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Updated March 28, 2021
This post is the fourth in a six part series as I evaluate the Coronavirus responses of the six largest U.S. airlines. It covers JetBlue Airways COVID-19 strategy during this historic drop in air travel demand. Some of these changes have short term effects while others have long term effects that may last more than a year. In this entry I will show what the JetBlue COVID policy is in regard to elite status, cancellation/change policies, lounges, credit cards, cleaning procedures, masks/PPE, CARES Act and any other changes.
Elite Status (JetBlue Mosaic Extension):
One of the first major announcements that JetBlue made in response to the pandemic was in May 2020 regarding how it would handle its elite customers. The company announced that it would be extending the current benefits that Mosaic members have through 2021. The airline stated that it did not matter how the elite status was earned (whether through flying/credit card spend), all Mosaic customers will receive this extension.
JetBlue also gave current Mosaic customers the opportunity to gift elite status for one year to someone of their choosing. This selection had to be made by the beginning of June 2020. The members that received the gifted upgrade will have it until June 2021.
In addition, JetBlue has introduced a 50% reduction in the Mosaic qualification thresholds for 2021. Normally that would require either: 15,000 points or 12,000 points and 30 segments. However, for 2021 the flying requirements are either: 7,500 points or 6,000 points and 15 segments. To earn Mosaic status through credit card spend there are also two options: spend $50,000 on purchases with the JetBlue Plus or JetBlue Business cards during the calendar year or a new option just for 2021 of spend $30,000 on purchases with the JetBlue Plus or JetBlue Business cards and earn 4,000 Mosaic Qualifying points during the calendar year.
Once Mosaic status is reached and if individuals go beyond the base requirements to earn it, there are other perks included at certain levels:
- Earn a total of 10,000 Mosaic Qualifying Points: Get a bonus of 10,000 TrueBlue bonus points
- Earn 20,000 Mosaic Qualifying Points: Have the ability to gift Mosaic Status to someone else (good through 2022)
- Earn 30,000 Mosaic Qualifying Points: Be rewarded with a free round-trip Core flight certificate (expires after one year)
Mosaic Enhancements include:
- Between January 1 to May 20, 2021, Mosaic members can bring along a guest for free. JetBlue is offering unlimited Companion Passes for free. Based on the wording in the press release it seems like Mosaic members can only bring one companion per trip but an unlimited number of times.
- Mosaic members can now get complimentary Even More Space seats when they make a same-day request at the airport by visiting a crew member at the ticket counter, gate desk or Mosaic desk. These request will be on a first come, first serve basis.
Existing Mosaic benefits already include:
- First and Second bags free
- Complimentary alcoholic beverages for Mosaic members 21 years and up
- Early boarding
- A bonus of 15,000 bonus points when you qualify for Mosaic
- Expedited security checkpoint line
Cancellation and Change Policy:
JetBlue announced that it is waiving all change and cancellation fees for all bookings made through March 31, 2021, though fare differences may apply. Additionally, Travel Bank credits that were issued Feb. 27-June 30, 2020 will now be valid for a 24 month period.
Starting after March 31, there will be no change or cancellation fees for Blue, Blue Plus, Blue Extra and Mint tickets. Blue Basic Fares (Basic Economy) will be able to be changed or canceled for a fee. Fare differences my still apply. Same-day changes are possible depending on the ticket type that was purchased.
As a low cost air carrier, JetBlue does not maintain any of its own lounges.
Through January 31, 2021, the JetBlue Plus card has an increased sign-up bonus of 100,000 points after a total of $7,000 in the first 12 months (with $1,000 of that in the first 90 days) along with paying the annual fee of $99.
JetBlue’s expanded cleaning and safety initiative is called “Safety from the Ground Up.” There are four parts to the new program: “Healthy crew members; Clean Air and Surfaces; More Space, Fewer Touchpoints and Travel Flexibility. As part of this section I will focus in on the Clean air and surfaces portion of the new initiative.
