June 07, 2013
Airbus is seeking FAA approval to install four “mini-suites” on JetBlue Airways A321 aircraft as part of a 16-seat business class—a dramatic departure for an airline that since its February 2000 launch has operated as a single-class, low-cost carrier.
JetBlue Chief Commercial Officer Robin Hayes in March said the airline would start offering a “premium” product next year solely on its transcontinental flights. He said that product would be offered on a dedicated fleet of A321 aircraft, 13 of which are scheduled for delivery from the fourth quarter of this year through 2014.
At the time, however, Hayes offered few details on the planned premium product, including whether it would entail a separate cabin. Now detail’s are emerging that JetBlue is about to offer three types of seating. In a June 6 request to the FAA for an exemption to outfit JetBlue’s A321s, Airbus says the cabin could consist of 16 business-class seats and 143 economy seats. The business class would include four “mini-suites,” with privacy provided by sliding doors.
Airbus needs the exemption for the mini-suites, which have previously been approved for other operators. In the application, the aircraft manufacturer says JetBlue wants the suites because they will improve the airline’s market appeal and sales.
The carrier wants to begin placing the business class-configured A321s into service at the beginning of 2014, Airbus says.
JetBlue, while acknowledging that Airbus’s request indicates that the airline is adapting its product, will not provide any more insight. “Thirteen years ago JetBlue revolutionized the economy experience and we will do the same with premium transcon. Our new onboard experience will enable us to compete with other airlines’ premium transcon products. While the FAA filing from Airbus contains the technical specifications as part of the certification process, all of the details including the branding and full experience will be revealed later this year,” a spokeswoman tells Aviation Week.