JetBlue’s Transcon Business Seats and Suites Revealed

Via Frequently Flying, JetBlue has released a video of their new Airbus A321’s which will operate on premium cross-country flights from their New York JFK hub.

The video first takes you through the coach cabin showing both regular economy and the Even More Space section. It then heads up front to reveal what appears to be a 16-seat cabin with a 2-2 configuration in rows 1, 3 and 5, and solo mini-suites (complete with privacy doors) on both sides of the aisle in rows 2 and 4.

Here’s the video rendering of what the cabin will look like.

I took a few screen shots from within the video to offer a glimpse into JetBlue’s premium products.

Here’s a straight forward shot of the new business class seats, two-by-two, outside of the first row I would have a strong desire for the aisle and not having to climb over my neighbor to use the lavatory.

Here are the seats in recline, no doubt they will be promoted as lie flat but they look severely angled to me.

The suite, on the other hand, should be more spacious.

There aren’t good enough shots to tell how the seat itself, and especially the recline, differs between business class and these suites.

JetBlue’s Business Class Seat Appears to Lag the Competition

JetBlue is clearly offering an improved premium product compared to what it has now — merely extra legroom and a basic coach seat.

But their business class seat, angled flat, appears to lag United’s new business class seat, Delta’s business class, and American’s planned Airbus A321 business seat (though this one is not yet in service). It is superior, of course, to the Boeing 737s that United operates on some of its flights and to the old Boeing 767s that American’s Airbus A321 order is meant to replace.

American has promised that its business class will be fully lie flat in 2 x 2 configuration for its new Airbus A321 aircraft which will also offer a 1 x 1 first class. I’m not certain what true lie flat seats will look like four across in an Airbus narrowbody but I look forward to the live product reveal.

United, of course, is nearly done with its transcon fleet changes such that the premium JFK flights will be served by their international lie flat 757 seats. Those are superior to what it appears JetBlue will be offering in business class. Indeed, Delta’s business class offering looks better than the way this video portray’s JetBlue’s business class seats.

Bottom-line here is that angled flat, if the pictures do these new JetBlue seats justice, lags the competition. If JetBlue’s prices do as well then the product may make sense. If they expect to charge a revenue premium similar to United, Delta, and American then — especially without the support of as strong a frequent flyer program — they are unliekly to succeed.

Who Will Offer the Best 3-Cabin First Class Product on These Routes?

What will be interesting is to get a better perspective on the ‘mini suites’ that are 2 across, one seat in each window. American will be the only other airline offering three classes of service on their premium cross country flights from New York JFK.

JetBlue will offer six seats with doors while American will offer 10 seats without doors. Both offerings appear to be a step up from anything currently offered in the market. I’ve seened clearer renderings of American’s proposed seat (though no mention of them recently), while the video doesn’t linger on the seat itself long enough for me to tell what differences there may be between it and the business class seats on offer.

My guess is that the jetBlue suite will be the best first class product, though oddly the seats are interspersed amongst the business class ones rather than constituting a separate cabin. I suppose the privacy of the suites obviates that need, but it also suggests to me that the service will otherwise be the same (no separate food, wine offerings) and that the real differentiator will simply be the hardware.

Hopefully we’ll know more than is reveaed in these renderings over the next few days.

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary – you said “It is superior, of course, to the Boeing 737s that United operates on some of its flights…” – I think you mean the legacy PS 757s.

    Also, I’m sure you’ve sat in the seats the AA 321s will have…business class are the Continental business seats (which IMO are now average for int’l product, but great for domestic of course) and first class is the new AA 773 biz seat (fantastic). Soft product differences TBD of course.

  2. Thanks for posting this, Gary. I’m not sure that JetBlue lagging the competition by not having true lie-flat seats will mean much on transcon flights, except for red-eyes. (And perhaps the single seat suites will have lie-flat in any event.) Except for those red-eyes, most folks will be working, reading, watching the IFE or snoozing, so the reclining seats should be more than sufficient. It’s not like flying between continents, where the flights are longer and/or are overnight.

    Haven’t flown JetBlue much, but the economy seats look new as well. And are the IFE systems new? That too would make JetBlue more competitive.

    The bigger story, to my mind, is that JetBlue is partly repositioning itself from an LCC to a premier carrier, in that its always superior economy legroom is now nicely complemented by the newly introduced business class seats and suites. In response to your recent (very interesting) post on mileage runs and elite status, it was noteworthy that a number of folks commented that they really were mainly interested in upgrades on transcons as opposed to shorter flights. If JetBlue prices its business class below the competition or modifies its frequent flyer program to offer decent shots at upgrades to elites, I could see it drawing lots of customers away from the legacy carriers, especially as their frequent flyer programs deteriorate. The additional draw here is that even if you don’t get the upgrade you still get very good legroom in economy and what looks to be an improved IFE system.

