Archive for July, 2010

The Jet Blue Experience

July 26, 2010

I’ve finally taken the plunge and flown Jet Blue for the first time.   Yes, I know they’ve been flying for 10 years.   But if you, like me, haven’t flown Jet Blue yet, you need to try them.   Really!

 Those of you following my blogs know that I often review high end, business and first class experiences on some of the world’s best (and worst) airlines.   But for those of you who are road warriors in the US, well, most of us have ratcheted down our expectations for coach air travel to inexcusable but predictably low levels.   Facing the facts, people want to fly cheap, and there are few people willing to pay even a little more for basic conveniences unless the airlines force them to do so.

Enter Jet Blue – and it’s still hard to believe they’ve been flying for 10 years, isn’t it?  Since I live in Austin and they fly to LA, SF, JFK and Ft. Lauderdale from my home base, it’s hard to believe I’ve never set foot on a Jet Blue (Code B6) place.  

 This weekend, I was swayed by the Happy Jetting advertising campaign and flew from Ft. Lauderdale to Newark as a chance to test out their service.  Hey, I already knew what Continental, the only other carrier on the route, was going to deliver!  My decision was also partly made after ready the continuously glowing reviews of Jet Blue by The Cranky Flier, a blogger based out of the greater LA area.  He much prefers the – shall we say “gritty” but convenient – experience of flying out of Long Beach, which is a primary tenant of that airport, to the O’Hare-like ambiance of LAX.  

 A word to the wise – if you ARE flying Jet Blue, be sure you join their TrueBlue frequent flier program and check in online 24 hours before you travel.  Otherwise, you’re like to face a long line at the airport behind Aunt Mabel and the kids, before you can check in, get your seat assignment, and check your bags.  

 Benefit number one – you can more or less assure yourself some relatively spacious seating accommodation by purchasing a premium legroom seat assignment, for between $10 and $50 per flight.   Our $25 upgrade between Ft. Lauderdale and Newark bought us exit row seats 11 A and C – and in the absence of a full flight, I figured “Who was going to shell out $25 for a middle seat, exit row or not?”   It was a good call, we had and empty middle seat between us and the long and short of it was we had the equivalent of “poor man’s first class” for only $50 for two. Not a bad deal at all!

 Benefit number two – your first checked bag is FREE – no “status” or credit card required! Even better, my second bag was only $30 – so right off the bat I was ahead of the game.  If you aren’t flying on your preferred carrier and getting free baggage and free upgrades, it’s a terrific deal.

You won’t have any preferred access through security, so be sure to allow enough time, to make it to the gate.  And of course there aren’t any lounges to wait in, so bring something to read and stake out a seat.

About The Flight

 Our Airbus 320 was relatively spacious, since even regular coach seats have 34” of legroom – at least advertised as such.   I sat in a regular seat, and I would bet it was closer to 32”, but at least my 6’2” knees didn’t hit the seat in front of me like the do on most coach configurations.   The exit row space was advertised as 38”, but again, I think it was a bit short of that – but if you need to pull out a laptop and work, it’s at least possible!  

 Onboard service consisted of a wide variety of soft drinks (The Cranky Flier would be pleased to know Ginger Ale was available)  – and an equally wide variety of complimentary snack food.  Some of it was junk food (I picked Doritos snack mix and chocolate chip cookies – sue me!) but there were also 100 calorie Animal Crackers and packages of Craisins.   Beats American’s first class snack food on short flights…

Time literally flew by with the 36 channel Direct TV which was available for almost the entire flight.  I got to catch up on Kathy Griffin and her D-List, watched part of National Lampoon’s European Vacation on TBS, and wrote 3 business letters before landing.  I was also able to follow our progress on the Jet Blue in-flight channel, although the advertising that cycled through every 10 seconds was getting annoying.  Fortunately, you can turn your personal viewing screen off if you wish.

 We landed exactly on time.   Luggage came out at Newark less than 20 minutes – about half the time I expect from the major carriers.

 The Verdict

 Once is not enough to recommend without equivocation… but I give Jet Blue an “A” on my first flight.  On time, easy check in, the ability to purchase extra legroom for a reasonable cost, free entertainment, good junk food – all at a bargain price.   So – if you haven’t tried Jet Blue, why not give them a shot – especially if you’ve already qualified for top tier status on your favorite carrier…

The Emirates A380 Experience – Uplifting and Unexpected

July 17, 2010

I’ve been intrigued by Emirates Airlines advertising over the past few years.  While my travels don’t often take me through Dubai, I recently had the opportunity to spend a night at the Park Hyatt and experience Emirates new A-380 flight from Bangkok.   I couldn’t have been more surprised or pleased with the experience.

The Emirates A-380 made me feel like I was flying for the first time.   As someone who has flown 200,000 miles a year for the last 10 years, that’s quite an accomplishment.  

Check in at Bangkok’s new airport was quick and as pleasant as it can be in a major city airport.  But once through security, the lounge beckoned with a wide selection of food and drink that was so far above what’s typically offered in airport lounges I might have been at an exclusive cocktail reception.