JetBlue: No free upgrades to lie-flat seats

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JetBlue Airways will not give customers free upgrades to the lie-flat premium seats and mini-suites it plans to introduce next year on transcontinental routes.

"JetBlue does not have and will not have an upgrade system. You buy the level of service you want to experience," the New York-based airline tells Flightglobal.

JetBlue does not say how much it intends to charge for its lie-flat seats, but executives have said prices will be less than competing carriers charge for first-class seats.

JetBlue announced earlier this year it will begin taking delivery of Airbus A321s with premium cabins beginning next year so as to improve its product on routes from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and both Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The goal is to attract more high-yielding business travellers to its transcontinental flights and to better compete with other airlines serving the routes, all of which offer first-class seats or lie-flat business class seats.

JetBlue expects to eventually have 11 A321s with premium cabins. They will have 16 lie-flat seats, including four enclosed in mini-suites.

JetBlue's intention not to upgrade passengers differentiates it from legacy US carriers serving the same routes. Most passengers in premium cabins on American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines, which all serve the JFK-Los Angeles and JFK-San Francisco routes, receive free upgrades, say analysts.

Only 3% to 4% of Delta's, United's and American's premium passengers on those routes pay premium prices, says Bob McAdoo, an aerospace analyst with Imperial Capital LLC.