in commercial flight today. I fly JetBlue whenever possible, so I can reach my destination in a comfortable airplane, with plenty of entertainment, and good snacks for less money than I’d pay on most other airlines. Last, I think the JetBlue flight attendants are consistently the nicest flight attendants out there, and they don’t have the fake smile attitude enforced by many airlines. They’re typically real people that understand that you’re just trying to get from here to there as comfortably and quickly as possible.