JetBlue’s latest earnings are a boon for its shareholders—less so for its loyal economy customers.
Executives at the US airline, whose earnings rose six-fold in the second quarter, said during its earnings call today that they were especially pleased with the mid-June launch of its new business class cabin, Mint. The premium class launched on flights between Los Angeles and New York marks a stark shift from JetBlue’s previous egalitarian approach. It has touted that its all-coach cabins offer more legroom than other US commercial carriers.
For a one-way price tag of $599—much less than the premium class fares of its competitors—Mint flyers sit upfront in fully reclining seats, with on-board Wi-Fi, DirecTV, fancier food, and some in closed-door suites. Though the service just launched and has yet to spread to other routes (its New York to San Francisco Mint seats launch in October), JetBlue president Robin Hayes said in an earlier interview that Mint should “ramp up pretty quickly to profitability.” The company said the new premium class is helping to diversify its base of leisure travelers with more recession-proof business customers. The strategy follows the lead of other American carriers who have used luxury-travel perks to pad profit margins as fuel costs have risen.
But in any given airplane there’s only so much floor space to work with for the premium amenities. Coach-class legroom on Mint flights has been reduced by one inch per row to make room for the posh seats up front. As for any plans to further crimp economy travelers’ space, JetBlue president Hayes made one thing clear on the earnings call today: ”We are not against adding seats.”