The Economist reports that JetBlue's recent eBay auction of last-minute airfare was not only a marketing success, but a financial one as well—for customers! People purchasing JetBlue fares on eBay paid 40 percent less on average than they would have on jetblue.com. As would be expected, some people overpaid as well, due largely to the highly competitive nature of online auctioning.
While most assume (correctly, I would guess) that the JetBlue sale was primarily a marketing stunt, these results are certainly intriguing. For its part, JetBlue was able to create mild hysteria and attract lots of media attention over some ho-hum last-minute fares and even sell a few well above their actual value. Considering the sale also represented a legitimate savings opportunity for customers, the result is a viable way for airlines to unload excess inventory.
It's no wonder, then that JetBlue is contemplating another eBay auction in the future. I also agree with the Economist that other airlines, particularly domestic carriers such as Southwest or Virgin America, could pull off a similar stunt. After all, if JetBlue can sell 300 previously unwanted seats and draw 135,000 people to its website during a traditionally slow booking period, why not?