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JetBlue Adds Early Boarding to Extra Legroom Seats

JetBlue’s Even More Legroom perk has been around for a while, and, at least in my opinion, is one of the more tempting coach seat perks available. 38 inches of legroom on aircraft that already features free DirecTV and unlimited snacks? That’s practically luxurious! Personally, I’ve never opted to pay for the upgrade, partially because I’m usually traveling on a tight budget, but also because JetBlue’s standard coach seat, with 34 inches of legroom, is already spacious.

But now JetBlue has announced an interesting value-add for its Even More Legroom product: Early boarding.

Much like American did with its Express Seats, JetBlue is touting the convenience of boarding an uncrowded plane along with access to empty overhead bins, not to mention easy deplaning thanks to these seats’ location in the front half of the plane. But unlike Express Seats, which are simply regular coach seats located toward the front of the cabin, JetBlue offers a generous 38 inches of seat pitch along with the package. On paper at least, JetBlue’s perk appears to surpass American’s by combining added convenience and an upgrade in comfort.

But as with any perk, the true measure of success is value. The main reason I labeled Express Seats one of the “stupidest fees ever” is the cost, starting at $19 one-way and going up to $39 on longer routes. $40 for a slightly less aggravating experience? Some people may value the convenience more than others, but I think I speak for the majority when I say thanks, but no thanks.

So, the money question (literally): How much will customers pay for Even More Legroom? The perk still starts at $10 for short-haul routes. This was the starting cost before early boarding was added, so it doesn’t appear prices have increased following the new feature. A JetBlue spokesperson was unable to give me estimates for longer routes, so I searched a Boston-San Francisco fare just to get a sense of the upper price range. Even More Legroom seats were available for $55 each way, raising the round-trip fare by $110, from $330 to $440 in my case.

When I saw those prices, I said to myself, “That’s kind of a lot.” Compared to American, though, it’s a pretty good deal. American would charge you around $40 for a similar flight, and you’d be just as cramped as everyone else in coach. For the extra $15 JetBlue charges, you get substantial legroom, a real benefit on those five- and six-hour cross-country flights.

But we’re not talking about American, are we? We’re talking about JetBlue. 38 inches of legroom on American, where coach legroom is usually between 31 and 32 inches, would be a huge upgrade. But 38 inches on JetBlue compared to its industry-leading standard of 34? Not as big a deal. Factor in that JetBlue’s coach product is already far better than most carriers, and the value of paying for four extra inches and a bit less stress diminishes. At the same time, the quality of JetBlue’s standard coach seat takes some of the sting out of the airline offering an upgraded product. The folks in regular coach already have it pretty good.

My verdict? This is what coach perks should look like: Comfort and convenience, at a price that isn’t too offensive. But while I would seriously consider purchasing one of these seats on a cross-country red-eye, when I’d really want to stretch out and sleep, in most cases I’ll probably save my cash and stick with the standard coach seat.

Readers, what do you think about JetBlue’s enhanced Even More Legroom seat? Good deal? Bad deal? Has JetBlue found the right mix, or is charging for any coach perk simply a cash grab and nothing more? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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