The company states that it is utilizing an approved disinfectant that kills coronavirus. They have committed to an increase in the frequency of disinfecting common touchpoints such as kiosks and ticket counters. Additionally, there will be increased cleaning of the cabin before each flight as well as overnight, to include common touchpoints aboard, such as tray tables and seats. JetBlue has stated that they also will be utilizing electrostatic sprayers to clean the inside of the airplane cabin. Each aircraft uses HEPA air filters, the same kind used in hospital settings, to completely filter the cabin air every three minutes.
JetBlue is also piloting the new Honeywell Ultraviolet Cleaning System. This machine is roughy the size of the beverage carts that are used onboard. This device has arms that emit UV light as they sweep over the tops of the seats as the system moves up/down the aisle. This system can complete a full sweep of the cabin in about 10 minutes. JetBlue already has acquired eight of these systems from Honeywell. This program will start in JFK airport in New York and Fort Lauderdale airport in Florida. When applied at prescribed levels, ultraviolet light has been shown to significantly reduce viruses and bacteria, including SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, in clinical studies.
The airline will also be supplying disinfectant kits to pilots to use in the cockpit. Hand sanitizer stations will be installed throughout airport terminals. Disinfectant wipes will be provided to travelers in the cabin upon request.
Per studies done by Harvard and the Deparment of Defense, the chance of COVID transmission while on an airplane is very low due to the safety/cleaning protocols in place and the filtration systems on aircraft. The studies also found that the possibility of exposure to COVID on an aircraft is much lower than in other indoor settings such as restaurants or stores.
Masks and Other PPE:
As of August 10, JetBlue has become more stringent on its mask policy. The company is strictly enforcing that everyone that is older than two years has to wear a mask that covers both the nose and mouth. The airline is not allowing customers to claim exemptions from the mask policy. The company also says that it is no longer allowing masks that contain vents or exhalation valves. Travelers who refuse to wear acceptable face coverings will be denied the privilege to board the aircraft. Along with this, any passenger that does not follow flight crew’s requests to wear a mask during flight will be put under review for future travel with the airline.
The CARES Act is a government program through the U.S. Department of Treasury that evaluated each of the airlines payroll costs for the second (Q2) and third (Q3) quarters of 2019 and awarded 76% of those payroll costs in a mixture of grant and low-interest loan.
For JetBlue, it received a total of $935.8 million, with $250.7 million being in the form of a low-interest loan. According to JetBlue, the grant portion ($685.1 million) covers about 56% of payroll costs for Q2 and Q3 of 2019. The money provided to the airline through this program constitutes an effort by the government to prevent layoffs/furloughs by the airline industry through September 30. The loan portion will enter the repayment phase starting in October 2020. Additionally, the U.S. government will also receive 2.6 million warrants, which allows it to buy JetBlue shares at a price of $9.50 per share.
In December 2020 after an agreement within the government, the PSP program through the CARES Act received an extension. In January 2021, JetBlue received its aid promised in the extension. The extension does expire on March 31, 2021 but the company should be able to recall furloughed employees. The carrier received a total of $504.5 million in total support with $121 million as a low interest loan. In exchange the airline had to give the Treasury Department 12 million warrants for common stock at a price of $14.43 per warrant.
- Some new technology that has been introduced to reduce touchpoints include: Mobile check-in that includes touches bag tag integration, automated bag drop, touches self-boarding and the ability to pair a mobile device to the inflight entertainment that can be used as a remote control.
- Temperature checks will be performed on crewmembers.
- All travelers will be required to complete a health declaration during check-in.
- Boarding procedures will be done back-to-front, to reduce potential contact in the aisle.
- A streamlined onboard service to reduce physical contact and ensure safety.
- JetBlue has partnered with Vault Health to offer at-home COVID-19 saliva tests at discounted prices to travelers with pending travel plans. These can be useful because some destinations will waive the 14 day quarantine if you have a recent negative COVID test.
Conclusion of The JetBlue COVID Response:
The JetBlue COVID policy has addressed a lot of the potential problem areas that I would say a majority of travelers are concerned with. In some areas they go above and beyond what most of the other airlines are implementing. In terms of cancellation policy, they are waiving fees for cancellations and changes through October 15. In terms of cleaning protocols, they are utilizing ultraviolet light to try to inactivate viruses and bacteria that remain on surfaces. And in regard to the middle seats on aircraft, they have vowed to block them through at least October 15.