Remember back when JetBlue launched and everyone got excited about a low-cost carrier which would still provide a personal television screen for all of its passengers? Well, those days are officially over. Next year, JetBlue will be introducing premium seats on some of its planes, a major shift for an airline that has branded itself as a low-cost carrier.
But while running a low-cost carrier is good for marketing — travelers do love a good deal after all — JetBlue’s most recent move proves that when you’re running a big airline company, you can’t miss out on a profitable part of the market: people willing to pay extra for first class amenities. JetBlue’s new seating arrangement will attempt to do just that, offering premium paying passengers the opportunity to travel in lie-flat seats, which not only recline into 6’8″ beds, but also have a massage feature.
The premium seating is expected to debut in the spring of 2014, on its two most popular nonstop U.S. routes: New York to Los Angeles and New York to San Francisco. Not only will the premium seat allow passengers to lie down on their transcontinental flight, but they will also get a bigger television screen, coming it at a whopping 15″. Passengers lucky enough to be in rows 2 and 4 will also get their own private suite.
What will that do to prices? That remains to be seen, but in the mean time, maybe you should start saving for a good night’s sleep for next spring.
Pretend you had never been a passenger on one of today’s commercial airlines, but had the need to choose one. How would you do that? Look for airlines with a good safety record? One that is rated highly on service, a low cost leader or some other criteria that is important to you? A new, free airline rating service promises to cover all that and more.
Launched this week, AirlineRatings is poised to offer an in-depth, educated look at airlines from a number of perspectives. Developed by Australian Geoffrey Thomas and staffed by aviation editors, AirlineRatings has a comprehensive list of over 400 airlines, rated several ways.
In addition to forensic safety ratings based on the last two years of incidents, AirlineRatings sources actual passenger experience in a TripAdvisor sort of way, gathering reviews from its members. Like top-ten lists? AirlineRatings has top-ten lists for Travel Apps and Airports that are not really anything to get excited about. But they also have interesting top tens for long-haul economy-class cabins, premium economy, long-haul business-class cabins and first-class cabins, noting the best of each. Those alone are worth a click or two.
One really usable feature is AirlineRatings’ Aircraft reference, offering photos, history, manufacturing and construction details, passenger features and safety ratings. A “Future of the aircraft” feature taps the opinions of AirlineRatings’ experienced editors (AvGeeks), like this:
“To remain competitive with a new generation of jetliners, Airbus is developing the A320NEO (New Engine Option). Using latest-technology engines in the 30,000-lb.-thrust class, the NEO promises an estimated 15 per cent reduction in fuel consumption, with 20 per cent lower maintenance costs, significant numbers in today’s highly competitive airline market.”
One hot feature that could bring some interesting reads is their Make A Difference page, that is collecting our suggestions, recommendations and/or comments on how to improve the global airline industry.Coming up, AirlineRatings will have a source for airline food reviews, which could be interesting as time goes on. Like other crowd sourced info sites and apps, right off the starting line AirlineRatings is in need of the crowd. Good things are possible here though; we’ll check in with them again in a few months to see how this promising site is working out.
Legroom in coach continues to be a big issue with air travelers who would love to stretch out like those lucky people in first class. Side-to-side room is also of interest as those flying on airlines without assigned seating hope no one sits next to them. Now, one airline has a way to make it all better.
“Main Cabin Extra makes travel more comfortable by providing you with 4 to 6 inches of additional legroom and Group 1 boarding,” said an email I received from American Airlines encouraging me to pay a bit more for coach seats. That’s an extra fee they don’t have to talk me into either. On American Airlines 767-300, 757 and 777-300ER aircraft I have paid as little as $9 for the pleasure.
Added on up until the airport check-in cut-off time, prices range between $8 and $118 per flight and can be purchased when checking in for a flight through airport self-service machines, AA Reservations, and through select travel agencies.
Different airlines call it by a different name but it all adds up the same: more space.
Ask me to pay $20 for checking a bag (or up to $150 for an overweight bag), $50-$150 per ticket to make a change in plans or any one of a score of other fees and I simply won’t do it. Tell me I can stretch out for a few dollars and I am all for it.
“Airlines aren’t chasing volume anymore, they’re chasing the bottom line,” explains Mike Boyd, chairman of Boyd Group International, an Aviation consulting firm in Evergreen, Colorado, in a Fox News report.
Indeed, holiday airfare shoppers already know that the number of flights is down as airlines choose to fly full planes that generate more profit. Not all that long ago, three classes of seating were available and clearly defined. At the top was first class, followed by business class, then economy coach seating. Today, premium economy is coming more into focus as one of the best travel values available.
“Part of this is this premium economy thing. Business class has become the battleground,” added Boyd. “That went up and up in terms of perks but has become too expensive, so now we’ve gone back to introducing another class – we’ve gone full circle. And internationally, premium economy is what business class was 20 years ago.”
Personally, it surprises me that more travelers don’t choose this inexpensive travel option. There are a limited number of exit row or expanded economy seats available but I almost always find one for a small fee when checking in for a flight.
Another steal, perhaps the gold ring of travel values, is same-day upgrades to first class on the day of departure. Domestic flights are commonly $50 more; international flight upgrades to first class (complete with bragging rights that define one as a savvy air buyer) can be a couple hundred.
