Want to fly first class without sticker shock? JetBlue may have the seat for you

JetBlue Airways will soon introduce a premium cabin on flights between Los Angeles and New York.

JetBlue Airways will soon introduce a premium cabin on flights between Los Angeles and New York. Photo courtesy of JetBlue.

JetBlue Airways is introducing new flat bed premium seats on its flights between New York and Los Angeles, but the airline’s target market is not the passengers you might expect.

With some of the best seats in the industry, JetBlue wants to attract travelers who aren’t always accustomed to flying business and first class on domestic routes. As JetBlue Vice President of Network Planning Scott Laurence told me, the airline wants to “stimulate demand” by offering considerably cheaper premium cabin prices than competitors American, Delta, United and Virgin America. Currently, JetBlue has an all coach configuration.

“It’s the concept of taking the best possible product and offering it at the lowest possible price,” Laurence said. “We saw a great opportunity here to bring a great product to this market and target it at people who are paying with their own money. If you look at the incumbent pricing, it is incredibly high. It’s in the $2,000 or $2,500 range.”

JetBlue has not released its pricing, so it’s not clear exactly how low the fares will be. But earlier this week, the airline showed off its new seats, which will be installed on 11 soon-to-be delivered A321s. The seats are somewhat standard flat business class seats, though the configuration is a bit unusual. Some rows will have only one seat on either side of the aisle, while some rows will have 2 seats on each side. In all, there will be 16 seats, and the service is expected to start in 2014.

It would seem likely that the rows with only two seats would be priced higher than the rows with four seats across. But Laurence said it was too early to know for sure whether the products will be priced differently.

What’s interesting about this approach is that it is entirely different from what other airlines usually try. As Laurence explained, JetBlue likes to increase supply when it senses increased demand on a route. That usually means adding flights or using a larger plane. Other airlines, he said, usually respond to increased demand by simply raising prices. They usually don’t increase the number of available seats.

Laurence said he is optimistic there is a real demand for JetBlue’s new seats – so long as they’re sold at a fair price.

“If you do the math, at $700 or $1,000 what’s premium demand in these markets?” he said. “Demand really explodes.”

Want to see the new seats? Fast forward to the one minute mark in the video below.

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