Thursday, February 15, 2018

jetBlue: More space, less service

As much as I travel, I had not had occasion to fly much talked-about jetBlue until late last year. Overall, I was disappointed in my experiences.

My first flight was from Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL) to San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU), en route to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands where I would join the disaster relief efforts following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

jetBlue aircraft on the ramp at SJU
Checking in at FLL, I got my first glimpse of what was to come. In addition to my suitcase, I had computer gear and other relief supplies in a large cardboard box.

“We don’t ship cardboard boxes internationally,” the counter attendant told me.

“The Virgin Islands are a U.S. territory; it’s not international,” I responded.

“But you’re going through Puerto Rico,” she said.

“Also a U.S. territory,” was my retort.

“Hang on.”

She disappeared for a few minutes, then came back and said, “You’re all taken care of,” as she slapped baggage tags on my box and suitcase.

Whew.

Once on board, the 2 hour, 30 minute flight was comfortable enough, and my Even More Space seat, while narrow at 17.2 inches, had the 38 to 39 inches of legroom advertised, which made my 6-foot frame much more comfortable.

The in-flight crew, however, did comparatively little to ensure their passengers’ comfort. While the flight attendants aboard virtually all U.S. airlines stopped fussing over their passengers many years ago (unless you’re in First Class), these were downright aloof. Sure, they handed out goodies, made the announcements and the requisite sales pitches, but then they disappeared.

It was my first jetBlue flight; maybe an anomaly, I thought. But I was wrong.

My next three flights got me back to the V.I. from my home in Seattle following a brief break. I flew from Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA) to New York’s John F. Kennedy International (JFK), then to SJU, and finally to Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix (STX).

Checking in at SEA, it seemed like everyone behind the counter was in training. They were incredibly slow, and it took forever to complete the most basic task, like checking in a passenger with a single bag that was not overweight.

Once that ordeal was behind me, it was through security and on to my gate. Upon boarding, I got another glimpse into the attitude of the flight crew.

As we were standing in the aisle, one of the flight attendants asked the gentleman in front of me if he would please shut the overhead bin next to him. Perhaps the passenger didn’t hear him because he simply moved on and took his seat.

Then the flight attendant slipped past me and shut the bin himself, while saying something along the lines of, “You ask people to do the smallest thing…”

Hoo boy.

Perhaps it was because it was a red-eye flight, the attendants disappeared shortly after takeoff. After catching a few hours’ shuteye, I made my way to the rear galley to get a little nibble. The crew had arranged snacks on the counter and, without looking up from their fashion magazines and pulp novels, waved their hand in the general direction of the snacks and mumbled, “Help yourself.”

The service on the next two flights was no different.

The treatment surprised me because this is the airline which, after holding people on the tarmac for a full eight hours at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) in 2007, penitently issued a Customers’ Bill of Rights. I concluded that the carrier actually cared about its passengers.

Also, according to the 2017 SKYTRAX World Airline Awards, jetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) is the third-best U.S. carrier overall, coming in at No. 39 of the World’s Top 100 Airlines, behind Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), which ranked No. 32, and Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK) at No. 36.

My take

Although I’d hoped for a better experience, perhaps I was being overly optimistic. Being more than a third of the way down the list of the World’s Top 100 Airlines isn’t really all that impressive.

If it fits my travel plans, I will likely fly them again. After all, I’d rather be ignored in relative comfort than squeezed in like a sardine.

But I won't be going out of my way to fly jetBlue, either.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photo by Carl Dombek
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