JetBlue Rapidly Modernizes Following Long Stagnation

A series of JetBlue tails (Photo: JetBlue)

Earlier this month, JetBlue unveiled the new cabin interior to be retrofitted on all of its current Airbus A320 fleet. However, while this news was welcomed sight for many frequent JetBlue travelers, as the airline hasn’t updated the interior of its A320 aircraft since receiving its first one in 2000, the airline has been making other minor, yet impactful improvements to bring the airline into the modern-day and compete with other major U.S. airlines.

The last three years, in particular, has seen the airline evolve from the new kid on the block to a large disruption in the U.S. aviation market due to the implementation of numerous changes. While the airline has historically been slow at updating and innovating, it has been making changes at near breakneck speed when considering it took 15 years for the company to get its current point.

Updated Cabin Interior for A320 Fleet

As previously mentioned, the most-notable modernization effort undertaken by the airline was the retrofit of its the Airbus A320 cabin interiors. The A320s are the workhorse of the JetBlue fleet and was the aircraft that JetBlue first started out with for its inception in 2000. However, while the A320 has remained a mainstay at the airline, so has its interior.

JetBlue’s new A320 interior on N646JB. (Photo: Gordon Gebert)

Even seldom JetBlue passengers know exactly what to expect when walking onto a JetBlue A320 or even an Embraer E190, its regional workhorse, as the interior designs and features are nearly identical. With the changes to the interior including larger television screens, new seat designs and increased capacity on the aircraft, passengers will surely notice a difference when boarding one of these new aircraft.

While the first phase of the cabin retrofits on the A320s will bring JetBlue up to par with its competitors with amenities such as touchscreen televisions, LED mood lighting and in-seat power outlets, a long overdue process, are part of the second phase, scheduled to begin in 2019.

Improved technology such as Android-based systems, picture-in-picture displays, rear-facing power outlets and the ability to pair your phone with the screen to use as a remote will dominate the in-flight experience and surpass most technology found on most domestic flights. With airlines such as United and American are removing their seatback televisions in favor of personal device entertainment, JetBlue is doubling down.

JetBlue’s future plans for its in-flight entertainment system. (Photo: JetBlue)

The entertainment upgrades are only a drop in the bucket, as the airline has a plethora of changes for the A320 ranging from the seats to the cabin as a whole.

Premium Cabin Addition

Last month, AirlineGeeks covered the expansion of JetBlue’s first premium product, JetBlue Mint, to its latest destination, Seattle. Exclusively on its premium-configured A321s, Mint service has been called one of the best domestic business class products.

Mint Suite: Seat 4A (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Hemal Gosai)

While it took JetBlue nearly 15 years to implement the service, those years of waiting weren’t in vain. The airline studied the premium cabins of other airlines and created a product that takes the best from each one. The Mint cabin is a mix of private “Mint suites” and two-seat pairs totaling 16 seats in all. We tested out the Mint suite on the inaugural Mint flight from Seattle to New York and were not disappointed.

The enclosed Mint suite onboard JetBlue’s A321 aircraft. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Tom Pallini)

Each seat includes a fully lie-flat function, which on major airlines is typically reserved for international or busy transcontinental flights, large screen televisions, tapas-style menus with large, premium selections and two dedicated and specially-trained Mint flight attendants, as well as other creature comforts such as ice cream and cookies.

JetBlue Mint’s tapas-style meal offering. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Tom Pallini)

Mint was supposed to be solely for transcontinental routes between New York and California. However, the early additions of popular Caribbean destinations saw the service expand to the airline’s most popular routes both domestically and internationally from its hubs in Boston, New York and Fort Lauderdale.

While it’s unlikely that the A320 and E190 fleet will take on the premium cabin, as the size of the seats would decrease the number of main cabin seats severely, all of the airline’s upcoming A321 deliveries will be premium-configured.

Inclusions of Green to a Sea of Blueness

While there’s no standard JetBlue livery, the formula is simple: different variations of the color blue with white and maybe orange. Recently, however, JetBlue has included the color green ever so slightly into the mix but has done so in a way that greatly complements the traditional JetBlue blues.

Seen predominantly on the A321 aircraft, green has been carefully injected into some A320 and E190 liveries and represents JetBlue Mint and Mosaic. All of the airline’s A321 aircraft have an identical livery, called “Prism,” featuring green on the tail.

A JetBlue A321 blasts off the runway (Photo: JetBlue)

Green is also featured on one of the newest standard liveries for the A320, “Tartan”, where its interwoven with blue, and also on the “Highrise” livery, where it’s used as tiles that depict a New York skyrise. Although a slightly different shade of green, it’s also featured on an older JetBlue livery, “Bluemanity,” the humanitarian-themed plane.

