As I suspect you already know if you’re anything close to a regular reader of this blog, Google bought our company, FeedBurner, on June 1. It’s been exciting ever since, as we took about exactly one weekend to reflect on this momentous event and then got nearly the entire company on planes and headed to New York and/or Mountaπin View, CA to get started as “Googlers.” (We'll still be based in Chicago.) My team, the designers, has worked from Google’s expansive New York office alongside the engineering team during the past two weeks. All of the hubbub around our time in New York is probably worth a post by itself, but that’s been there, done that material I don’t need to re-hash. (I do have some of my own photos, at least.)
But this post is about JetBlue. I’ve not flown them before, but because they have several convenient times to get you from Chicago to JFK in New York, I thought I’d give them a try for the second week of this travel stint. The short summary: in ideal conditions it’s a great way to fly domestically. As I write this, I’m watching Tiger Woods sink a birdie on 16 at Oakmont live, courtesy of the DirecTV link. Plenty of people have talked about this feature before, but to actually experience is to realize that this is such a no-brainer for air travel. Why shouldn’t I have satellite TV when I’m flying above the clouds, free from interference? Plus you get the option of 36 channels of TV or XM satellite radio, so if you forgot your iPod, you can still find some talk or music to drown out the jet drone. The seats are leather-trimmed and although they’re a little thin on padding they’re not a bother for a two-hour flight. (We’re in one of JetBlue’s new Embraer 190s, pictured above.) I think the legroom is about the same as United’s Economy Plus; it’s more than enough for me and my standard-issue 6’ frame. Oh, and they have blue Terra potato chips, made from those actual blue potatoes. Nice touch.
Service? It’s not Southwest, but it’s also not American, whose motto might as well be “working hard to hate our customers a little more each day.” They’re friendly but not over-the-top, eschewing any jokey manner or self-deprecation. (Frankly, the whole Southwest comedy-troupe-of-the-sky bit has become a bit wearing; I get it. You guys are irreverent. Now please start the APU and get to taxiing so I can breathe again.) The gate agents didn’t register any impression on me other than ‘out of the way,’ so that’s probably good. Again, I’m flying during threat-free conditions. Both of my flights are dead on-time, and fair weather and air traffic control hassles aren’t a factor, and my luggage is all carry-on. JetBlue’s meltdown earlier this year was widely publicized and their new Passenger’s Bill of Rights
is an attempt to re-seal the trust gap that opened up between it and its customers. I’d like to know what happens with them now if all hell breaks loose in the middle of rush hour, but I’d rather it be from a very safe distance from air travel while learning the outcome.
I suppose the miraculous part of all this really is getting in and out of NYC on time. Perhaps this is the whole “avoid LaGuardia at all costs” philosophy in action. JFK is straightforward to get to via the MTA and the “AirTrain”; it takes just under an hour from 15th and 8th Ave in Manhattan. JetBlue’s terminal (T6) at JFK is expanding as rapidly as the airline itself, so it’s a bit of a pardon-our-dust mess as a result. A remote shuttle that drives maybe 200 yards, tops, is required to get to a remote set of gates (the ones Chicago flights go into, sadly), so it takes some time to get to the gate. Still, security at 3pm on a Friday was a no-wait, walk-up affair. That must’ve been a hallucination due to lack of sleep on my part. In the other direction, JetBlue’s single gate at O’Hare is in Terminal 2, which is nothing special.
Bottom line: if you’re normally a United or American loyalist and Chicago » NYC is a frequent trip, try JetBlue. They take some angst out of travel and try to keep you pretty happy while the wheels are up, and that defines the “A” standard for most American air carriers today.