Up­front

JetBlue pres­i­dent and CEO David Barger speaks about the car­rier’s new pre­mium prod­uct called Mint

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE -

One on One with JetBlue’s David Barger. Delta and Vir­gin At­lantic get DOT go-ahead. NewYork’s taxi ini­tia­tive stalls. BA A380 pre­mieres on LHR-LAX route. Air Canada launches Euro­pean ex­pan­sion. Hil­ton plans IPO. Fron­tier Air­lines bought. United un­veils new seat­ing. Mar­riott ex­pands Work­place on De­mand. Hertz adds Tesla. Mar­riott picks THANN ameni­ties. Hil­ton Gar­den Inn brews up Keurig. Silvercar rolls into LA.

BT: What led JetBlue to launch a pre­mium cabin ser­vice?

BARGER: We have been hear­ing from cus­tomers, “I’d love to fly you guys, but I’m go­ing to fly Amer­i­can or Delta or United or Vir­gin Amer­ica be­cause there’s a pre­mium of­fer­ing.” And then what we heard from every­body was lack of WiFi.

BT: This new pre­mium of­fer­ing comes as JetBlue takes de­liv­ery of its new Air­bus A321s.

BARGER: Well, it was all re­ally tied into this new air­plane. We needed the real es­tate on the air­plane to of­fer the pre­mium cabin with­out com­pro­mis­ing the cur­rent ex­pe­ri­ence. We have 30 on or­der of which 11 will be ded­i­cated to the Mint prod­uct. Love the air­plane; wouldn’t be sur­prised if we or­dered more A321s. BT: What’s the plan for de­ploy­ing th­ese air­craft?

BARGER: There’s go­ing to be two phases. The first four air­planes are com­ing across all­core. They won’t start fly­ing un­til the Novem­ber-De­cem­ber time frame. Then we start to see some air­planes com­ing across with the Mint con­fig­u­ra­tion in Fe­bru­ary. So when you add it up, that’s why it’s not un­til the June time-frame.

BT: Why did you choose to launch this pre­mium ser­vice on the highly com­pet­i­tive New York – LA and NewYork – San Fran­cisco routes?

BARGER: Well, they tend to be two of the top routes in the world where peo­ple will ac­tu­ally buy the ticket, as op­posed to up­grade into the seat. We’re not go­ing to try to out-cor­po­rate those big net­work guys in a place like NewYork City, be­cause that’s not our busi­ness. Our met­ric is rel­e­vance and unit rev­enue. First of all, if you have a non­stop, you’re very rel­e­vant, and peo­ple re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate that non-stop to those mar­kets. But what re­ally stood out was the dif­fer­ence be­tween par­ity at 100 per­cent and what we were ac­tu­ally see­ing on NewYork to LA and NewYork to San Fran­cisco. That’s what drove us to this de­ci­sion. BT: What’s that go­ing to do for pric­ing?

BARGER: Our reg­u­lar Mint fares start at $599. It’s one-third to one-half of what the cur­rent pric­ing out there to­day is. And his­tor­i­cally we’ve al­ways been about a fair fare. BT: De­scribe the prod­uct for us.

BARGER: It’s off the rack, but we cus­tom­ized it. The seat it­self is up to 22.3 inches wide and the full bed is 68 inches long -- the long­est in the mar­ket. The next gen­er­a­tion in­flight en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem has up to 100 chan­nels of live tele­vi­sion and Sir­ius XM ra­dio as well. The per­sonal screen in the Mint of­fer­ing on the di­ag­o­nal is 15 inches. That’s the largest of­fer­ing in the mar­ket. And here’s the key: Not com­pro­mis­ing the core of­fer­ing when you place a pre­mium ex­pe­ri­ence on the air­craft. So we have this core cabin ex­pe­ri­ence with those seats – lighter, slim­mer, and more com­fort­able – and WiFi and great crewmem­bers. Our new WiFi prod­uct is rolling out on the A320 model, it will be live on the A321s and our Em­braer mod­els as we move through the 2015 time frame. BT: Do you think this new pre­mium prod­uct is chang­ing the model for JetBlue?

BARGER: You know, I think it’s adding to it. We’ve his­tor­i­cally been, here’s the core ex­pe­ri­ence, make it a great ex­pe­ri­ence, but don’t nickel and dime for it. But add of­fer­ings that peo­ple will ac­tu­ally pur­chase. So here’s now an even more com­fort op­tion on those routes. But never los­ing sight of what got us here: our core cus­tomers. That’s the recipe for con­tin­ued suc­cess.

David Barger

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