With much fanfare (well, with an effusive press release), JetBlue announced a new package of onboard pay-per-view movies on June 2. Normally we would respond with little more than a collective yawn ($5 for an onboard movie? Get outta town!), but in this era of unprecedented oil prices, JetBlue’s new offering deserves a closer and somewhat less cynical look.
It pains me to say it, but I think we all need to get used to the fact that airline travel as we knew it (where nearly everything onboard was complimentary) is a thing of the past. In fact, we’ve already gotten used to it: It’s called the low-cost airline. What we’re dealing with now, though, is the realization that not even low-cost airlines can provide all the minimal frills we accepted as part of the business model, and that some, like JetBlue, need to charge for a few amenities.
So as airlines pile up new charges to deal with jet fuel prices, a distinction needs to be made between fees you sometimes can’t avoid, such as those for checked baggage, and fees you can elect to pay, such as those for onboard movies. You don’t need to pay for an onboard movie, especially on an airline that already provides free satellite television. In fact, one could argue (as airline execs probably would) that you don’t need to be served a sandwich on the plane. You can bring your own food aboard.
So we can (and should) rage all we want about airlines nabbing $25 for that second checked bag, but my sense is that we’ll have to accept amenities such as JetBlue’s new pay-per-view package as good news (except, in this case, for people on flights to the Caribbean, for whom movies used to be free). At least you have choice of films, right? And if you don’t want to pay for a movie, just watch television. But expecting airlines to shower us with freebies these days? Time to move on.