Frontier vs. jetBlue

Posted by Mike Brittain on April 03, 2006
Misc

I fly quite a bit between New York and Denver, Colorado. These two airlines both have direct flights between these cities. I have always preferred jetBlue’s schedule, as flight 97 leaves New York late enough in the evening to allow you to get in a full day at the office before making your way across the country. It’s a great start for a weekend trip.

This past weekend, I booked a flight back on Frontier on Sunday afternoon. The schedule was quite good, leaving Denver around 4 PM, and arriving in New York around 9:30. During this ski season, I had the chance to take Frontier during one other trip as well.

There’s a striking difference between these two airlines — on allows you to watch live TV for free from take-off to landing. The other, well… asks you to pony up 5 dollars. That’s right. About 3 minutes after lift-off, the TV screen began reading something to the effect of, “Please swipe your credit card to continue watching this programming.” There’s one channel that is free. It’s Frontier’s channel. It displays mostly crappy content interlaced with commercials about Frontier and their travel destinations. Meanwhile, passengers on jetBlue are enjoying their 37 channels.

As an added bonus, after the paid programming kicked in, we had the luxury of listening to a grumpy flight attendant walking the aisles accepting cash for Frontier’s TV service. As she leaned across the passengers to swipe a card for the TV in front of the window seat, she made threats that the occupant had better be on the right channel, “or else you’ll be charged twice, and I can’t give you any money back.” I listened to this 4 or 5 times before the attendant’s voice dissipated into the rear of the cabin.

As I looked around on Sunday’s flight, as I did two weeks prior, I noticed that a number of people had their TVs on — all tuned to the single free station. Maybe 1 in 10 had paid for the right to watch the rest of the channels. It makes me wonder how much money the airline actually collects from this meager turnout. Would it not make sense to provide free TV and simply charge each passenger maybe a dollar or two more on the ticket? Not only would passengers be placated with their mindless entertainment, but we also wouldn’t have to listen to the “tech support” attendants roving the aisles.

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