JetBlue revamps website to avoid confusion with new partner American Airlines
An American Airlines plane lands on a runway near a JetBlue plane parked at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on July 16, 2020 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
The next challenge for JetBlue Airways in its partnership with American Airlines is to make sure travelers know which plane they will be on.
JetBlue is revamping its website to more clearly call the services it offers, like free Wi-Fi and snacks, or its business class, Mint, for jointly sold flights, said the president and chief operating officer of JetBlue, Joanna Geraghty, in an interview this week.
“Transparency eliminates confusion,” Geraghty said. “It puts people at ease if they know what they’re getting when they come in, and it also allows us to talk about our great product offerings and allows Americans to talk about theirs.”
The New York-based carrier revolutionized U.S. air service when it debuted in February 2000, offering backrest screens with satellite TV, and has since offered its Mint business class at a lower price than its competitors as well as more legroom than its competitors. Competitors like United Airlines are making multi-billion dollar investments to improve customer amenities.
American and JetBlue launched the Northeast Alliance in February, a partnership that allows carriers to sell tickets on their respective planes and coordinate schedules in the region.
Although JetBlue has grown rapidly over two decades, it remains small compared to large network operators.
Airlines executives say the deal helps them compete better with key competitors United and Delta Air Lines at generally congested airports in Boston and the New York City area.
But each airline’s services and planes differ. JetBlue offers free Wi-Fi, backrest screens, and sells alcoholic beverages. American Airlines sells Wi-Fi service and has suspended sales of alcoholic beverages on domestic coach flights following an increase in unruly travelers this year. Some American Airlines planes provide seat entertainment, although they largely offer free streaming content for passengers’ personal devices, as well as Apple TV + and Apple Music, specifics not listed on the JetBlue site.
“For us, it’s about making sure customers know what they’re buying,” said Geraghty. The redesign will likely include bullet points to show what each flight offers, she added, and will take several months.
Protect the brand
Changes to JetBlue’s website show the challenges of communicating service differences, even though airlines sell their flights to each other.
“Basically it’s a marriage of convenience that comes at a cost to the brand,” said Samuel Engel, senior vice president of aviation at consulting firm ICF. “The most knowledgeable travelers know the difference [in service], and less experienced travelers tend to be more price-oriented. “
Flight searches on each airline’s website for routes covered by the agreement now display flights and indicate in fine print whether they are operated by JetBlue or American.
Not all rates are available. American does not sell JetBlue’s basic, no-frills economy tickets. An American Airlines spokeswoman said the Fort Worth-based carrier plans to change that eventually, but selling it side-by-side with its own product could confuse passengers.
JetBlue’s base economy fares do not allow travelers to bring an overhead bag, unlike American’s. This carrier has also relaxed its basic economic restrictions.
Other differences: A list of flight options on JetBlue’s website shows a link for “amenities available” for its own flights but not for those of American. American, in turn, notes that Wi-Fi is available on JetBlue and US flights, but not that it’s free on JetBlue.
American said it plans to eventually change its site to show more detailed service information. It recently updated its website to provide seat maps for JetBlue and American and allow customers to access their reservations with either carrier.
This fall, he plans to extend elite frequent flyer benefits to customers with that status from every airline.
“There were customer issues over the summer that we corrected,” said a spokesperson.
The partnership is now under fire from critics.
The Department of Justice, six states and the District of Columbia sued carriers for the partnership last month, alleging it violated antitrust laws and would raise fares. The carriers deny the claims and said the partnership helped them add more flights to the region.
“This provides a very viable third competitor for Delta and United in the North East,” Geraghty said. “We are very confident in our position vis-à-vis the DOJ.” The Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation did not respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.
Although JetBlue and American coordinate on schedules and routes to and from Boston and the New York area, they are not permitted to work together on fare or fare information.