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