Jetblue’s Jenny Dervin answers your questions

A model seen in the Jetblue New York headquarters. Photo: Your blogger.

A model seen in the Jetblue New York headquarters. Photo: Your blogger.

Last week, I visited Jetblue headquarters in Long Island City. N.Y.  Before I left, I asked if any of you had any questions for airline officials. I got a couple of good ones from readers — and here’s what I learned.

The first question came from Andy. He wanted to know if Jetblue plans to improve its facility at LAX, where it shares Terminal 3 with Virgin America and US Airways. 

The short answer is yes, Jetblue officials told me. As many of you know, Jetblue this spring will introduce a new premium section with flatbed seats on flights from LAX to New York. And as part of that service, it would be nice to have an upgraded airport facility. Airline officials told me the fix might come with a move to Terminal 2, but they said it is too premature to know for sure. I will keep you posted on what happens.

The second question came from Chase. He asked: “I’d ask what caused the break in relationship between B6 and AA from B6′s perspective.”

Here’s what Jetblue Vice President of Corporate Communications told me. “‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ kind of applies here,” she said. “Although American did the breaking up, it’s true that the agreement was not performing as expected for either of us. We don’t expect a significant impact to revenue or bookings as a result of the breakup, and very little impact to customers.”

“So I’d say our romance with AA was wonderful while it lasted, but we happily go our separate ways wishing the other well.”

Dervin also said the airline will continue seeking partnerships with major international airlines who need Jetblue to feed U.S. customers into hubs in Boston and New York Kennedy.

“Emirates started their BOS service and needed feed to DTW, which allowed us to fast track opening DTW,” she said. “DTW opened the day Emirates started flying to BOS.”

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Paying for carry-on bags? It could happen on major airlines.

Might major airlines like United someday charge for carry-on bags? It could happen, an executive at another airline says. Photo: M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

Might major airlines like United someday charge for carry-on bags? It could happen, an executive at another airline says. Photo: M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

Could you someday have to pay for carry-on bags on United, American and Delta?

Andrew Levy, president and chief operating officer at Allegiant Air, says he thinks you will. His airline, known for selling deeply discounted coach tickets mainly to and from leisure destinations, has been charging for all but the smallest carry-on bags since 2012. So far, in the United States, only Allegiant and competitor Spirit are charging for cabin bags.

“I would be shocked if in three years we were still the only ones charging for carry-on bags,” Levy told me in an interview last month. “I think if you are platinum medallion on Delta you ‘ll never pay for those. But if I’m ‘Joe Blow’ who only flies twice a year, I’ll always pay.”

You probably don’t believe him. But keep in mind, Allegiant was among the first carriers to charge for checked baggage, making customers pay for bags well before American Airlines shocked passengers in 2008 with the new fee. A fee that was almost immediately copied by every major airline except Southwest.

That could happen again with carry-on bags.

“I personally believe it is inevitable that there will be a charge for carry on bags,” Levy said. “I think it will be a widely adopted fee. But we’ll see. I could be wrong. But the industry has been moving pretty consistently toward where we are and where Spirit is. I don’t think it will stop.”

Charging for carry-on bags is beneficial for airlines in a couple of ways, Levy said. The first one is obvious. The airlines make money off of something that used to be free. The second is a slightly harder to quantify. But if charging for bags means passengers bring less stuff, airplanes will presumably fly at lighter weights.  And over time, that lighter planes can bring some fuel savings.

For many passengers, the key is that an airline’s best customers will actually be rewarded by this move. First, they’ll end up getting a perk, since they almost certainly won’t have to pay to use the overhead bin. Second, the bins will have more space than they do now, since passengers will no longer have an incentive to avoid checking luggage.

What do you think? Do you agree with Levy’s prediction? And do you think airlines should charge for carry-on bags?

And check back next week for more of Levy’s thoughts on ancillary revenue products.

 

 

 

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Will a new terminal mean more passengers for Burbank Bob Hope Airport?

Burbank Bob Hope Airport is exploring building a new 14-gate terminal. Photo: Burbank Airport.

Burbank Bob Hope Airport is exploring building a new 14-gate terminal. Photo: Burbank Airport.

Within the next decade, Burbank Bob Hope Airport wants to build a new terminal with all the goodies passengers have come to expect, like spacious gate areas, plenty of power outlets and popular concession brands. Early plans call for a 14-gate terminal with about 350,000 square feet, making it about  150,000 square feet larger than the current building.