JetBlue’s “Tartan” special livery. (Photo: JetBlue)

In an otherwise blue world, the green stands out for passengers. Yet, it hasn’t been overly used or squandered. With JetBlue’s new use of the color, you can associate green with a premium product or modernity.

New Special Liveries

In addition to the use of the color green, one of the things that JetBlue does best is its special liveries on its aircraft. Historically, JetBlue special liveries such as “I Heart New York,” “New York Jets” and “Boston Red Sox” have been seen at the airline’s destinations across the country. However, the last year has seen JetBlue unveil a slew of new special liveries representing organizations from sports teams to public agencies, as well as JetBlue-specific initiatives.

JetBlue’s “Bluemanity” special livery. (Photo: JetBlue)

In a sign of respect to the brave men and women that serve the City of New York, where JetBlue’s hub at JFK’s Terminal 5 is located, the airport recently unveiled a New York City Police Department (NYPD) livery called “Blue Finest.” The NYPD livery complimented the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) and “I Heart New York” liveries that the airline has had for years, reaffirming its commitment as “New York’s Hometown Airline” with its headquarters in Long Island City.

JetBlue’s latest special livery honors NYPD officers (Photo: Gordon Gebert)

Other special liveries to debut over the past year included an updated New York Jets livery which debuted in September, a Boston Celtics livery that debuted a few weeks ago and, most recently, a JetBlue Vacation-themed plane to promote its vacation package program.

JetBlue Vacation-themed special livery coming out of the paint shop. (Photo: JetBlue)
JetBlue’s latest special livery aircraft highlighting its partnership with the Boston Celtics (Photo: JetBlue)

While the liveries are merely painted on the outside of the plane, the speed at which the airline is adding special liveries shows a commitment to update the aging appearances of some of its fleet.

New JetBlue Website and Mobile App

For as long as many passengers can remember, the JetBlue website has remained the same with very little changes along with many accompanying bugs. While seemingly easy to navigate and user-friendly, the website did have its issues. Despite a slightly-botched rollout early in May resulting delay of several weeks, the airline released its new website to the public on June 1.

JetBlue’s new website home screen. (Photo: Jetblue.com)

According to the website, the new features include “Smoother navigation. Shortcuts to the best fares. Vacation inspiration.” While the homepage seems to be the only major change, the website states there is more to come.

While the functions remain the same, the update was necessary to follow along with the new wave of updates and modernity that is sweeping through the airline. Similarly, with the mobile app, which was one of the last airline mobile apps to not let you perform simple tasks such as change seats, was updated last year to include additional functionality regarding existing bookings.

The app has the same design as the website, but was released months before the new website was uploaded.

Rapid Modernization Following Years of Stagnation

The changes brought on by JetBlue are a welcomed sight following what seemed to be an eternity of the same old, same old with the adolescent airline. While consistency was undoubtedly achieved across all its aircraft, other airlines were continuously overtaking the aircraft in terms of added technology and improvements to aircraft. JetBlue was falling behind but is now regaining its footing amongst fierce competitors.

The changes are merely the most recent and most notable changes that JetBlue has instituted. Other honorable mentions include adding an elite status program, Mosaic, in 2012, redesigning the check-in area at JFK’s Terminal 5 to allow for more self-sufficiency, adding a boarding process based on group instead of rows, moving to Orlando International Airport’s new South Terminal upon completion, increasing service to non-coastal cities and the ever-updating snack menu onboard.

The addition of these improvements all at once is a great sign that the airline is committed to updating its fleet. However, let’s not forget that the airline was under pressure by its investors to eliminate free checked bags for its customers. With nearly all U.S. airlines introducing basic economy fares for their flights, let’s hope that JetBlue doesn’t follow down that path as well.

As long as the airline keeps innovating while keeping fares down, the JetBlue experiment will continue to prove to be a success. However, passengers can only hope that it won’t be another 18 years before we see new improvements as technology and aircraft naturally continue to innovate.

Thomas Pallini

Thomas Pallini

Tom has been flying for as long as he can remember. His first flight memory was on a Song Airlines 757 flying from LaGuardia to Orlando. Back then, he was afraid to fly because he thought you needed to jump off the plane in order to get off. Some years later, Tom is now a seasoned traveler, often flying to places just for the fun of it. Most of the time, he'll never leave the airport on his trips. If he's not at home or at work as a Line Service Technician at Long Island MacArthur Airport, he's off flying somewhere, but only for the day.
Thomas Pallini