JetBlue's all-you-can-fly flights

The side of a JetBlue airplane

TEXT OF STORY

TESS VIGELAND: A few weeks ago JetBlue announced something as rare for an airline as gourmet food. For 599 bucks you could buy an "all you can Jet" pass. Thirty days of unlimited travel anywhere JetBlue flies.

If you just love airport check-in counters, airport security lines, airport gates and airplanes, wow, that sounds great! Unfortunately, it's too late to get one, but the race to get your money's worth starts on Tuesday.

Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson has our story.


Jeremy Hobson: At the JetBlue headquarters near New York's JFK Airport, Spokesman Todd Burke leaves you thinking the airlines's doing this to get publicity.

Todd Burke: How can we get the most amount of buzz and a really unique experience in a really slow period?

Well, the airline certainly got buzz and maybe it'll get some new customers out of this. But at what cost?

Seth Kaplan of Airline Weekly says very little.

Seth Kaplan: So they have these seats that are going to be flying around and basically an airline seat that takes off without somebody sitting in it is spoilage. The same as bread that a supermarket has to throw out at the end of the day because it didn't sell any.

So Jet Blue would like to turn that bread into dough in the least busy month of the year.
And the airline, unlike its competitors, does not overbook flights. So don't expect long lines at the airport. All-you-can-jet flights have to be booked three days in advance.

Kaplan says the genius of all-you-can-jet is that JetBlue might actually make money from it.

Kaplan: You know it's similar to going to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Now nobody really eats everything on the buffet, and in many cases they might have been able to buy the food that they actually ate a la carte and pay less. But people love that idea of something that's all-inclusive, that they can take full advantage of. And that's what's going on here.

Of course, some customers will pay less than they otherwise would have. Like maybe this guy.

Brendan Ross: I figure I'll probably take an average of two flights a day.

That's 60 flights total for Brendan Ross of Austin, Texas. He's taking JetBlue for all its worth, in some time off before he starts his job as an air traffic controller. He'll give new meaning to the term non-stop flights. Bringing with him just a carry-on bag and no plans to leave the airports he flies through.

Ross: You know a lot of people have horror stories, "Oh I got caught in an airport for five, six hours, or even overnight." What happened if you were caught in an airport for 30 straight days?

Not sure I'd want to find out myself, but Ross does. And Wired Magazine's bankrolling the whole thing to get a little publicity for themselves.

If JetBlue gets its wish, Ross'll be hooked for life or maybe he'll never want to see an airplane again and decide to change careers.

Ross: I've got to be honest, I have not flown JetBlue before, but I hear they're pretty nice jets and you get a choice of snacks and everything, so really if I could have picked an airline, JetBlue is a pretty good one to go with.

Hobson: You're going to probably have had enough of the peanuts by day 15 or so.

Ross: Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be pretty tired of that.

This is not the first time an airline's done something like this. Air Canada's dabbled in all-you-can-fly. And JetBlue Spokesman Todd Burke says his airline my repeat this experiment, depending on how the next month goes.

Burke: I think we're going to really look very closely at how customers booked, where they booked, what the average number of segments that our all you can jetters used and we'd love to bring it back again.

JetBlue's not wasting the opportunity to make some money on fees with this program. It'll charge fliers who skip a flight a hundred bucks. And they won't be able to use their pass until they've paid.

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace Money.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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