Don’t call it “first class” or “business class.” Don’t talk about exclusivity or tiers. JetBlue doesn’t want those sorts of divisive terms used when describing their new premium transcon product. Instead it is the Mint experience.
The new seats are very, very nice. The flat beds are the longest in the US market and JetBlue will be the only carrier with a closed door suite flying domestically. That single seat has a ton of room, including a rather significant counter along the side, along with multiple power outlets. It is a huge space.
But there is more to it than that. The overall offering, with the multiple-choice tapas-style dining and the amenity kit with items split between in-flight and post-flight use will also be new in the market.
And, of course, there is the price point. The intro fares of $499 each way sold out in a hurry for the first flight, though there are some available on the following days still. And the regular advance-purchase fare of $599 is roughly a third of what the competition is asking. Even the fully flexible fare has quite the shortage of commas in it, pricing at $999 each way. Some have raised the concern that the price point is too low, that there is no way the company can make money at those levels. It is worth noting that it is comparable to what the legacies are actually charging to their corporate customers when discounts and such are applied. Essentially JetBlue has built their pricing model to match the corporate contracts but made it available to all, not just those managed accounts. For Marty St. George, Senior VP: marketing & strategy, the pricing issue is one that they’re not too worried about. “When [we’re constantly sold out] we’ll raise the fares if we have to.… I’ll call it a high-class problem when the time comes.”
There will be no upgrades into Mint on JetBlue. CEO David Barger was rather upfront in that statement during the press conference, ” You’re not going to upgrade in to Mint because you’re going to be able to buy it.” This policy is unique in the market. American Airlines offers complimentary upgrades into business class to their top elites and instrument-supported upgrades to others. Delta offers complimentary upgrades to all elites and United allows instrument-supported options for everyone. Virgin America has a buy-up program available on the day of departure with the exact timing dependent on your elite status. JetBlue simply wants to sell the seats to the passengers willing to pay for them. As St. George explains, “[The upgrade process] is always this big mystery about how you get in there…like there is some secret stuff going on that we don’t know about. We wanted to make sure that none of this product felt like that.”
One thing is absolutely certain: JetBlue’s approach is very different. They’re taking some very real risks here with a new fleet type, a new sub-fleet, a new product and a new market. But different can succeed. And if there is one thing JetBlue has done so far in its history that’s succeed by being different.
- Comparing the players in the “Transcon Wars”
- JetBlue’s Suite Seats, and how they compete in the transcon premium market
- A caste system in the sky
- Can style beat substance? The NY Times takes on Virgin America
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