Regular readers know that I’m a big fan of JetBlue. Their service is excellent, the onboard product is the best in the industry and they truly value their loyal customers. And my flight yesterday was just another example of the airline simply doing what they do well.
The Boston-New York market is known as the shuttle market. At one time, planes would simply run continuously, with one rolling up to the gate as the previous one departed. Because it was such an important business market, you used to get great seats, newspapers, extra service touches, etc. Over time, though, airlines began to cut back. The flights still run hourly, but that’s about the extent of the benefits.
Enter JetBlue. While they’ve had a few missteps in establishing their shuttle presence, including lousy La Guardia gates and a rebellion against the simits that they served as snacks, the product yesterday was as close to flawless as they get. Here’s why:
The Marine Air Terminal
The biggest problem with the JetBlue shuttle used to be the fact that it flew into remote gates in La Guardia’s B Terminal. Finding your way out of their gates and to the street required a two-mile walk through a labyrinth, in which there was a 50/50 shot that you’d be eaten by a Minotaur.
No longer, as JetBlue has moved its La Guardia operations to Terminal A, or the Marine Air Terminal. You may never have heard of the terminal, since it’s not attached to the main terminal, but it’s the new home to JetBlue’s gates. Just down the road from the main airport, Terminal A is an Art Deco building from 1940, with an entrance dominated by a 237-foot mural, the largest created through the Works Progress Administration. It’s one of the few remaining buildings from the “golden age of flying” and is on the and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
But the real beauty isn’t limited to the mural. No, what also makes the MAT great is that it has six gates. Six. In terms of crowds, it’s a ghost town. There was no wait at either security line, pre-check or regular, not to mention on the runway. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 5:40 pm. It took off at 5:41.
JetBlue, of course, stepped it up a notch. Employees were everywhere. When I went to check in, a JetBlue employee came running over to help and, when he saw that I had Mosaic elite status, he exclaimed, “Oh, you’re Mosaic! Thank you so much for your business! We appreciate it so much!” That differs from the traditional carriers, who would simply say, “Oh, you’re Diamond. We’ll try not to lose your luggage.” Another bonus: If you are on a flight to Boston, you get free coffee from Dunkin Donuts.
It’s just as good once you get onboard. Seating is 2X2, so there is no middle seat to deal with. Drinks are free. They do a full beverage and snack service, with a cart and everything, as opposed to the legacy carriers who make sure that you know that “due to the short nature of this flight, we are doing an abbreviated service.” And here’s one final bonus: If they run out of overhead space or you are forced to gate check your bag, they return it to you on the jet bridge as you are getting off the plane. There’s no need to wait at the baggage carousel.
Free coffee, a small terminal, great on-board experience and a 39-minute flight that got in 31 minutes early? Can’t beat it.
*The flight is blocked for 71 minutes, 39 minutes for the flight and 32 for the time that you spend getting off the ground at LGA and landing. Our flight was scheduled to land at 6:51pm but actually got in at 6:20. Flight time of 39 minutes, early arrival by 31. The flight itself took 1/3 of the time that it took us to get from the city to the airport.
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