Monday, April 28, 2003
Into the wild jetBlue yonder

For the past several years, I have really only flown Southwest Airlines and occasionally United. So I was really excited to fly jetBlue for the first time this past weekend. They have quite a reputation, especially given the company's tender, young age. Wanna know what I thought? Too bad if you don't.

First off, a little disclosure: Can't stand Airbus Industries. I have disliked them since their first aircraft was delivered (remember how one crashed during a demo at an airshow in Europe?) I don't trust them. But most of all, their business practices really piss this American off. They give away their aircraft (for all intents and purposes-- they really do give them away) because the French, German, Spanish and British governments are standing by in the next room over to fill in the profit blanks. They are able to undercut Boeing in any competitive situation because, unlike Airbus, Boeing has to earn its own profits. So low cost airlines, such as jetBlue, can save some serious buckage when they go to purchase their fleet. With the incredible volume of Airbus mentions on jetBlue's website, it wouldn't surprise me if Airbus said "take our planes! give us publicity!". I took a management class in college, and we studied the Boeing/Airbus competitive situation. It's a very sad situation for Boeing, and it's too bad that our government can't do something about it.

From what I've heard and read, jetBlue wanted to have a Boeing fleet, but simply could not turn down the cost savings of Airbus. So they started off with a strike against them.

At the Oakland airport, they really didn't seem to have their act together. Their check-in kiosks didn't work (yet there was no sign saying so), and as I waited in line the agents kept calling people from an earlier flight to the front. So I waited at the front of the line for almost 10 minutes. If somebody is late and misses their flight, isn't it their fault, not mine? That really annoyed me.

Seats are pre-assigned. Big plus. Huge plus. No cattle call. That is the one thing I don't like about Southwest.

They have DirectTV. That's great, if it works. On the flight down, it worked inconsistently. They blamed the weather. Fine, it's an added bonus anyway. But bring your own headset if you fly them, because the ones they distribute truly are disposable. The flight tracker doesn't need headphones, however, and that was the station I tuned to the most. I like to know that we are traveling at 450mph at 21000ft. That's good info.

They have good snacks. That's irrelevant, though, because I don't care about the food on a short hop (or any flight, really). I never take the peanuts, and I didn't take their snacks.

The crew were funny. That's a page out of the Southwest handbook. Regardless, they were all very nice and amazingly helpful. I have never seen a crew get so involved in stowing luggage.

The airplanes scare me. It was rather appropriate that my friend who works at Boeing picked me up from the airport. (The Long Beach airport happens to be adjacent to the Boeing 707 and C-17 facilities.) He likes to call them "Scare-bus". That's pretty appropriate. Sure, the planes are nice and shiny and new, but the clunking sounds while we taxied were a little disconcerting, to put it mildly. I was just never comfortable on that airplane, and never have been on an Airbus.

So they haven't converted me at all. I'm still a true Southwest fan. I am comfortable flying with them, and they are extremely professional, in a fun way. The cattle call sucks, but at least I know what to expect. jetBlue was fine, but they won't be my default airline any time soon. It will be interesting to see how they expand, and if they continue to succeed. Southwest has over 30 successful and profitable years under their belts and a terrific service and safety record.

A funny parting thought-- as I watched the little Southwest airplanes darting around the airport, I felt like I was cheating on a friend. How pathetic is that??

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