Don’t like JetBlue’s cozy new cabin? No one cares

This is the interior of JetBlue’s “restyled” Airbus A320 cabin. The airline promises it will “enhance the JetBlue experience to meet the needs of travelers today, including a greater focus on connectivity, comfort, and space.”

Or will it?

The new configuration squeezes more seats into the plane, upping cabin capacity from 150 passengers to 162. Each row will lose two inches of legroom, which is unfortunate, but still not as squishy as the average economy cabin. Still, for a company that promises to bring “humanity” to travel, it doesn’t sit well with passengers like Peter Hoagland.

“It reminded me of companies that redesign packaging as sleight of hand to hope the consumer doesn’t realize that they have shrunk the size,” he says. “And that is exactly what JetBlue is doing. Shrinking passenger room.”

Wait a second. I can hear some of you saying, “Come on, Hoagland. Passengers were demanding lower prices and this is the only way to give it to them. Get with the program!”

But that’s not true. Technically, passengers are demanding free flights in first class. That’s why you have a whole class of loyalty and credit card-shill blogs out there which promise something for nothing.

JetBlue isn’t lowering its fares after introducing this new cabin. Read the press release if you don’t believe me. It’s just wedging more passengers on the plane.

But if this is really being done for the benefit of the passenger, then I assumed JetBlue would have a reasonable response to passengers like Hoagland, who feel they’ve been betrayed by the last airline that cared. I suggested he send a brief, polite email to JetBlue, outlining his concerns.

Related story:   And the hottest new travel blog is ...

Here’s how the airline responded:

Dear Mr. Hoagland,

Thank you for contacting JetBlue. We regret that you have concerns about the changes we are making in our aircraft and the legroom we have all come to enjoy as part of our experiences with JetBlue.

We welcome this opportunity to address your concerns.

Offering our customers a comfortable inflight experience is important to us. Our restyling process starts later this year and will continue across our fleet through 2017.

We’ll still provide roomy seating with plenty of room for your legs as well as many other amenities that will give our customers and excellent inflight experience. Check out the details at:

We are excited about our plans, which will give A320 interiors a brand new look and ensure we continue to offer the best experience in our industry. At the same time we’re remaking the cabin with new seats, new TVs, new lighting, and more ? modeled after our A321 cabin, and we’ll enable gate-to-gate Fly-Fi, replace our current TV system and install huge 10″ screens that offer streaming TV, on-demand content, and the ability to pair personal devices with the system.

The A320 cabin restyling plans closely follow our A321 cabin design.

  • Lots of room and the widest seat on a narrow body aircraft
  • Sleek ergonomic B/E Aerospace Pinacle® seats with a patented comfort suspension system that offers better comfort with less cushion foam
  • Moveable headrests that slide up, down and wrap-around LED cabin lighting and a modern interior color palette that’s more stylish and comfortable

We look forward to welcoming you onboard JetBlue to give this new configuration a try in the future, and hope you enjoy many flights with us in the meantime.

Ah, the ol’ “Send him the bedbug letter” response. Shoulda seen that one coming.

What’s JetBlue saying? Shut up and enjoy the cabin, which is still better than our competitors’. In the race to the bottom, we’ve tapped the brakes. That’s what bringing humanity back to air travel means: sucking less than the rest. You should be grateful.

“I am concerned that JetBlue is buying their own BS about how happy their customers are with the changes,” says Hoagland. “Their mantra that we still have more leg room than the competition is not much of a selling point for anyone who has experienced how crammed airplanes have become.”

Hoagland says JetBlue differentiated itself from the major carriers by giving customers what they really wanted. “I fear that, one step at a time, they are losing that differentiation,” he says.

JetBlue's new cabin interiors:

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • DChamp56

    Some people/companies… just don’t get it, and never will.

  • Nancy Nally

    I love how they think I’ll be comforted by the LED lighting and stylish colors while I’m having a stroke from the lack of leg room.

  • MarkKelling

    So, a larger TV screen and better WiFi (both of which you probably have to pay extra to actually use) will make the passengers forget the pain they feel in their legs from the lack of circulation caused by the reduction in leg room? Not buying it.

    Southwest took the same attitude about their “improved” seating where they squeezed up to 2 more rows on their planes. They just don’t want to hear any complaints because the “improved” seating makes it practically impossible to enjoy the flight.

  • Steve Snyder

    Let the consumer be the ultimate shopper and those why fly Jet Blue can always take their business elsewhere (like to Southwest).

  • fairmont1955

    Airlines don’t do things for their customers; they make decisions for their profit. Anything else is hogwash.

  • Peter Varhol

    To be fair, customers are asking for fares that are less than they were 20-30 years ago when adjusted for inflation, yet still want the same amenities. I can now pay less in actual dollars for a coast-to-coast flight now than when I flew in the 1990s.

    I don’t know where we get off wanting both lower fares and the same quality of service, but that’s where we are with air travel today. Maybe if they made pricing more rational, but I also understand demand pricing, which is what airlines practice, in the aggregate.

    All that said, we are only on the plane for a few hours, and should be able to cope with limited space and attention for that period. I personally do prefer a little attention, which is why I’m willing to stick with one airline (Delta) enough to get status.

  • Peter Varhol

    Sigh, I realize that I am spitting against the wind, but I believe that airlines are doing the best that they can given the realities of what flyers are asking for. I do not work for an airline (and have never done so), but I recognize that we are being less than rational in demanding both rock-bottom fares and personalized treatment. I have priced train travel as an alternative, and it is at a minimum three days cross-country, for a higher fare. Check out Amtrak, folks. If we have a choice between being treated like a human being, or getting a lower fare, we will chose the lower fare 99 times out of 100.

