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Air Tran And JetBlue - A "Foreigner's" View

Sun Dec 21, 2003 5:14 pm

While in the USA in October-November, I flew a number of legs on Air Tran and jetBlue, my first time on either of these LCC's - although I had previously flown on Southwest. I will give you some of my thoughts and observations from an Aussie perspective.

I had booked on these carriers because of price and convenience, but also because they made it so easy to book direct on the net - unlike many of the majors, and sites like Orbitz, who got you the whole way through the process only to tell you that they wouldn't accept credit cards with an address outside of North America. So if they didn't want my business, that's fine, the discount carriers surely did!

All the bookings (including accommodation, etc) went smoothly, and my seat requests on jetBlue were also exactly as selected on the net at the time of booking.

We flew Air Tran MIA-ATL-SAV; SAV-ATL-PHL; PHL-BOS; BOS-BWI-ROC, all on 717s, except for the Air Wisconsin-operated services to and from SAV from ATL, which were on CRJs. The Regional Jet flights were short and good - no inflight service into Savannah because of really bad weather - in fact we only saw the ground a few seconds before touchdown. The return flight to Atlanta was much smoother, with the snack service - and an FA who did the safety briefing so fast that I literally couldn't understand one word. Nice views of Atlanta on approach.

All of the Air Tran 717 flights were excellent, with friendly crews, comfortable seating, nice snacks - what more can I say? On the BOS-BWI-ROC flights we scored an exit row. The FA on the first leg took a lot of trouble with the exit-row passenger briefing, even making us repeat all the instructions to him. However, the (sorry, but I have to say it) dopey-looking FA on the second leg didn't even mention that we were in an exit row, let alone give any special briefing or instruction. He didn't seem too interested in anything, actually - but he was the only disinterested Air Tran employee I encountered on the whole trip. I have to say that all standard safety demonstrations by crew were excellent - very clear and precise. They really made sure you understood what they were demonstrating. Congratulations.
There was only one delayed flight (delay of around 25 minutes). Probably the greatest highlight was the evening flight, in clear weather, from PHL to BOS, where we flew right by Manhattan Island, with the greatest views of Manhattan with all the lights blazing. We were only at around 20 000 feet, and it was a truly memorable sight - I could pick the Chrysler Building quite clearly, as well as other landmarks and bridges. So beautiful! The pilot made sure we knew it was coming up.
It was my first experience of boarding passes printed out like a receipt from a supermarket checkout. Guess it saves lots of money, but then why staple it to a multi-page color folder? Anyway.
Just one query, and I know it's often a point for debate on these forums. Boarding was generally pretty fast, but any time advantage was lost because of the total shambles and major delays while people tried to find places to stuff their carry-ons. I love America and I love Americans, but just how much stuff do they feel they need to carry on board with them? I swear most had practically all of their worldly possessions they were trying to cram into everyone else's overhead bins and under adjacent seats. Why? Luggage retrieval times were pretty fast on every leg that I flew - usually around five minutes was the maximum waiting time for bags to arrive at the carousel. Just what is so damn urgent in their 4 large pieces of oversized baggage that makes it essential to cram the cabin. Please, Air Tran, make them stick to the carry-on limits! End of rant. But it's a great airline. The only time it actually felt like a LCC was trying to find the luggage carousel in terminal C at BOS - it's pretty well hidden in what appears to have once been someone's office!
JetBlue, on the other hand, seemed to make sure people only carried on the fairly generous legal limit of carry-on baggage, and no more.
I flew jetBlue BUF-JFK-LGB, on A320s "Blue Moon" to JFK and "Deja Blue" on the 6-hour-plus haul to Long Beach. Good seats in row 4, but oh boy, did they get cramped after about 4 hours! The FAs were outstanding, and the service (two separate service runs) was great - huge range of drinks, and good snack selection. Also a nice range of stuff to take and eat on board at the JFK terminal. I had my first experience of being de-iced at BUF, and we took off covered in orange goo, looking like we had been zapped by Men In Black. Spent time talking to one of the FAs, who said that having passengers come and chat was great, and really made the flight a pleasure for her. That was nice! And hehehe the Aussie accent gets 'em every time  Wink/being sarcastic .
The connection at JFK was smooth, the flights were excellent, although six hours is a long stretch in an all-economy close-pitch configuration. Maybe the new seating arrangement with some extra leg room will ease this. Liked their in-flight exercise leaflet, and really appreciated the seat-back TVs. And like I said, great crews!
Can't finish this report without a major thank-you to some buddies - all originally met through - who made the USA visit a total pleasure. I built part of the itinerary around visiting them, and they are my friends for life ... and they had better get to Australia sometime soon so we can reciprocate. So many thanks to the former Rogue Trader in Texas, who flew to Miami to meet us; to AT85 in Philly; to Flpuck6 in Rhode Island, and to KROC in Crapchester. Through them and their families we experienced the best of US hospitality, and saw some great sights. Well, apart from Crapchester of course. Only kidding KROC, it was all sensational, and we will be back!