    Heck, even without an improved JetBlue frequent flyer program and upgrade possibility I could see myself flying JetBlue a lot more if the merged US/American airline and FF program goes downhill.

    One more thought/question: Might this improved transcon service be potentially connected to JetBlue joining one of the alliances or otherwise becoming much more closely linked to another (presumably foreign) airline?

  3. They are all flat up front, not angled. What you’re looking at is a rendering, not the actual seats, and it isn’t perfect. The actual announcement is coming tomorrow at GBTA and will include an unveiling of the seats showing that they are truly flat. All the seats in business class will have the same pitch.

    Despite the fact that JetBlue released this video a couple days early the rest of the details are still embargoed. I can’t really release more until Monday.

  4. I think it’s quite hasty to judge and make up your mind about the product based on a rendering. You spend a whole section on why these seats will be inferior, based on your perception of one computer generated image. Let’s hold off until there is some real information presented, as opposed to biasing people’s opinions about this before anything concrete exists.

  5. @UA-NYC I was throwing Newark into the mix as well even though that is a different market (funny how United considers Newark to be New York… except when they don’t!)

  6. AA might offer 10 first class seats on a three class cabin but in reality, they are angled lie flat seats. Their business seats are cradle ones, no different than most domestic seats. Even though United offers only a two class cabin, their transcon premium product is truly lie-flat. As you’ve said, it’s all about the seat. I’m a loyal AA customer but I’ll fly UA’s premium transcon simply because it’s a better product. Just because AA has a three class cabin service doesn’t mean their product is superior. In fact, United’s product is far superior even though it’s a two class cabin. If JetBlue’s premium product is truly lie-flat, IMO, with their suite doors, they’ll have the distinction of having the best domestic premium product.

  7. @Gavin – totally agree regarding AA’s current product and I thought I was clear about that in my post, I was talking though about the promised A321 product as well which remains 3 cabin with fully flat first class and promised flat business as well.

  8. Gents – these are slightly modified versions of the staggered lie-flat seats that Delta, Austrian and others now use in business. The only thing that makes them a “suite” is the single seats appear to have a closeable door.

    The seats are all lie flat…but you will have to shove your feet in a small hole when in bed mode. Of the five major business class products out there, the staggered j is the worst. This product will be inferior to AA’s upcoming F product. And, compare and contrast the on-the-ground experience between b6 and AA!

    B6’s original maps showed the first two rows as being single suites…but this updated prototype has them alternated….which makes sense in light of the natural configuration of these seats.

  9. I’m normally quick to defend Delta’s BusinessElite (which doesn’t get enough love on the blogs, in my opinion), but I think you’re overselling their transcontinental offering a bit here. Delta only began introducing 763s with flat beds into the JFK-LAX/SFO/SEA mix in March, but many flights (especially to SFO) are still operated with 752s equipped with old-school cradles. Not terrible for a transcon product, but not great. The latter fleet is set to receive CO-style flat beds in a 2-2 configuration, but the modifications won’t be completed until early 2015. Even then, the 752s won’t have direct aisle access at every seat, unlike Delta’s other flat bed products. In the interim, transcon BusinessElite passengers would do well to steer clear of the 752s in favor of 763s.

  10. @Mark I’m writing about the competition from major carriers primarily in terms of their planned/announced products (eg American’s A321) as that’s what JetBlue’s planned future product will compete against

  11. The embargo is finally over. The real story on what’s going on – not just speculation based on the rendering – is now available.

    The new seats are based on the Thomson Aero Vantage Suite. It is a slightly modified version of the seat used by SN, LX and others. And, as I mentioned before, it is actually fully flat, not angled.

    More details available here:

  12. This does look like the staggered product used by Delta, Austrian, Brussels, etc. The difference, of course, is that those airlines arrange them on their widebodies with aisle access for each seat, so the fact that there isn’t physically that much room between the bottom of the seat cushion and the console in front isn’t as much of an issue when it comes to aisle access. It definitely looks like it’ll be hard (maybe even harder than in coach) for the window passenger to squeeze past the aisle passenger to get out.

  13. Interesting that JetBlue is stepping into this market, how about food, will jetblue now serve meals in business?

  14. I don’t see jetBue charging that the legacy’s charge $5-6K per leg, especially UAL which is not worth it. If you can get a spacious seat on JetBlue with Live TV and Internet, and something better than a boxed lunch for half that price, I am in. AA/UAL and DL truly over charge for what you get. VX has a nice seat but the food service has been reduced from ther inception, not as great as it was in 2007.

  15. I think the major difference between B6 and the others is whether they will introduce upgrades as part of Mosaic, or will these seats be truly “paid” only. Part of the allure of getting the p.e./hollywood/banker/lawyer crowd is to not have them rub elbows with “upgraders”. They might be able to discount competitor business fares since they wont be subsidizing the upgraders.

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