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jetBlue, The Good & Bad

Well my undying love for jetBlue waned in 2019 , so I felt it's time to get some of the facts out there as they stood before the pandemic hit. As a frequent flier, I benefit from their top tier program, and many of the perks such as no change fees have helped this be my first go to when flying anywhere. Business travel plans change constantly, and this benefit alone allows me to make and change plans up until the doors close.

jetBlue also has the most comfortable and consistent seats in the industry. You never know what you are going to get with American or United, unless you are booked in first class and even the "better seats" that you pay for, can sometimes be inhumanly narrow and uncomfortable. Even jetBlue's standard seats and pretty darn roomy, by current industry standards. And jetBlue's consistency, also extends to how they treat passengers, especially Mosaic members.

But paradise is lost on jetBlue's darker side:

1) technology - jetBlue's website is frustratingly unaccommodating, sometimes just blanking out on city pairs that you have plugged in. Their app can take forever to load the next page, and it's not just once or twice that it 'errors' out on making a flight adjustment. Compare to Delta or United's clean, robust and flexible web interfaces, which just plain WORK.

2) gate management - This is jetBlue's biggest fail. Flights are regularly scheduled to depart, minutes after the arrival of the last flight, almost guaranteeing that push back will not be on time. It is not just once or twice, but regularly that I have sat on the ground waiting for an arrival gate to be ready. This is in Boston, in Chicago, in LA and RDU. But the worst by far was flight 1712 from ORD, when we landed at 5:37 for a 6pm, flight and did not actually get to the gate until 6:30pm. And it was a perfect sunny day, no issues, no weather. Our gate was changed from C8 which became available at 6:13 to C9 which freed up at 6:26. No explanation made any sense.

Wild guess here is that jetBlue is saving money by having fewer gates, but if you look at how an airport like ATL manages to turn planes at it's almost 200 gates, you realize that a little management of gates and boarding can turn an airline plagued with delays into one that seems to make it work.

3) surveys for flights that went well - I've started keeping track. jetBlue sends me a survey for flights that went well. And for those that didn't go well, I never see one. Start keeping track. It's easy to keep your ratings high if you only count the good ones. Shame on you jetBlue!

As a post note, most people do not allow bad flight experiences impact their future travel plans. When it's time to fly, most people go back to price, loyalty, and schedule when booking. And lets face it, the airlines know this well. For the record jetBlue I will still fly often, but I do notice.

jetBlue IS Boston's First Hub Airline

Traditionally, Boston has not been an airline hub. Being so close to New York which is a substantially larger market, it just didn't make sense for any airline to grow a hub in Boston when they could grow a much larger one in New York. Almost all legacy carriers have a New York hub (American and Delta at JFK and Continental at Newark to name a few) and US Airways has a hub just south in Philadelphia.

Additionally, Logan is a relatively cramped and inefficient airport, due primarily to its landlocked location within the city which has precluded true expansion.

Such a position has made it an excellent airport for visitors to the city, but a poor one for connecting. And thanks tight quarters, and a Massachusetts penchant for poor efficiency standards, the airport is plagued with delays and slow transfers.

All of that aside, Boston is now a hub for jetBlue. Virtually every major US city can be reached on a direct flight, and there are quite a few smaller or vacation destinations such as Bozeman Montana and Palm Springs. Flights to London, slated to begin in 2021, have been rescheduled to start in 2022 with redesigned planes offering greater comfort and options than even jetBlue's cross country planes

One of the reasons why Jetblue may be succeeding is that Boston is a very successful destination airport, no doubt a factor of its numerous universities, hospitals and high tech firms. Boston is also an affluent city whose occupants can afford to fly places and, like its peers in Chicago and New York, is a northern city whose residents tend to make trips south at various times during the winter. And of course Boston is a tourist destination as well, thus clinching its ability to sustain a major airline.

So when you add up a whole bunch of point to point flights from one place, whether by accident or design, you create a hub. My prediction is that Jetblue will very start soon calling Boston a hub and that Boston will very soon start calling Jetblue their home airline. Whether or not they admit it, Boston is now a Jetblue hub.

Jetblue Expands Boston Terminal

Over the past five years, Jetblue has surpassed all other airlines at Logan Airport, now offering daily non-stops to more destinations than any one airline has ever offered from Boston at one time. Advantages abound such as reasonable fares, liberal change policies, comfortable planes with DIRECT TV and a seemingly greater commitment to flying on time. Jetblue seems to fly everywhere, an increasing advantage as airline delays make connecting at hubs a tricky business. From Boston, Jetblue flies directly to so many cities that for domestic travel you are starting to need fewer and fewer other choices. Jetblue was first to fly directly to Jacksonville for example, has pretty much taken over Delta's long monopolized Florida routes such as Ft Lauderdale, West Palm, Tampa and Ft. Myers (yes they fly to Orlando too but, who doesn't?). They have direct flights now to San Diego and Los Angeles, domain that was always owned by American Airlines. And recently, with an almost orgasmic response from the business community, they have added flights to Newark (EWR) a route which Continental seemed to have bulletproof domination over, Dallas/Ft Worth (DFW) a route which was monopolized by American and even Delta's coveted Atlanta.

Jetblue has also added many international happy destinations such as Punta Cana, Cancun and St Martin, has resurrected American Airlines abandoned Boston to San Juan route (nos gustamos!). They continue to grow in South American flights adding Panama and Bogota to the list.

See how Jetblue is starting to evolve into Boston's first hub airline.

In the first major terminal expansion since the renovation of Terminal A around the turn of the century, Logan Airport saw a major jump in 2016 with the substantial expansion of Terminal C into what was once the shifting silhouette of Terminal D. Once a makeshift terminal for now defunct Airtran, and then an extention of sorts for Terminal E to service Southwest,

Terminal D is no longer its own terminal but an expanded arm of the often cramped Terminal C. The new atrium linking C to D features wide open spaces, historical timelines of Boston milestones along the walls, new eats such as Wahlburger and Camden foods.

But perhaps more importantly is the wide open spaces in the gate areas that have been added with charging outlets at virtually every turn, nifty seating and standing areas, and a contemporary feel that reminds one more of a hotel than an airport. If (and we say IF in a big way), jetBlue and Massport continue to modify the gate areas in Terminal C this way, the jetBlue experience has far greater potential to be comfortable and maybe even on time.

But the potential has one more big IF. Because Terminal D is adjacent to Terminal E, Boston's international terminal. Traditionally isolated from the major airline terminals jetBlue may have now linked Terminal E to the extended C. The result would allow JetBlue to become a feeder for international flights, and a potentially easier connection for many than through JFK just down the road. The disadvantage, is that JFK tends to have less expensive flight costs, but the advantage is that Boston is actually slightly closer to Europe than New York, cutting about 25 minutes off a transatlantic flight. Right now we'll hold off on speculation, but suffice it to say that "New York's Hometown Airline" seems to be making itself very comfortable in Red Sox territory.

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