Hope this is of some value to those of you who are unsure about US LCCs. I will certainly continue to fly with them, and congratulate them for the friendliness of their FAs. Good on ya from a very satisfied Aussie customer!!
"...every aircraft is subtly different.."
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Air Tran And JetBlue - A "Foreigner's" View

Sun Dec 21, 2003 10:21 pm

Thanks for the report. I think Jetblue seat pitch is no different to Qantas but you get a TV with Jetblue. I think the back of the plane was getting the increased seat pitch, due to the placement of the over wing exits. The online choosing of seats is a good idea. Give you an idea of how full the plane is.

How did you fly from LA to the East Coast, or is that a separate report.

Virgin Blue has the shopping docket style of boarding pass and they also attach it to a coloured brochure with all the things you shouldn't take on an aircraft. I think they must attach the boarding pass to something so people wouldn't just put in their wallets and misplace it so easily.

Why fly non stop when you can connect
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Air Tran And JetBlue - A "Foreigner's" View

Mon Dec 22, 2003 1:16 am

Great report, and I hope that you enjoyed your experiences on jetBlue. For future reference, if you want increased legroom, sit in rows 15-26, as they have a 34" pitch. In rows 1-13, there is 32" of pitch, and then 14 and 15 have standard Emergency Exit row pitch.

Nice report again
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Air Tran And JetBlue - A "Foreigner's" View

Mon Dec 22, 2003 6:29 am

Thanks guys. Our JFK-LGB sector was a full flight, and six hours is a long time on a totally full one-class A320. The extra pitch in the back rows will be great!
BNE, the trip to Long Beach was to reconnect (eventually) with Thai for the trip back to Australia. We originally flew into LAX on Thai from Perth, took Amtrak to San Diego, cruised on "Legend of the Seas" down the Mexican Riviera and through the Panama Canal to Miami, then did the flights as detailed. Also managed an Amtrak trip from Philadelphia to Washington DC and return. Quite a trip, and loved every minute of it, even if it took a hefty chunk out of the bank balance.
"...every aircraft is subtly different.."
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Air Tran And JetBlue - A "Foreigner's" View

Mon Dec 22, 2003 7:52 am

I just want to say that with one exception, I try to limit my carry-ons to (and this is for a family of 3) 1 or 2 bags and 2 personal items (1 laptop and my moms purse.)
The reason it is sometimes 2 bags is becasue my dad is one of THOSE people. I always check the size and/orweight of my bag (except in that one instance).

The one case was on 2 different flights (one was my mom, the other was me). They were both when we were moving ,so we did not need a large bag. We did not overpack, but for my flight, we had stuff for 2 people for 2 nights, so therefore it was a little lagrer than the sizewise. I believe the same thing happened to my mom since she packed for the week. That was the only time that anything like that has happened (while I have been flying with my family, at least!)
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Air Tran And JetBlue - A "Foreigner's" View

Mon Dec 22, 2003 12:49 pm

Thanks for a very interesting perspective on our low-cost carriers...glad you enjoyed your trip here!!!

