03 Oct 2006
JetBlue Airways Flight 1094
CMH-JFK Embraer 190
N190JB Luiz F. Kahn "Mosaic" Tail
ETD: 11:55AM / ATD: 11:55AM
Photo © Anthony Russo
I arrived at Port Columbus at 10:20AM, and made my way over to the JetBlue counters at the northernmost end of the departure hall. JetBlue's counter setup at CMH includes 3 positions: 2 sets of 2 IBM kiosks with 1 employee workstation on the back of each, and then two standard check-in desk positions. The kiosks were definitely very eye-catching and user-friendly, and within moments I had my boarding pass, which was printed on a flimsy, almost receipt-like paper. The security checkpoint for Concourse C, where JetBlue operates, is only a few steps away from their counter. Within 5 minutes, I was through and I made my way to C50, where a large contingent of people had gathered for the press conference heralding JetBlue's arrival into Columbus.
The gate area was a buzz of activity. Three large posters with various blue animals, such as hyacint macaw parrots, exclaiming "Columbus Goes Wild for JetBlue" were set up in front of the boarding area, where a podium was flanked by blue and white balloons, as well as two red, giant balloon apples. A human statue of The Statue of Liberty posed close to the gate podium, holding in his hand an orange wand instead of a torch. A table had been set up along the windows with a complete selection of JetBlue's trademark snack selection. Outside, N190JB glissened in the late morning sun. Special guests included representatives from the City of Columbus and JetBlue Airways, but probably the most entertaining speaker was Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and famed talk show guest, who brought several animals to go along with the "Columbus Goes Wild for JetBlue" theme, including a merecat, and a set of penguins.
After the media event, which included a quick tour of the aircraft, the excited local JetBlue crew began boarding procedures, one of which I worked with at Independence Air and another with whom I attended Ohio State, and is a fellow a.net forumer. The load was light but admirable for the first flight from a new station, with 56 people manifested for the flight including a friend and colleague of mine from my days at both America West and Independence Air. After pre-boarding, general boarding for all passengers was called, and, after helping myself to a free set of headphones, I made my way down the jetway. I was greeted with a smile by one of out inflight crewmembers (whose name escapes me right now), and made my way to seat 18A, a window seat on the left-hand side of the plane.
First impressions were very favorable. The aircraft was immaculate; very clean and spacious. JetBlue's leather seats on the 190s are exceptionally comfortable, and seem to have a higher back and better cushioning than the 170s I have flown on. The 34" pitch was certainly noticeably. I stand at 5'11", and was able to comfortably cross my legs. And, of course, I had my very own DirecTV screen in front of me, along with 100 channels of satellite radio to keep me occupied through the flight. Though during boarding, taxi, and takeoff, the system only showed a Mapquest version of Airshow, displaying our current position, and random JetBlue messages, such as "You look cute...in leather" and "We're an airline with vision...Television."
As boarding drew to a close, our captain presented himself at the front of the cabin and detailed our course to JFK for today, which would take us over northern Pennsylvania, across New Jersey, and into New York, with a view of Manhattan as we approach JFK. There seemed to be a bit of confusion as to whether a passenger booked on the flight had made it onboard, but doors closed were closed shortly after and we pushed back right on time. The safety briefing was performed by our two inflight crewmembers along with a pre-recorded voiceover of the safety features of our E-190. The taxiways on runway 28R are undergoing resurfacing, forcing its closure, so all arrivals and departures were to use runways 28L, including ours. We were first in line for takeoff, which turned out to be incredible, definitely rivaling that of my favorite aircraft, the 757-200. The plane literally shot off the ground and climbed like a rocket. We were afforded a fantastic view of downtown Columbus before turning north towards Cleveland. At that time, the DirecTV and XM radio was activated.
Other than for gazing out the window and talking with the flight attendants about JetBlue and the airline industry, I spent most of the duration of the flight flipping through the endless array of audio and video channels made available. I don't think it is humanly possible to be bored on that aircraft. A little bit into the flight, our drink orders were taken. Our inflight team was very busy throughout the flight, whisking up and down the aisles with trays of drink orders, very personalized service. Baskets arranged with JetBlue's variety of snacks were also served, including Terra Blue Potato Chips, biscotti, chocolate chip cookies, cashews, and a Doritos-Cheetos-Pretzels snack mix. I chose a ginger ale and received the entire can, along with the potato chips (which were very good, surprisingly, as I'm not a big fan of potato chips, but I had to try them), and the Doritos mix.
There were a few chops above northwestern Pennsylvania, but for the most part the flight was incredibly smooth and comfortable. In what seemed like no time, we began our descent into the New York City area. Before our descent, however, one of the JetBlue directors from the press conference came to the front of the plane to do a raffle for 2 free tickets anywhere JetBlue flies. The lucky winners were chosen by picking a seat row number, then a seat letter. The winners were seated several rows in front of me, but it was certainly a nice gesture for the inaugural flight. As we approached JFK, the view of Manhattan promised at the beginning of the flight was fulfilled, and we received a spectacular view of Midtown and Central Park during our descent. The approach then took us out over the Atlantic and back towards the airport, lining us up for runway 31R. The landing was smooth and our inflight crew welcomed us to New York. We taxied only for a few moments, and pulled up to gate 17. JetBlue’s Terminal 6 was pretty busy for a Tuesday. The terminal itself is very reminiscent of Las Vegas’ Concourse A/B, but the latter is in better shape. Though, the progress on JetBlue’s new Terminal 5 is coming along nicely and I’m sure will be vast improvement over Terminal 6.
Overall, the "JetBlue Experiece" did not disappoint. The service on the ground and in the air was top-notch, and at an unbeatable price. The E-190 has also secured a spot on my list of favorite aircraft. Here's hoping JetBlue does well in the Columbus market, it's definitely a pleasure to have them here.