Recently, low-fare carrier JetBlue has been getting attention from travelers and journalists alike with low prices, new routes, and free in-flight DirecTV. While it may seem that you can’t go wrong when you book with the new darling of the industry, there are several factors worth considering before you pull out your credit card. We’ve sorted through the hype to help you determine if JetBlue is right for you.
When it comes to the number of routes and frequency of departures, four-year old JetBlue can’t compete with legacy airlines like American and United that have been flying for decades. While JetBlue might offer the lowest price on a route from Denver to Boston, for example, bigger airlines are able to offer more flights at different times. JetBlue, on the other hand, offers only one flight on this route—a red-eye—per day. If you’re not thrilled at the prospect of flying in the middle of the night, one of the larger airlines will be a better choice.
Though JetBlue is constantly adding new routes, it will be a long time before it can match the departures of the larger carriers. And, if you want to fly internationally (beyond the Dominican Republic), a big airline is your only option, as JetBlue—like all of the U.S.-based low-fare carriers—focuses almost entirely on domestic travel.
Travelers accustomed to flying in luxury will most likely be disappointed on a JetBlue flight. While JetBlue’s one-class planes feature leather seats and DirecTV, they?re a far cry from typical business- or first-class perks. Business- and first-class travelers on a cross-country flight will probably find themselves disappointed in a JetBlue coach seat without the possibility of a seat upgrade.
Additionally, JetBlue keeps prices low by not offering meal service, even on long cross-country flights. Complimentary beverages and snacks (cookies, chips, etc.) are available, and you can bring your own meal on-board, but if you prefer to be served a meal, one of the big airlines is a better option.
If you’re a member of one of the big airlines’ frequent flyer programs, you might find yourself reluctant to fly a different airline. While JetBlue and others offer frequent flyer programs of their own, the benefits can be more difficult to obtain than on bigger airlines.
JetBlue’s TrueBlue frequent flyer program awards points rather than miles for every flight you book with the airline. Different length flights are awarded different numbers of points, and booking online will earn you several more points. The downside of the program is that points expire after one year. If you don’t fly the requisite number of flights, and earn the appropriate amount of points, you might not ever reap the benefits of being a member of TrueBlue. Miles earned with big airlines, however, are easier to carry over from year to year.
JetBlue’s TrueBlue program also does not have any partners, so you’ll earn points only by booking with the airline. Many of the big airlines’ programs have numerous partners, so you can earn miles by using a credit card, booking a rental car, etc. All in all, if miles are important to you, and you don?t often fly JetBlue’s routes, it’s probably worth it to continue accumulating miles in your present program.
The downside of flying a low-fare carrier like JetBlue doesn’t necessarily outweigh the biggest, and most obvious, positive aspect: low fares. The simplified pricing structure and low prices can be big enough factors to fly a low-fare carrier. The important thing is to decide which factors are most important to you and, as always, shop around before you book.