JetBlue’s Premium Service A First Class Failure

JetBlue’s Premium Service A First Class Failure image JetBlue in the face

This hasn’t been a good week for JetBlue shareholders and some of it’s passengers.

Rather than provide the extra leg room based upon something as ridiculous as excess height, JetBlue now charges for exit rows, calling them premium seats – most of which are mid-cabin, mind you. So after the Captain had turned off the seat belt sign I slipped into the “Even More Space” row as they call it. Within seconds, I was pounced upon by the flight attendants, informing me that if I wanted to sit in one of these empty seats I would have to pay an additional $45 for the non-first class seat.

Could this the new backlash policy for what happened earlier in the week on a cross-country JetBlue New York JFK-San Diego flight that was diverted to Denver, after a passenger became unruly because a flier moved to a seat next to her paid less for the seat? The woman apparently became agitated when a man who had been seated in the normal, less-expensive area was moved next to her because the TV wasn’t working. Angered that the man didn’t have to pay extra for that seat, she argued with the flight crew. That’s been the airline industry’s dirty little secret for years — different prices for the seat next to you. Hotels do it as well.

A major airline has also recently announced the creation of quiet zones on flights. Children under the age of 12 are no longer allowed in the first seven rows on certain AirAsia X flights. The airline primarily serves China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Australia – as evidenced on my JetBlue flight today – not soon enough and not strong enough. My reason for moving  was that sitting behind me was anincessantly talking and kicking two-year-old who came with the added bonus of a flu-induced whooping cough. Did I mention that I was also sitting in the middle seat – all 6’ 3” of me? Well at least that was my height before being crammed in on the last “standard” seat.

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The problem isn’t really “Dennis the ADHD Menace” going ballistic on the back of my chair, nor the rude flight attendant just rudely doing her job. They can not be avoided as much as I’d like to.

JetBlue with it’s online marketing, social media, tweets and Facebook posts portrays itself as an anti-establishment airline for the rest of us. I’ve never paid for First Class, but I don’t begrudge those who do.  Now instead of it being first class, it’s second-class treatment of First Class. I had elected to try its “Even Faster Boarding” premium that in fact didn’t allow me to board any earlier, but rather got me on a “short” line at security.

JetBlue’s shares sank last week  on disappointing fourth-quarter results and an analyst’s downgrade. It eked out a $1 million profit in the fourth quarter as costs rose twice as fast as revenue. It cited Hurricane Sandy as a reason for less ticket sales. The company broke even on a per-share basis. A year earlier, the airline earned $23 million, or 8 cents per share.

JetBlue’s masked First Class marketing is just poor business and bad, second-class service. Now instead of charging extra for premium service, it charges extra for what used to be standard service. Can pay toilets and wooden folding chairs be far away?Rather than just a quiet zone, I will wait until JetBlue institutes a No Child flight with seats assigned by height and weight before I fly them again. Or until they learn that marketing and online booking of premium service is not the same as devaluing and exploiting first class.

Mixed messages don’t work in airline travel but the caste system seems to always work well. Perhaps JetBlue needs to revert back to what made them such a strong airline contender when it launched.

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