USA Today had a couple of pieces this week about airlines charging $15-$30 extra for coach seats with more leg room, and their attempts to make price comparisons harder by publishing low fares that do not include certain surcharges. The airlines are desperate to extract extra revenue, now that fuel has surpassed labor as the biggest cost factor in the business. Price comparison sites have also made it “too easy” for consumers to, heaven forbid, compare options.
Speaking of attempting to differentiate a commodity product, I took my first trip on JetBlue this week. Despite an uneventful “emergency landing”, it was a nice experience. The people are friendly, the planes relatively comfortable, and the 30 or so channels of satellite TV a nice way to pass some time (since there were no power outlets, work was not an option halfway into a 4 hour flight– I have mixed feelings about this). It’s the small touches that were really nice, though, like having a free wireless hotspot in the departure lounge, along with a number of TV’s with the sound turned off so people could watch CNN or the NCAA tourney without everyone in the vicinity having to hear it. Instead of annoying musak during the boarding process, the seat back TVs display little messages like “Without you, we’d be just a bunch of TV’s flying around the country.” Based on my experience, I would give them a slight value advantage over their competitors. Something is definitely wrong with their pricing, though, as they were 40-50% cheaper than their competitors.