20% of travelers want capsule-style bunks on flights
18% would like to see soundproof sections for children
8% hope airplanes will soon have kick-proof seats
1 in 20 people surveyed said they wanted transparent floors and ceilings for better views
4% of fliers want a singles section, where they could potentially connect and flirt with a future partner
Some other suggestions travelers have for flights are featuring an on-board cocktail bar, in-flight cinema, massage chairs and free use of iPads, although certain airlines already offer iPads, showers and capsules in business and first class.
What do you hope is in store for the future of air travel?
Near the end of a flight from New York to Dallas, a little girl, 9 years old, handed me a piece of paper that read: “Everyone on this plane that works on this plane is very kind and welcoming, comforting and makes me feel safe, happy and comfy, so thank you to everyone. Love, Fallyn.” She made what would have been an ordinary day extra special. For that, I thank her.
Receiving thanks in the air travel industry is rare so when it happens it’s always appreciated. In fact, sometimes it’s so appreciated it feels kind of weird, like do I really deserve this? Did I really do something that deserves so much kindness? Usually, the answer is no. I’m just doing my job, what I’ve been hired to do – assist passengers and provide safety and comfort in flight. Then I’ll blush from the embarrassment of being acknowledged and either quickly refill an empty cup or ask if there’s anything else I can do to make the flight more enjoyable.
Those who do deserve a special thank you for just doing their job are our military men and women. Long ago, my grandpa confessed that not one person thanked him for fighting in WWII. My father experienced the same thing while he was in the navy. This is why I make it a point to say thank you to those who protect us. Once I offered my cellphone to a soldier I spotted putting money into a pay phone at an airport. A couple of times I offered to buy lunch for those I’ve seen in uniform waiting in line at food courts located at airport terminals. It’s the least I can do. They always decline with a blush and then they thank me for thinking of them.
One passenger who went out of his way to thank a serviceman on board an airplane is my friend Will. Here, in his words, is what happened on a recent flight from Dallas to Oklahoma City.
Last evening while standing by the gate and waiting for boarding to commence, I noticed a military serviceman in uniform approach the line, look at his boarding pass and walk to the back of the waiting area – nothing I haven’t seen before.As I sat there on the corner of the room speaking with my kids on the cellphone, pre-boarding was announced for all customers with disabilities or special needs as well as any military personnel in uniform. A few folks boarded but not the soldier.
As a perk for flying a “few thousand” miles a year with American Airlines, I’d been upgraded from coach to first with its wider seats, more legroom, free drinks and more. Sitting in 3E, thoughts about my wife and children ran through my head. As I remembered our recent phone call my heart tightened. It had been only four days since I’d seen my family but it seemed like a month. Just a few more hours… it didn’t seem like much longer.
Boarding continued for another twenty minutes when suddenly I observed the same serviceman from earlier. He was the last one on. Holding his backpack slightly crooked over his right shoulder and a boarding pass on the left hand he quickly went by me towards his seat in coach.
That’s when it clicked.
I stood up, took a couple of steps back towards the soldier, and gently tapped his left shoulder. As he turned around I simply requested his boarding pass. To my surprise he promptly handed it over. A simple gesture of appreciation: the palm of my left hand showing him the direction to my seat. Shocked, he cracked a smile and politely declined the offer by stating I would not enjoy his seat. It was “the worse seat in the plane” – he said.
After insisting a bit, he accepted my offer and took his new seat but not before his smile stretched across his face like a child on a Christmas morning. As I went towards seat 18F (a middle seat) the pride and satisfaction of being able to sincerely thank a man, whom along with thousands of other brave and dedicated soldiers choose to sacrifice their lives so that my children may sleep safely every night, was indescribable.
Sitting in that middle seat while the plane took off, I realized that it felt different: it seemed wider; there was more legroom; it was more comfortable. Was it? No… it was the same as always, but the circumstances were different.
After takeoff I succumbed to my usual ritual of lowering the tray table and hunching over for a quick nap. I was tired… it had been a long day. Suddenly, I felt a tap on my left shoulder. To my surprise, it was the soldier. Extending his right hand as if a handshake was imminent. I responded with the same gesture.
“Thank You” – he said – while leaving in the palm of my hands a coin, which read: PRESENTED BY THE CADET COMMAND – COMMAND SERGEANT MAJOR – FOR EXCELLENCE.
As I nodded in acceptance my eyes suddenly drowned in tears of appreciation and pride. He went back to his seat, leaving me speechless and transformed.
It’s unconditional commitment, bravery and immeasurable sacrifices shown by all of our service men and women that makes it possible for each one of us to sleep by our children and loved ones at night.
Most people do not have a first class seat to offer up as a special thank you to those who serve our country, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to simply showing thanks, letting others know you care and that you notice what they do and appreciate their hard work. A thank you costs nothing but time. By just thinking about how grateful we are for what someone has done for us only benefits us. This kind of satisfaction doesn’t last long and does nothing to change the world. By giving thanks we give others a momentary respite from their daily lives and their own journey through life becomes relevant to the lives today. Don’t wait until people are gone to honor and thank them for being a part of our lives when we can tell them personally how we feel. Thank a soldier today.