JetBlue executive discusses cross-country premium product

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JetBlue Airways' transcontinental premium product will likely be introduced on routes to the "two principal destinations" on the US west coast, and is aimed at boosting performance on flights that are not meeting JetBlue's revenue expectations, an executive said Wednesday.

The comments, made by JetBlue chief financial officer Mark Powers during a presentation at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2013 Global Transportation Conference in Boston, imply JetBlue will debut the product on flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles.

JetBlue announced in March it is developing a premium product for cross-country flights, but offered few details. The airline said the product will compete against the first class product offered by competitors United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines.

JetBlue has said the premium product will offer more legroom and be priced less than competitors' first class seats.

Powers says the product will be offered on new Airbus A321 aircraft. JetBlue is scheduled to take delivery of its first four A321s in the fourth quarter this year. The airline has 30 A321s on order.

Powers says JetBlue's cross-country flights generate relatively low passenger revenue per available seat mile and have a low "NPS", or Net Promoter Score, a measure of loyalty used by JetBlue and other major corporations.

The cross-country product will be further enhanced with Ka-band inflight internet, which Powers says will be offered for free, at least initially.

The free internet product, called Fly-fi, may only allow customers to surf the Internet or check email, and may only be available to customers who enroll in JetBlue's TrueBlue loyalty program, JetBlue chief commercial officer Robin Hayes said in March.

Customers could have to pay for a "premium experience" that allows downloading videos, she added.

The airline said in March it was conducting ground testing of the Ka-band system with partners LiveTV and ViaSat, and that it expected to operate its first Fly-fi equipped flight later this year.