Transcontinental Series: JetBlue

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This is a post in my new Transcontinental Series aimed at helping flyers choose the best options while traveling coast-to-coast, as well as strategies on leveraging elite status and miles to get the most valuable upgrades possible. Other posts include: American AirlinesDelta, United and Virgin America. Today I’ll be talking about JetBlue’s transcontinental routes.

JetBlue flies A320 aircraft on its transcontinental routes. 

Planes and Classes of Service
On its transcontinental routes, JetBlue flies Airbus 320’s equipped with 150 leather seats, all in Economy and “Even More Space” class. Seats are a hip-squeezing 17.8 inches wide (though that still beats the legacy carriers – United’s 757 p.s. is the narrowest with just 17 inches of width!) and those in regular economy have 34 inches in pitch, while Even More Space seats have 38 inches of legroom.

Each seat has its own personal entertainment screen with 36 channels of free DIRECTV, and 100+ channels of XM Radio. They also offer new release movies for purchase at the price of $5.99 on  flights over 2 hours. Every month, they offer six different films in English, including one in Spanish on all their flights. JetBlue is adding high-speed broadband WiFi using ViaSat onboard as well and is expected to start offering it on its fleet later in 2012. Currently only a select number of planes offer an older WiFi service.

The airline serves a selection of complimentary snacks on board including PopCorners Popcorn Chips their signature Terra Blues Potato Chips, chocolate chip cookies, a nut mix, animal crackers and free non-alcoholic beverages and Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee. Alcoholic beverages can be purchased for $5 or more, and there is also a selection of “Eat Up” food and snack boxes for $5.99.

Every seat has its own personal entertainment system.

JetBlue also offers several value-added perks. It’s the only airline on these routes that offers all customers a first checked bag for free. This is important to take into account when pricing out transcontinental flights if you have checked baggage and don’t hold elite status on one of the other airlines since others will charge you around $25 for a bag and since usually the prices for the transcontinental flights will be similar, this could be a big factor. Among the other little perks: on red-eye flights, JetBlue provides free ear plugs and eye masks to all customers. The airline’s T5 terminal at JFK is among the airport’s nicest and features 24 bars and restaurants.

Routes
JetBlue operates five daily LAX-JFK (and vice versa) flights and one additional flight six times a week, and offers service between JFK-SFO (and the opposite way as well) three times daily with two additional flights six times a week. Besides serving these two transcon routes, JetBlue flies to several other smaller airports in the LA and San Francisco areas. They are the only airline to offer non-stop service from JFK to Burbank (2x daily), Long Beach (1x daily plus others 6 days a week), San Jose (1x daily), Sacramento (1x daily) and Oakland (6x a week).

JetBlue offers Even More Space seats on all flights with 4 inches more legroom than regular economy.

Even More Space
While JetBlue is the only airline flying JFK-LAX/SFO that features an-all coach cabin, they do offer seats with extra legroom. Known as “Even More Space” seats, they have 38 inches of legroom and come with a few added benefits. Customers seated here receive “Even More Speed” expedited security at 36 airports and early boarding privileges. The price for Even More Space varies but to check the price on a particular flight, just select an Even More Space seat from the seat map during booking or during the check-in process. Even More Space are available in rows 1 through 5 and row 10 and row 11.

On a JFK-LAX booking the upgrade price for Even More Space each way was $60.

Currently you cannot redeem points for Even More Space seats, you must purchase them, though when JetBlue’s new Mosaic perks for TrueBlue loyalty members take effect this fall, those members earning a Mosaic badge will be able to redeem points for the upgraded seats.

TrueBlue
TrueBlue members earn 3 points per eligible dollar spent on airfare (excluding taxes and fees), plus an additional 3 points per dollar spent if you book your flight on jetblue.com for a total of 6 points per dollar. Customers will earn an additional 2 points when they book with their JetBlue American Express. Purchasing an Even More Space seat earns an extra 200 bonus points as well. Among its other bonuses, JetBlue awards flyers who take 10 one-way flights of 1,600 miles or more each 10,000 bonus points; and with its Go Big bonus, passengers can earn thousands more bonus points the more they fly. Go Big Bonus awards bonus points are based on points earned from the purchase of JetBlue flights – both points earned from the base airfare and online booking points. Customers earn a 500-point bonus upon reaching 3,000 eligible points; a 1,000-point bonus upon reaching 6,000 points; a 2,000-point bonus at 9,000 points; and  4,000 bonus points at 12,000 points. For every 3,000 points above 12,000 points, they get an additional 4,000-point bonus.

For redemption, TrueBlue points can only be redeemed for about 1.4 cents each in value for any available seat on the plane, just as though you were paying regular airfare, only using points instead of cash. JetBlue is a Membership Rewards transfer partner at a 1.25 Amex : 1 JetBlue.

JetBlue Mosaic will launch in the fall. 

Mosaic Perks
JetBlue recently unveiled a new system of  loyalty perks for its frequent flyers called TrueBlue Mosaic that will launch this fall. Existing members of TrueBlue, JetBlue’s loyalty program, will be automatically upgraded to TrueBlue Mosaic if they have earned 15,000 base flight points (these are the 3 points per $1 you earn on fares–so $5,000 spend) or completed 30 flight segments and have earned at least 12,000 base flight points ($4,000 spend) in a calendar year. Current TrueBlue members eligible for TrueBlue Mosaic will be notified and automatically enrolled in the program this fall.

Mosaic members will get perks including three bonus TrueBlue points per dollar spent for a total of nine points per dollar when booking on jetblue.com (3 base, 3 for online booking and 3 bonus), a free second checked bag for everyone flying on the member’s reservation, Even More Speed and early boarding access, the ability to redeem TrueBlue points for Even More Space seats, and six free Even More Space seat upgrades.

To put Mosaic in context, the annual qualification level of 12,000 base points would require $4,000 in spending. That would earn a normal member of TrueBlue 12,000 base points plus 12,000 bonus points for booking online at jetblue.com. If they used a JetBlue Amex to pay, that would mean an additional 8,000 points for a total of 32,000. However, a TrueBlue member with the Mosaic badge would earn an additional 3 points per dollar, bringing the total to 44,000 points. That’s worth over $600 in travel, and a return of over 15% on your spending. Not bad.

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