At long last, JetBlue Airways has revealed the new cabin interior for its Airbus A320 fleet. The aircraft are the workhorses and backbone of the fleet and have not received a cabin refresh in the entirety of the type’s 18-year service with JetBlue. The current cabin interior is consistent across its Airbus A320 and Embraer E190 fleet, with the newly integrated Airbus A321s having a more modernized interior.
Unbeknownst to many, except the lucky passengers onboard, the first aircraft to receive the updated interior, N646JB nicknamed Bravo-Lima-Uniform-Echo, flew its first passenger flight today from JetBlue’s hub at Boston Logan International Airport to its secondary hub at L.F. Wade International Airport in Bermuda.
The airline plans to roll out the new interior in two phases throughout the next 2 years. The first phase currently underway in 2018 will focus on the cabin, in-flight entertainment and the seats.
The primary changes with the new interior relate to passenger connectivity and comfort. The new A320 interior will feature the 10.1-inch touch screen televisions that are currently found on the A321 fleet. These televisions come with features such as a greater quantity of on-demand movies and t.v. shows that can be controlled by the user, whereas, on current A320s, users are at the whim of the running schedule for movies.
JetBlue is also expanding its free high-speed internet program, FlyFi, to include gate-to-gate coverage, a relatively new phenomenon only found on select JetBlue flights such as the Boston-LaGuardia shuttle. JetBlue is the only airline that allows free internet through ViaSat Internet, as opposed to the more widely-used Gogo Inflight Internet. The airline also partners with Amazon for purchases made while using the service.
Furthermore, the A320 seats will receive numerous upgrades. First, power outlets will be installed to charge devices in-flight either with a standard plug or USB. Next, the airline is giving the seats a modernized look, as opposed to the current grey seats that we see today. The airline is also adding an adjustable headrest and ergonomic seat support. For the seatbacks, water bottle holders will be added, and a new seatback pocket design will be implemented.
For the aircraft cabins, LED mood lighting will be installed, which provides various levels of lightening helpful for overnight flights across various time zones. Additionally, new overhead bins, sidewalls, carpets and front partitions will be installed.
Phase 1 of the project will seem largely familiar to frequent JetBlue travelers because most of the features previously mentioned are currently found on the airline’s Airbus A321 fleet. The A321 was the first new aircraft type received by the airline since it took delivery of its first Embraer E190 in 2005. The longer version of the A320, the A321 was the launch pad for many new JetBlue initiatives including the new cabin interior and JetBlue’s premium product, JetBlue Mint.
The first phase of the project will see JetBlue match the industry standards that its current product is falling behind in. Most airlines have adopted mood lighting, adjustable armrests and touchscreen televisions. However, the second phase of the project, slated to begin in 2019, will see JetBlue not just match industry standards, but surpass them.
The first focus of the second phase will be the seats themselves. In addition to their new designs implemented in phase one, the seats will have an additional inch of legroom, further establishing JetBlue’s tagline of “The Most Legroom in Coach,” and the seat widths will increase to 18.4 inches, making it the widest coach seat for a U.S. airline
The next focus will be the seatbacks. While phase one added the water bottle holder off to the side of the seatback pocket, as currently exists on the A321s, phase two adds a separate mesh holder for water bottles and two smaller mesh pockets on the outer layer for more storage space. The pockets themselves will also be elastic, allowing for easier access to items.
For the new seats, the airline will be using the Rockwell Collins Meridian seat design. The increased seat width is the widest available for the A320 without sacrificing aisle space too greatly. Its features include greater seat cushion comfort and a contoured seatback design at knee-level for more space.
For connectivity, the power outlets will be customer-facing, rather than under the seat. This will eliminate the problem of passengers scrambling under their seats to find the outlet and fit their plug into it blindly. Additionally, while currently, the remotes for the televisions are in the armrests, phase two will see an all-touchscreen display, removing the remotes from the armrests and making them lighter and less bulky.
Perhaps the greatest features of phase two, however, will be the in-flight entertainment upgrades. The touchscreen televisions will be upgraded to an Android-based operating system custom designed for JetBlue, with the 10.1-inch screens featured 1080p high definition resolution with picture-in-picture functionality. This means no more missing your show to check the status of the live map or leaving one show to check the score of the game.
Additionally, the airline is enhancing the systems to include amenities found on airlines such as Delta, American and the once-great Virgin America including on-demand audiobooks, gaming, podcasts, closed captioning on movies and t.v. shows, as well as personalization of the system during the flight.
The on-demand offerings will also be upgraded to include new releases as well as more classic movies and t.v. shows. The live map will shift to a 3D map, as opposed to the static live map that exists today that cycles through pre-set map displays. The new map will provide multiple ways to track your aircraft, including tracking time to destination.
Lastly, while some airlines offer a tethered remote to control the IFE system, JetBlue will be introducing a way to pay your personal device to the screen to use your phone as a remote. The pairing function will use Near Field Communication and JetBlue will be the first U.S. airline to have the amenity. In addition, the IFE system will provide destination-related continent for passengers to brush up on their final destinations.
The complete overhaul of the A320 fleet is expected to be completed in three years. The first dozen aircraft will receive the upgrades within the year, starting with the A320 classics as they are the older aircraft in the fleet, with the airline upping the number of aircraft upgraded to multiple aircraft per month in 2019. The overhaul will be proactive, instead of the as-needed style that other airlines use when rebranding aircraft.
The rebranding effort won’t just be the amenities of the aircraft’s interior but will also be exemplified by the in-flight crewmembers who are undergoing a new training process to provide greater hospitality to JetBlue’s customers. The airline just reached over 5,000 in-flight crewmembers last year and is starting the training in response to the success of its Mint product, which will be completed by all crewmembers by the end of this year.
No plans, however, have been announced for the airline’s smaller E190 aircraft. If the airline decides to purchase the E190 E-2 from Embraer, it may be used as the launch platform for a new interior design of that type, just as the A321 was for the A320. As for now, though, the largest E190 fleet in the United States remains untouched.
The new changes will see JetBlue move into the future of in-flight offerings. While other airlines have slowly progressed by adopting new technology piecemeal, JetBlue has sat back, watched and has been taking notes while keeping their current interiors for as long as possible. Now, JetBlue is completely overhauling its in-flight product based on the best industry standards and is poised to have one of the best cabin interiors when phase two is completed in 2019.