JetBlue Masters Style on the Cheap
If you think a hip, customer-focused image requires lots of money, this airline proves you're wrong
A fledgling New York City-based airline, JetBlue, is winning rave reviews from airline passengers with low-cost trademarks that include manners yes, on an airline! a choreographed walk for flight attendants and uniforms and on-board snacks color-coordinated to reflect JetBlues name.
JetBlue was the second-highest- rated economy airline in a Zagat 2001 survey published in March. Only Midwest Express, which spends the unusually high sum of $10 per passenger to serve food on china with silverware and linen napkins, ranked higher. JetBlue serves no meals, just a beverage and a bag of blue potato chips.
According to The New York Times, JetBlue is focusing on good service at a time when the lousy version is getting a lot of attention. Its also emphasizing style in a travel environment full of same-old, same-old. There are lessons here for jewelers who want to woo customers with small touches instead of spending a lot of money on promotions.
JetBlue even hired former flight attendants of defunct Braniff Airlines to help its staff add flair to passenger service. At Braniff, flight attendants were told to walk in a manner that would keep taut imaginary strings running from their navels to their chins. You had to walk so your knees almost crossed, which made you swish like a model on a catwalk, recalls Doreen Lawrence, a Braniff veteran who now teaches the walk to JetBlue attendants. The airline also paid stylists to make over the attendants hair and makeup, which most airlines no longer do.
Most important, however, is the staffs manner: Friendly, but not so friendly that service gets misplaced. Passengers are chatted up pleasantly at check-in, for instance, but the staff doesnt spend so much time jawing that other passengers must wait.
On JetBlue, attendants help passengers stow luggage in overhead bins, put away jackets if passengers leave them folded on their laps and, in good weather, open the front and back hatches so everyone can get off quickly.
There are no beverage carts to block the aisles; drinks are served from white plastic trays. And theres a TV monitor in the back of every seat so media-addicted New Yorkers neednt go too long without stimulation.
The airlines Web site (www.jetblue.com) offers an easy-to-understand format and funny, low-key pitches. One example: A promotion for gift certificates offered a chance to Send your mother-in-law away and look like a hero.
by Mark E. Dixon