This is old news. But for a story published today, I wanted to know whether the new terminal might help Burbank Airport reverse its slide in passenger traffic. The quaint facility built in 1930 is not thriving. In 2013, Bob Hope Airport served 3.88 million passengers, a decline of 5.2 percent from the previous year. At the airport’s peak, in 2007, more than 5.9 million passenger used it.

So will a fancy new building — one that might cost between $300 and $400 million — reverse Burbank’s decline? Not likely, experts say.

“The problem is the communities want to have a good front door and that’s nonsense,” said Mike Boyd, a Colorado-based aviation industry consultant. “The best airport is the one that the customer doesn’t remember. Unless you have asbestos falling from the ceiling or rats chewing away the ticket counters, you don’t build a new terminal and get more traffic.”

Burbank’s problem isn’t really its terminal. The problem is Los Angeles International Airport, where four major airlines — United, American, Delta and Southwest — are vying for market share. That’s where the air service expansion is coming.

“You have something called LAX you can get to reasonably easily that has a whole lot more air service and airlines,” Boyd told me. “LAX is the giant sucking sound.”

If Burbank is to thrive again, some say, it will to be because LAX has reached its breaking point. No one is sure when that will be, but LAX is on pace to break its all-time passenger traffic record this year. It was set in 2000 at 67.3 million passengers.

““We don’t really believe that building a new terminal building is going to induce new service,” Burbank airport Executive Director Dan Feger said. “What we do think over time is that over time the congestion of LAX will drive passengers to Burbank.”

What do you think? Are Boyd and Feger right? Will Burbank only thrive again when LAX can’t handle more air traffic? Or is it possible that a new terminal will make the airport more popular?

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Airline links: The week’s best aviation stories

Here are some aviation stories I have enjoyed in the past week.

  • Where is MH370? As of this writing, the New York Times has one of the most updated stories. “The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner was set back on Monday by a number of false leads that seemed to underline how little investigators knew about the whereabouts of the plane, which vanished on Saturday,” the Times writes.
  • An interesting AP article says that it’s not surprising a jet possibly lost in the middle of the ocean is difficult to find. “”The world is a big place,” said Michael Smart, professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Queensland in Australia. “If it happens to come down in the middle of the ocean and it’s not near a shipping lane or something, who knows how long it could take them to find?”
  • The Wall Street Journal asks whether now is the time to live stream data from commercial airliners. “Discussed for many years but never implemented because of the costs, the concept of automatically transmitting data would involve using satellite links to send critical safety information from an airliner to the ground during extreme emergencies or just before a plane goes down,” Andy Pasztor and Jon Ostrower write.
  • Qatar Airways cabin crew are banned from getting married for their first five years on the job, Reuters reports. The airline also keeps pregnant women from flying and essentially makes it hard for them to keep their jobs during pregnancy. 
  • Boston Logan Airport has added five new international flights in the past two years. Dubai starts tonight, and Istanbul soon. What’s behind the growth? The local NPR station investigates. 
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Passenger traffic at LAX jumped 7.3 percent between January 2013 and January 2014

LAX had an impressive January in passenger traffic. Photo: Brad Graverson.

LAX had an impressive January in passenger traffic. Photo: Brad Graverson.

Los Angeles International Airport could be on pace for a record year in passenger traffic, according to statistics released this week.

LAX accommodated 5.4 million passengers in January, an increase of 7.3 percent compared to January 2013. The airport did this despite the fact that January, especially the first two weeks, is a notoriously slow time for air travel.

In 2013, LAX set an all-time record for international traffic, with 17.9 million international travelers. It had set the previous record of 17.5 million in 2005. But LAX has still yet to match its overall pre-9/11 peak of 67.3 million. Last year, it accommodated 66.7 million total passengers.

Where’s the growth coming from? Everywhere except Terminal 4 (American Airlines and American Eagle), Terminal 6 (Alaska and United) and Terminal 8 (United and United Express), according to the data.

The biggest jump in the airport’s nine terminals? That happened in Terminal 5, where Delta has been expanding its number of flights. The number of passengers in Terminal 5 rose 28.37 percent from January 2013 to January 2014. In real numbers, the passenger count increased from 525,208 to 674,234.

This is good news for the Los Angeles economy. But I’ve heard from people who used LAX in the late 1990s that the traffic in the Central Terminal Area could get horrendous. There’s only so much space for cars to go. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to traffic as the number of passengers continues to grow. (And barring changes in the economy or market forces it will — airlines are bullish on LAX these days.)

For my data inclined readers, here’s the full report:

Los Angeles International Airport Air Traffic report

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