    We as consumers have a choice. We can pay more for decent service, or we can pay less to get from one place to another as basically a piece of cargo. Through our continuous searches for the lowest fares, we have obviously chosen the latter. That may not be the best choice, but it is the choice of the vast majority of us.

  • Michael__K

    both of which you probably have to pay extra to actually use

    They promise it will be “free” ( ). Of course that’s a 4-letter word here :) And they could change their minds at any time.

  • Jeff W.

    If the seats are closer together, you do not need a larger screen…

  • Jeff W.

    This one is a little more difficult to judge.

    If the extra legroom JetBlue was offering was making handsome profits, they would keep the offering. But there must be some internal metric they have that said a) we have a great product and our load factor is not as high as it should be b) we can’t sell the seats at the price we need to justify the extra leg room or c) our competitors are selling crappy seats and they are making a bunch of money, so can we.

    I am sure it is a combination of that and more. If they had a great product and not enough people are buying it, then they have to change to survive. But if they are making money and looking to make MORE money, that too is their right — but we can also vote with our wallets as well.

  • Bill___A

    It always amazes me that people use wording to blame something else when they are at fault. If there were a minimum seat size requirement, no airline would be able to lower their costs by increasing the amount of seats and we would not have a problem. The low prices should be based upon realistic efficiency, not creating a very uncomfortable seat and using that as a basis to lower prices.

    This is like a restaurant serving pet food and using that as a basis to lower prices, then saying “consumers demanded it”. Yes, consumers do demand “lower” prices, but now that some airlines cut seat sizes, it forces other ones to do so to compete.

    It is the airlines and a herd mentality.

  • Matt

    It is typical corporate double-speak. Personally I just ignore spin. Curious, what do “loyalty and credit card-shill blogs” have to do with any of this? Are you saying they are driving this spin, double-speak?

  • Fishplate

    so, you will still have more legroom than on most airplanes? And you don’t understand why they want to do this?

    All they need to do is say that they aren’t as bad as everyone else, and JetBlue becomes your best choice for flight.

  • joycexyz

    Since JetBlue got its new CEO it has gradually been joining the “race to the bottom”–starting with fees for checked baggage. Turning the cabins into cattle cars is simply the next step. And I got a big laugh at another airline (United?) announcing the return of free snacks. Wow! A bag of peanuts while I develop circulation problems. That’ll do it for me!

  • Bob Davis

    Agreed. I can no longer straighten my legs on a Southwest flight. I used to be able to put them under the seat in front of me. No more.

  • Hanope

    Its CEO/board members and share holders who are constantly demanding more and more money every year, while most of the rest of us are still being paid what we earned 5 years ago (adjusted for inflation).

  • Extramail

    What I want to no is how much is all of this retro-fitting and adding all these “extras” are costing the airlines? It does seem to be a rush to the bottom and as soon as one airline can make money reducing leg room the next rushes in to do the same. That’s what consolidation has done for the traveling public.

  • Noah Kimmel

    Before you all trash them, has anyone else flown on the a321 product? Cause I have, and the a320 product (and e190). The A321 product doesn’t feel much if any tighter as the shape of the back of the chairs is a thinner at the bottom. New cushions for headrests are kinda cool. The new bins and lighting make the cabin feel cleaner/modern which does impact peoples’ mood.

    While I’m not a fan of airlines ever adding seats, I’m not grabbing my torch and pitchfork or threatening to fly a competitor that offers even less.

  • Noah Kimmel

    …sacrificing even more legroom

  • Noah Kimmel

    it’s your 401k that invested in the airlines and demands larger returns each year. For instance, Fidelity and Vanguard own almost 15% of JetBlue’s outstanding stock. That is a lot of influence

  • Steve Rabin

    Steve, the problem is the competition is doing the same darn thing. More people in cattle class means more profit.

  • sheldan

    I don’t remember demanding less space in return for lower prices. If this is the only way to get low prices, the airlines need to find the minimum fare to be profitable and hold on to it, and consumers must be willing to pay that fare in exchange for the minimum level of service on a given flight.

  • scoosdad

    I want to know where the “double-speak/market-speak” courses are being taught to show people how to write or talk like corporations do lately. They all seem to have taken the same class.

  • Nathan Witt

    If – and this is just a hypothetical, since I have no knowledge of JetBlue’s seat design – an airline reduced pitch (the measure from a point on one seat to the same point on the seat one row forward), but made the seats thinner so that the amount of room from seatback to tray table was the same, would you care? Pitch does not equal legroom, so it’s a little bit misleading to use it as a measure of comfort. If an airline can maintain my comfort level and add revenue for themselves, it seems to me that we both win.

  • Bubbles

    If the argument is that these decisions help lower the prices of tickets, then why hasn’t anyone put out data showing a concrete correlation between the upgrades and the decrease in ticket prices? If losing 2 inches in the seats saves.. what, $50 per leg – prove it.

    It feels like how the cost of gas went down and ticket prices did not change at all.

  • Éamon deValera

    Did Mr. Hoagland expect them to reverse course on their aircraft seating arrangements. Certainly consumer input is important but we have to be realistic. The best influencer is to spend money elsewhere. I fly La Compagnie, an all business class from NY to London because they’re spacious. That may send a message to the other airlines, or not but at least I’m comfortable.

  • Lee

    I used to only fly Jet Blue – many times a year back and forth to LA based on price and comfort; now, given their prices being pretty much in line with others, I just go with whichever airline has the best price.

    I flew them religiously for about 14 years – flew with them NYC to LA the first week they began flying – but, they really are not different than others now, in my opinion. The attitude back then was really very different. It was more of being pleased to offer the customer a better flight experience (or, seeming to be pleased) – and, they seemed proud to do it; now they are just like any other company.

    Profits rule just as with any other corporation and that response? How tacky – and insulting.

Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.