Travel Log - Low Cost or High Miles?
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Are You Low Cost or High Miles?

(March 8, 2008)
Last week end I flew for the first time THE low cost that revolutionized airlines in the US: JetBlue obviously!
Just another low cost airline? Not exactly if we go back a few years, February 2000 to be more precise, a new airline named JetBlue was inaugurated with a JFK to Fort Lauderdale flight. It is another low cost but not really like any late-90s low cost! JetBlue features brand new A320s, leather seats, live TV at each seat, simplified service, etc.
At that time you could already fly low cost airlines but only if you were courageous enough to board a 20 year old DC9 with broken seats, faded decorations, no TV, no music, no food, no service and an award if you made it on time and to your original intended destination.
If you were not that courageous, you would throw out a few hundred dollars more to fly American, Delta, United or any other major airline with descent airplanes and more reliable service (at the time ... nowadays Northwest still flies DC9s ... oups).

Am I the wrong person to judge well I don't think so. I am a Platinum member at Delta, I occasionally fly non-Skyteam airlines (AA, China Eastern, Dragonair & now JetBlue) and I travel numerous routes within the US and internationally, in coach or business class. I went through a lot but I usually do well considering that with experience you learn how to anticipate bad surprises.

So what prompted me to write that article?
Like many frequent flyers at the top of the ladder, I start thinking about the soon coming end of my status. What will I do after losing my dear Platinum status? Should I still fly my preferred airline? Should I change strategy? Changing strategy may be the best option depending how low you fell within the frequent flyers ranks and how willing you are to suffer degraded service.

When flying, I noticed that we belong to 3 groups wherever we go: First/Business passengers, Frequent Flyer preferred passengers or Left Overs. When flying within the first two groups, things are usually OK. The Left Overs group is where you should think twice about your airlines habbits. The best way to understand is to take an example.

Lets do a comparison on North American and Carribean routes flown out of JFK by JetBlue and Delta Airlines. JFK is a hub for both airlines. Here are a few rough statistics and how they rank on various services:

Delta Coach
Delta First
Type of A/C
% Flights / First Class


% Flights / Entertainment
% Flights / Personal TV
Seat Pitch
A320 34"-36"
ERJ 32"-33"
Most 35"-40"
B777 60"
Food (non-snack)
Soft Free
Soft Free
Alcool Free
Free Upgrades
FF Members Only
Frequent Flyer Perks
(up to 100% Bonus)
150% Miles
(up to 100% Bonus)

* A320, ERJ-190.
** CRJ, ER4, CR7, CR9, ERJ, M88, 738, 73H, 757, 752, 767, 777.
*** only CR9, M88, 738, 73H, 757, 752, 767, 777 offers Business/First service.

If you compare, a passenger with no status from any airline can fly JetBlue in brand new jets with garanteed personal entertainement and seat pitch equivalent to some other airlines First class cabin. That same passenger would only get entertainment on limited flights and restrictied seat pitch on all flight with no chance to score an upgrade when flying with Delta. Unless lower prices make Delta a better choice, that passenger is better off flying JetBlue. In addition, JetBlue also runs a frequent flyer program where accumulated points can be redeemed for free flights (it works since I got my first JetBlue ticket using my wife's TrueBlue points award).

I personally like Delta for specific reasons including the advantages provided to frequent fliers and some nice equipment from the Song era on transcontinental flights (such as a very advanced PTV with more options than JetBlue). But if I become a Left Overs class member, it is a no-brainer JetBlue is a better bet.

So it all goes back to the big question, are you a low cost or high miles? The answer may change with time. I may join the Low Cost club next year! And if I do so, I may also try the transatlantic low cost business class carriers ...

Cheers & Fly Safe!





From the author: You know the airlines are desperate when you have to fly coast to coast with doctor Zizmor smiling from the overhead bin (a NY subway frequent traveler).

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