Chief college football stadium self-pic guru
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Air Tran And JetBlue - A "Foreigner's" View

Mon Dec 22, 2003 1:07 pm

Good for you Flairport, pity everyone doesn't abide by the one carry-on (correct size and weight) and one personal. It came as a bit of a shock because a few times out of Australia, security has checked the size AND weight of all carry-ons, especially on international flights, and they seem to be a lot stricter than in the USA. Consequently, I was a bit surprised by the large amount of carry-on stuff in the cabins in America. Also by the announcements saying "we have now cleared the active runway, so you can use cell-phones". Again, in Australia, use of phones is much more rigidly controlled - generally not on board at all, and certainly not after the doors have been closed, or before they open. But it seems everyone has a different rule. Guess thats what makes travelling interesting, seeing all the different ways airlines operate and people behave.
It's not as bad as flying in Papua-New Guinea, with live chooks (chickens) and pigs being stowed under seats by their owners! THAT was different!
"...every aircraft is subtly different.."
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Air Tran And JetBlue - A "Foreigner's" View

Mon Dec 22, 2003 2:18 pm

Wow! Great report (coming from someone who swears off LCCs and Crapchester for that matter)  Big thumbs up . How long did you spend in America? With all the places you visited, it sounds like quite a trip. I'm surprised you had no inclination to try WN  Big grin
America's chickens are coming home to rooooost!
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Air Tran And JetBlue - A "Foreigner's" View

Mon Dec 22, 2003 3:57 pm

Thanks Josh. I had flown a few WN sectors on a previous trip, and they were great - it was just that they didn't fly to a couple of places I wanted to visit this time, so I stuck with AirTran for most of the legs, and then jetBlue because we wanted to get to Long Beach, where we were staying on the Queen Mary (great, by the way!). Interesting, too - I tried every hotel booking site you have ever heard of, including the Queen Mary home site, to try and get accoommodation on the old girl, to no avail..... but one try through jetBlue's hotel booking service and - no worries - rooms were booked as requested! I guess they have plenty of clout in LGB.
We were in the USA five weeks in total, with 2 weeks of that on the Panama Canal cruise. Sadly only a few days with KROC, but a full day in Crapchester, (which seemed like a year)  Laugh out loud. Just kidding Crapchestarians, I really enjoyed the place, and I love the way it snows in October!!!! I shall return.
Yeah, I'm not a total LCC person, and after flying from Australia in Business and First I was expecting the worst, but the three major US LCCs have certainly perfected the art, and they can have my business anytime.
"...every aircraft is subtly different.."
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Air Tran And JetBlue - A "Foreigner's" View

Tue Jan 25, 2005 8:53 am

Well I am one of those people who carry-on my 2 bags even if one is heavy, let me explain. Well my family hasn't had the best experienced the best while checking bags, the airline would have to return them days later(cough...ata...cough). I find it is easier when you arrive because you can just leave but while on long trips we definitely check bags. I only checked bags on LGA-MCO,JFK-OAK,JFK-LHR,and ISP-FLL because they were long trips and far away. Carry-on bags are easier, but when I flew to DTW some guy had alot of bags and he insisted on putting them in the overhead bins, which they would not fit (obviously). The flight attendant kept saying we will have to check it but he finally got them in there. Of course when we arrived guess who couldn't get their bags out and held up everyone. THANK GOD I was one row ahead and I left before them. The words Carry-On Everything was made for The cell phone thing is actually correct because phones interfere with the pilot and the ATC and now that they are no longer in contact on the ground cell phones can be used.

Great Report!!!
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Air Tran And JetBlue - A "Foreigner's" View

Mon Feb 07, 2005 1:13 am

Great report, as far as the carryon limits go, in my experience AirTran gate agents are pretty strict about enforcing the carryon rule, at least here at PHF. Maybe it's because most 717s leave here with nearly every seat occupied, so overhead bin space is at a premium. Not that it matters to me, I usually check my luggage on AirTran as they are the only airline to never, ever, ever lose my bags, and they have had plenty of chances to do so. I have a lot of faith in their baggage handlers.
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Air Tran And JetBlue - A "Foreigner's" View

Mon Feb 07, 2005 3:06 am

Thanks for the AirTran compliments. It pleases me to hear satisfied customers. XM is on the way!

Great trip report.

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Air Tran And JetBlue - A "Foreigner's" View

Thu Mar 03, 2005 10:50 am

Nice report! Yes, it's a bit ridiculous how much stuff we Americans drag onto planes.
Keepin' it real.

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