JetBlue’s newest A320 configuration entered service today, flying passengers from Orlando to San Jose, Costa Rica. Aircraft N729JB, nicknamed “If you can read this you are blue close,” returned to the fleet after 10 weeks of work overhauling the interior from nose to tail. The new layout kicks of the final phase of the company’s fleet refresh, a much needed update to interiors designed 20 years ago.
The new cabin features JetBlue’s widest seats ever (the company says 18.4″), though that win comes from a narrower arm rest rather than more cabin width. All seats now include an adjustable headrest as well, a first for the carrier. The seat-back pockets update with a mix of mesh, a traditional pocket and an “innovative elastic stowage solution” that looks an awful lot like the Cocoon Grid-It system. All passengers in the new layout have access to 110V and USB power points, with the outlets facing passengers to ease access.
Read More: JetBlue’s new A320 takes flight
The new layout adds two rows of seats to the plane through the installation of the Space-Flex v2 galley/lav combo at the rear of the plane. Pitch is reduced slightly throughout the cabin as a result, though the carrier still leads the US market in economy class legroom.
The Thales AVANT entertainment system includes HD screens at every seat while keeping the company’s free live television and movies available for all customers. The upgraded IFE features also include:
- More than 100 channels of live television with DVR-like pause and rewind functionality.
- Expanded collection of on demand movies, TV shows and video content, plus new gaming features.
- Destination-specific content allowing customers to enhance their travel experience.
- Picture-in-picture function
- Enhanced, 3D flight map offering multiple ways to track time to destination.
- Personal handheld device pairing capabilities for use as a remote or gaming controller.
The Phase 2 retrofits are also the first A320 planes to receive the updated inflight connectivity hardware from Viasat. The new kit allows the fleet to remain online into the Caribbean, Canada and Mexico, as well as increasing the satellite capacity available to the planes. Recent new delivery A321 planes also include the new antenna system. The older A321 fleet and A320 Phase 1 retrofit planes are also committed to receiving the new hardware, though timeline on that work remains pending from the carrier.
These updates represent a significant improvement for passengers and the company’s operations. The phased approach leaves some unfortunate inconsistencies in the product – passengers still don’t know for certain that they’ll have power at all seats or wifi on all routes – but the odds will significantly improve. And all of the new planes are better inside than the old ones from a passenger amenities and services perspective.
The retrofit project was first announced in November 2014 and has seen multiple delays, mostly due to vendor issues. The program is expected to complete in late 2020; 109 A320s remain to be upgraded.