Contributor: David Bernard
November 1st was a big day for flyers in the Northeast as JetBlue saturated the NYC/Boston shuttle market with 12 new weekly flights. This comes as tickets on Delta and American Airlines reached as high as $1100 round-trip for last minute seats. Being a new route for them however, promotional prices were set as low as $59 one-way-something the other carriers soon had to jump on and try to match. Tickets booked a month in advance before JetBlue started service could be upwards of at least $250+ non-refundable, but now are as low as $89 round-trip on all three carriers if one can be flexible enough with their travel plans. A few weeks ago in fact, I purchased a ticket with Delta for a weekend trip to NYC for only $106 round-trip. It’s the lowest I’ve ever purchased the flights for, and the best part is that they are peak times as well. An evening flight down Friday, and a late evening return on Sunday. Usually flights tailored to a weekend trip time-frame can certainly have a surge, but thanks to this disruption in the market it is certainly something other flyers can take advantage of. While JetBlue may not be hourly service like Delta and AA, the prices still create a disturbance that reverberates through the industry.
One of the air industry’s biggest competitors on this route however is still the bus, Unless during holidays or weekends, the bus can provide a conveniently cheaper alternative as long as it doesn’t get stuck in excessive traffic. The flight however can usually take a delay of up to two hours (if you have pre-check and are taking cabs to and from the airports) before it begins to break even with the bus. Factoring in the time it takes to get from the bus stops to your hotel/place of interest, the flight can still provide an advantage to even the average infrequent traveler. Perhaps it might not be a two hour advantage, but it still at least usually comes out ahead. Price point however drove away most leisure flyers and students who often opted for the bus due to its significantly cheaper prices. Most weekend trip tickets can be between $40-$70 depending on the weekend and the bus times, a significant difference from the original $250 fare. Now however with prices continuing to descend (pun intended!) flying is starting to look more and more viable to the regular traveler.
While I’m sure Delta and American Airlines are less than willing to drop their prices on this route, perhaps this could still end up creating a better and more profitable market. Previously, both airlines flew the routes on “shuttle” aircraft mainly, in which at most they would only hold about 100 seats. By having service once per hour, they were able to entice many business travelers to pay the premium by having such frequent and easy to manage service. Business travelers could easily switch between shuttle times by exchanging their tickets or doing a same day standby option. Seeing as many frequent business travelers had status, many saved tons of money on change fees and found lots of convenience in the service over the bus or Amtrak trains. That came at a premium price however, which of course most business travelers didn’t have to worry about. The flights became known as their “cash cow” because of what it had become. The route was only serviced by those two airlines however, and a growing air market meant that other airlines needed to listen to their customers. Since starting up in 2002, JetBlue has grown to be one of America’s favorite airlines in terms of service. Flyers have grown to enjoy its unique approach to the currently degrading market with the implementation of free snacks, free WiFi, and free bags (unfortunately free bags no longer are a perk as of last year). So therefore it wasn’t long before travelers between Boston and New York voiced their desire for a flight between Logan and LaGuardia, and after much anticipation from flyers the service has finally started.
Whether you’re flying for business or pleasure, this new addition certainly makes for an interesting choice. When you factor gas, tolls, and nightly parking costs these new low fares could easily surpass driving between the two cities. With bus and Amtrak fares now climbing for weekend services too, this could also provide another alternative for the leisure traveler especially considering TSA pre-check and taxis/Uber. Less time before and after the flight going between places makes for a faster alternative. Personally I’ve found that the extra hours I can work now seem to make up for the difference in price and I still get less hassle than taking a bus and getting stuck in heavy Manhattan traffic that always seems to exist. Expedited security is also an added benefit, making it possible to arrive just one hour before the flight and still be at the gate with more than enough time. Perhaps these newly enticing prices will inspire more people to choose the shuttles over the bus/train, and then maybe it will lead to an increase in aircraft size thus making the service more normal for travelers. We’re a looonnnggg way from that though, all we could do now is be hopeful anyway.
Have you flown this new JetBlue flights yet? What do you think? Comment and share your experiences below!