Airbus filing to FAA reveals how JetBlue will offer mini-suites and class divider on A321s

n.b. – This story first appeared in the APEX Editor’s Blog on 6 June 2013

Premium cabin privacy with a sliding door may no longer be the realm of long-haul international travel. It is no secret that JetBlue Airways is looking to step up in the premium transcon market but to date they have remained tight-lipped on details. In order to deviate from a typical seating arrangement it is necessary to receive an exemption from the FAA. Airbus, on behalf of JetBlue, has recently filed such a request, and it includes some details about how the cabin might be arranged.

“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.

This revelation alone is big news as it confirms that JetBlue will be moving to offer a formal split between its different cabins of service. The carrier’s current “Even More” option has additional legroom but that’s all. The newly described business class will be much more than that.

The filing continues:

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.

JetBlue intends to install seats providing the ultimate in passenger privacy on board its new A321 planes: suites with a sliding door.

In a statement the company confirms the seating plans while also noting that there is still more to come regarding the product:

Thirteen years ago JetBlue revolutionized the economy experience and we will do the same with premium transcon. Our new onboard experience will enable us to compete with other airlines’ premium transcon products. While the FAA filing from Airbus contains the technical specifications as part of the certification process, all of the details including the branding and full experience will be revealed later this year.

Progress at JetBlue has, for the most part, consisted of adding new features at the top end rather than reducing options at the bottom. When JetBlue added the Mosaic badge to their TrueBlue loyalty program, it did not remove benefits (e.g. one free checked bag) for other travelers; rather, it added more benefits for those more frequent customers. Putting three or four different levels of service in the A321 aircraft (mini-suites, business, economy and possible even more legroom) will add opportunity for a premium experience at the top end but, based on the seat count, should not take away from their industry-leading legroom for the rest of their customers.

The addition of the premium product will allow JetBlue to compete for the high-yield traffic on transcontinental routes, a market where service levels and comfort have been improving dramatically of late. American Airlines will be offering flat-bed seats in both first class and business class on their A321 planes flying similar routes while Delta and United Airlines will have flat-bed business class seats.

For an airline which has focused since its founding on a more egalitarian approach to the inflight product this change will be quite interesting to watch.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.