JetBlue Airways Takes First Class Down a Notch

So much for settling for the low end of the market. With Mint, JetBlue Airways (NASDAQ: JBLU  ) is offering 16 lie-flat bed seats (four in complete suites), gourmet small-plate cuisine, and free in-flight Wi-Fi, among other amenities on some first class flights between New York and Los Angeles.

Fares begin as low as $599 each way. The carrier also plans to offer similar service on flights to San Francisco beginning in October. Senior tech analyst Tim Beyers explains Mint's potential impact in the following video.

Credit: JetBlue.

There's no mistaking whom JetBlue is after with this service. Instead of chasing cheapskates, JetBlue wants to earn more from premium flyers by discounting first class fares that tend to run in the thousands for long-haul flights operated by the likes of AMR Corp.'s (NYSE: AIR  ) American and Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL  ) , which, like JetBlue, use New York's John F. Kennedy airport as a hub.

Can it make a difference? Certainly, but perhaps more for American and Delta than JetBlue. Sharply reduced first class fares could pressure both carriers to respond, crimping profits on valuable transcontinental routes.

JetBlue, for its part, is performing well enough. Both revenue passenger miles and available seat miles improved 7% in May while load factor ticked up a tenth of a percent to 85.2%. Total departures and revenue passengers also rose, up 6.6% and 6.8%, respectively.

The carrier is also adding more cost-efficient aircraft to its fleet and improving the remainder. JetBlue is in the process of retrofitting more than 100 of its planes with wing add-ons called Sharklets for boosting fuel efficiency by 3% or more. Filling those aircraft is going to become a priority soon enough, which may be why the carrier is testing a discounted first-class cabin.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Have you tried JetBlue's Mint service? What did you think of it? Please watch the video to get the full story and then leave a comment to let us know your take, including whether you would buy, sell, or short JetBlue stock at current prices.

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