With business travel rebounding, JetBlue Airways has announced plans to go after the lucrative class of business traveler willing to pay more for comfort — a move that will help make it even more attractive to passengers in key markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.
The airline that helped reinvent traveling coach when it launched in 1999 will introduce its first business class, which will feature seats that convert into flat beds and suites that feature doors that slide closed on transcontinental routes flying non-stop from Los Angeles and San Francisco to New York’s JFK airport.
What stands out in the sea of various shades of gray are the updated 10-inch seatback screens that are larger than the screens that already helped set JetBlue apart with its inflight broadcasts of live TV through DirecTV.
As airlines upgrade their inflight offerings, they’re increasingly turning to entertainment as a way to lure customers.
But JetBlue’s new overall business class offering will also appeal to Hollywood’s executive ranks always looking for options as they travel from L.A. to New York and to Silicon Valley e-trepreneurs looking for more comfortable travel alternatives.
American Airlines, Delta and United have long captured much of the business-travel market to and from both coasts, with Virgin America the latest to step up its efforts to grab a bigger share of that market with more flights. Those airlines also are installing lie-flat beds on their transcontinental flights and updating their inflight entertainment options, with American introducing seatback screens for the first time.
But with JetBlue’s latest moves, the airline’s about to become even more attractive to the frequent business flyer.
According to the company:
■ The airline’s new planes will feature a sleeper-seat premium cabin next year in a suite that includes a sliding door for privacy. Swiss Air and Brussels Airlines offer a similar seat.
■ JetBlue’s new premium cabin will offer 16 business-class seats, including four suites. All 16 seats will recline into full lie-flat beds measuring 6’8″ and come with premium meal options, amenity kits and a larger TV screen.
■ The premium seating will be installed on 11 of the 30 new Airbus A321 planes JetBlue will start receiving this year. The first flights featuring the new seats will take off during the spring of 2014.
■ A small area behind the premium seats is expected to offer a stand-up bar or self-service area for beverages and food.
■ Pricing has not yet been revealed but is expected to be lower than that of rivals, it said.
■ There will be 143 seats in coach, which also is getting an overhaul with movable headrests, new seats with a drink holder, in-seat power outlets and 10-inch video screens offering up to 100 free channels of DirecTV and more than 100 channels of SiriusXM Radio.
■ Each flight will offer Fly-Fi, considered the fastest Internet in the air with broadband-like speeds through ViaSat’s satellite technology.