Better meals. Better entertainment. And the same comfortable legroom you’ve come to appreciate. That is the pitch JetBlue is making to economy class passengers as it offers further details about the cabin configuration on its A321LR fleet and plans for London flights later this year.
Great food doesn’t have to be limited to the premium cabin, and our customers in core also deserve a dining experience that is thoughtfully prepared and offers choices.– Jayne O’Brien, head of marketing and loyalty, JetBlue
Hot meals on board
For the first time in its 20+ year history JetBlue plans to offer hot meals in economy class. The presence of the ovens was tipped last week, suggesting this was coming but now we know that it will be for all passengers and complimentary.
Moreover, JetBlue is keeping its customer choice approach to the dining experience. Passengers can choose one of three main course options and two of three sides. Orders will be placed via the in-flight entertainment system, a process the carrier hopes will smooth the delivery process.
The menu is being developed in partnership with Boston/New York/Philadelphia restaurant chain Dig. Known for its vegetable-forward options, the Dig menu will feature a seasonal selection of proteins, vegetables and grains mindfully sourced in part from minority and women-run farms, as well as Dig’s own farm, Dig Acres.
Afternoon/evening departures will feature a dinner service; the company offers up examples of a charred chicken thigh, meatballs or spiced eggplant as the options. Morning departures (presumably westbound, though this could also apply to a daytime flight from JFK if that’s in the cards as the service expands) would be a breakfast service of bread pudding, smoked salmon crepe, or veggie frittata.
All drinks on board, including beer, wine, and liquor, will be complimentary. A “light bite” will also be offered prior to arrival.
The JetBlue Pantry self-service snack bar is also available on board. On the A321LR, however, it is located at the rear of the cabin rather than in the middle of the plane.
Live sports and more on board
Getting free FlyFi wifi throughout the flight is not much of a surprise. Getting a selection of live television channels on board, however, is slightly unexpected.
While JetBlue famously launched with DirecTV service at every seat the satellite coverage for those channels does not extend across the Atlantic. Thanks to a partnership with Panasonic Avionics, however, live television will be available on board. In addition to movies, TV shows, and other curated content, passengers will have access to CNN International, BBC, CNBC, Sky News, and Sport24.
Installing this award-winning live sports platform on our new international fleet of A321LRs will ensure [customers] remain entertained and connected at 30,000 feet.– Mariya Stoyanova, director of product development, JetBlue
While all the channels in Panasonic’s exTV suite are available, the company focused on the Sport24 service in a separate announcement. And it shows just how much live sports drives the television discussion
“Sports is the jewel in the crown; it is what everyone wants to have or, really, has to have.” That’s how Panasonic Avionics‘ Senior Director for Digital Product Management Dominic Green described the product back in January as part of Panasonic Avionics’ expanded partnership with IMG Media. That deal allows PAC to offer the service to airlines where it is neither the entertainment nor the connectivity provider for the service. Indeed, the Sport 24 system on JetBlue will be carried to the aircraft across a Viasat satellite link.
Sport 24 provides 18 hours per day of live coverage of top sporting events from around the world. It includes the NFL, NBA, NHL, all four Tennis Grand Slams, all four Golf Majors, the NRL, the UEFA Champions League, English Premier League, Bundesliga, and more.
Some catering concerns
The decision to bring complimentary hot meals on board should please passengers. But JetBlue’s approach could create a challenge on the short east-bound flights to Europe.
Typical service on a legacy carrier takes about 90 minutes from departure. When Delta Air Lines increased its meal offering and service levels the time stretched past two hours in some cases. With flight times often under 6 hours sleep is a precious commodity on board the redeye route. A slow meal service could eat into that time for travelers.
Maybe the smaller cabin – only 114 seats – helps with that. But it is also a single aisle aircraft with all the meals served from the rear galley. The company says it is still running service trials to ensure a smooth (and quick) rollout of the process.
Additionally, the breakfast service timing could prove challenging. For a departure from London after 10 am passengers have likely had the opportunity to eat prior to departure and are usually more keen on a lunch option, especially if the meal service stretches until noon or beyond.
Also under consideration for the westbound trip is the overall quantity of food provided on the longer hop. With just a “light bite” for the second service following what is typically a smaller breakfast portion compared to lunch or dinner offerings arriving passengers might be hungry as they head to the immigration lines at JFK or Boston. By comparison, several carriers trimmed back their second service on comparable routes a few years back, only to restore the full second meal westbound and even add in snack service.
While travelers don’t generally buy flights based on the meal service on board it does affect the passenger experience and net promoter scores.
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