Probably something like Terminal 5 at JF Kennedy International Airport that’s what. It’s the JetBlue Airways terminal the carrier recently opened with some fanfare.
So do airlines do a better job than airports themselves?
I’ve just been through Terminal 5 and am now sitting on JetBlue Flight 757 to Aruba (which by the way is absolutely rammed – did I hear you say credit crash?) and I will offer my observations.
Firstly, for the record I’m taking the JetBlue experience for the first time. I thought it only fair seeing as its CEO Dave Barger is speaking on Monday at the Airline Business Network Latin America event in Aruba.
I feel I know JetBlue well through several years of reporting on the carrier. And now as a customer I know them even better, especially as they’ve been e-mailing me lots and lots prior to the flight because I signed up to their loyalty scheme TrueBlue.
So Terminal 5: first observation is you can check-in your bag at the kerb. This costs $2 and is probably something frequent flyers will do to avoid the bag drop queues.
The terminal is clean and bright. There are lots of kiosks. I try to check-in at one.
Oops it says, no can read your passport (a British one), off to the regular check-in line for you. That was painless enough and enlivened by some cheery JetBlue staffers.
Security was fast, but first thing in the morning when JetBlue has its big first wave it is apparently rather different.
The departures area has a triangular reception area from which three fingers extend to the gates. There are shops, but it’s not overwhelming by any standards. There are plenty of food and beverage outlets.
The best bit for my colleague Ed and myself was the shoe shine – it’s not such a common thing in Europe. Shoe shiners Kevin and Steven were friendly and my shoes are forever grateful.
At the gate there’s another ancillary opportunity where you can for $1 buy a JetBlue headset. I’m not sure how popular these are as your iPod headset plugs into the seat as well making the headsets redundant.
The main surprise for me is that JetBlue doesn’t make a big thing out of on-board food sales.
In fact you can’t buy food on the aircraft at all and it encourages the traveller to buy a sandwich at the airport’s many convenience stories. I would say it is missing out on a hefty wedge of cash there – must ask Dave B about that.
You can buy booze and you can buy movies but no grub. The movies usually cost $5 but seeing as the payment system is broken on this flight they are free. Having said that DirectTV is not working properly so nobody getting any benefit out of it on this trip.
The flight is fine as well. I’ve bought the extra legroom seat (some $30 more I think) and it’s good value. I would say the room is the same as you get on the British Airways long-haul premium economy.
So back to the terminal and I’m impressed. I mean there’s nothing revolutionary going on here but it is a lot better than many. Being completely JetBlue branded is an asset too and I think that’s the main benefit.
Dave Barger describes it as taking the JetBlue experience to the next level, and he’s right: Especially compared to the economy experience offered by the network carriers.