JetBlue considers premium amenities for Boston 'shuttle' routes
JetBlue Airways could soon offer free beer and wine on its Boston flights that overlap with competitors' shuttle routes, part of the company's effort to compete for lucrative business travelers.
The New York-based carrier is considering offering select premium amenities on high-frequency routes between Boston Logan (BOS) and New York, Philadelphia (PHL) and Washington National (DCA), JetBlue director of route planning Andrea Lusso told TPG at the World Routes conference in Adelaide, Australia, on Tuesday. Possible offerings include free same-day changes, coffee at the gate, and beer and wine onboard.
Lusso expects a decision on any possible added amenities on shuttle flights in the next few months, he said.
Premium amenities are a legacy offering on shuttle routes in the Northeast. That dates to the days of the Eastern Shuttle, which would keep spare aircraft on the ground at Boston, New York LaGuardia (LGA) and Washington to add a section if more passengers showed up for one of the hourly flights than there were seats.
JetBlue does not market specifically brand any of its routes as "shuttle" service, but it does have several high-frequency routes that go head-to-head with competitors — including the popular shuttle service on two of its rivals.
American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which operate the two shuttles today, continue to offer free beer and wine on flights. The latter also offers complimentary coffee at the gate and “enhanced snacks” onboard.
This summer, JetBlue boosted frequencies to hourly or near-hourly service from Logan to the three New York airports — John F. Kennedy (JFK), LaGuardia and Newark Liberty (EWR) — and Washington National.
Lusso described the Boston-Washington route as among JetBlue's "best markets" in terms of financial performance.
The carrier added an eighth weekday flight between Boston and Philadelphia earlier in September, according to Diio by Cirium schedules.
JetBlue faces what Lusso described as “changing competitive dynamics” in Boston. Delta Air Lines upgraded the city to a hub in June and airline is now marketing its aim to be the city's "number one global carrier." In keeping with its global ambitions, the SkyTeam Alliance member will add flights to London Gatwick (LGW) and Rome (FCO) from Boston next year.
"Boston is actually very well positioned geographically to be a connecting point for US passengers going transatlantic. As we're getting to kind of our maximum capacity at [New York] JFK, using Boston as a secondary transatlantic gateway makes a lot of sense," Delta managing director of domestic network planning Amy Martin said in June.
JetBlue is not backing down from the fight. The airline's president Joanna Geraghty said in July that JetBlue was "committed to winning Boston," citing the added frequencies to cities like New York and Washington, as well as plans to begin flights to London in 2021.