A view of Jet Blue

Old 02-07-2006, 05:46 PM
New boss = Old boss
Thread Starter
mike734's Avatar
Joined APC: Mar 2005
Position: Ca B737
Posts: 2,762
Default A view of Jet Blue

The following is an article forwarded to me from a friend. We don't know who wrote it. It makes interesting reading however.

Several years ago, an innovative airline executive decided to try out his long thought-out ideas on designing an airline with an emphasis on its company culture. The idea was to create a pleasant environment to work, which would in turn keep employees happier without having to pay them more, and fit well within the low cost business model put together. An underutilized New York airport was chosen, and the new low fare carrier was born. Quickly touted as the new darling of the industry, this airline performed very well: both operationally and financially. Growth was the order of the day, and aircraft couldn't arrive quickly enough. Accolades were plenty from both customers and business magazines, and the CEO was considered to be the future of the industry with an uncanny insight to grow his company as quickly as he had. Profits were consistent, customer satisfaction was high, and growth was explosive.

Peoples Express failed within a year of becoming the fifth largest carrier in the US.

The similarities between jetBlue and Peoples Express are too glaring to dismiss, but there's one factor that stands out above the rest: explosive growth. This early blessing for Peoples Express turned quickly into their strongest curse, growth. The idea: by maintaining constant growth, new, lower paid employees can be brought in constantly, aircraft warranties can be taken advantage of, and cheap financing can be easily found.

Growth brings its own benefits, and its true that by increasing growth, the cost benefits increase as well, but it also puts a heavier burden on marketing to find markets from which to pull more revenue. Costs can consistently be kept low with growth, but eventually the revenues, diluted by their own capacity as well as competition, will not be able to keep up.

jetBlue continues to increase ASM's (Available Seat Miles) while Revenue Passenger Miles continues to lag

This is the problem jetBlue finds itself in today. 2005 was the first year jetBlue's increase in capacity exceeded its increase in passengers. The airline is showing the first signs of not being able to keep itself up with its recent growth, and what's worse, with 100 new Embraer 190's and another 100 A320's on order, jetBlue plans to further increase its capacity by over 100% within two years. The blame can be put on jetBlue’s marketing department for not keeping up with the increase in capacity, but there comes a point when its impossible regardless of how good your marketing department is. Sometimes you’re just growing too fast, and jetBlue has aready reached that point, with 200 aircraft to go.

Is the 190 to blame? I don’t think the EMB-190 itself is the problem. Much like how Independence’s failure was blamed on CRJ’s, I think jetBlue’s issues are going to be blamed on the new Embraers, but the problem isn’t the airframe, it’s the number of airframes they’re getting. Doubling your fleet within two years is an enormous gamble, but doing so with an aircraft you are the launch customer of is almost reckless. I’m entirely convinced that jetBlue could be very successful flying 100 EMB-190’s on point-to-point markets across the US, but I’m in no way convinced it can happen within a year and a half. It all boils down to marketing. Can they find enough passengers to pay enough for a ticket to keep this airline profitable? I just don’t see it happening. Remember, that at the same time the 100 EMB-190’s are coming on line, there is still an order for 100 A320’s being filled. In a U.S. domestic airline industry routinely being hammered for over capacity, there aren’t nearly enough new markets to fill this kind of aircraft order. So are the executives at jetBlue really off their rocker, or do they have some sort of plan? They understand there aren’t enough markets for the new aircraft they’re bringing on. It only takes a trip to the airport to understand that. What they seem to be counting on is being able to take customers away from other airlines by the masses. The reasoning? David Neeleman honestly thinks jetBlue is the better airline and that it deserves more passengers and higher fares. To some extent, he may be correct, yet perhaps David needs to meet with Don Burr about the better New York airline vanishing.

A downward trending yield and an upward trending CASM spell bad news for an expanding airline

jetBlue began operations in 2000 and is just over five years old. This is significant for several reasons: 1. the most senior jetBlue employee is being paid at the 5-year pay scale, 2. aircraft warranties are beginning to expire, and 3. competition has had enough time to respond.

First, the employees may all be paid at the bottom 5 years of the pay scale, but each year this increases. Each year jetBlue can guarantee their employee costs will rise. Even at the lower five years, jetBlue’s rates are extremely low. They’ve been able to keep employees happy without paying them top of the line rates because of their philosophy of offering stock options. The rapid rise over the past five years has more than made up for any shortfall in the employees pay, but what happens now that the stock price is falling? We’re starting to see jetBlue’s performance and customer satisfaction plummet. On-time arrivals have been the worst in the industry for the last two months with 75% and 67% of all jetBlue flights arriving on time in November and December respectively.

Mishandled bags increased 37% as well, and with jetBlue connecting fewer than 4% of its passengers, there is no excuse. Is the always happy jetBlue culture starting to take a hit? After having spoken to several employees, it is apparent that their confidence in jetBlue’s management team is beginning to fail. Unfortunately for jetBlue, the failure in confidence is coming much faster than at other airlines because each employees pay is based on the stock price of the company. Once again, we see a possible accelerant to jetBlue’s decline.

There’s been several rumors over the past several years that jetBlue has been able to defer its aircraft payments to one mass payment it won’t be able to make in the future. I don’t buy it, for several reasons, but one expense that jetBlue is going to be forced to deal with is aircraft maintenance. With the A320’s coming of Airbus’ warranty, maintenance is now a financial responsibility of jetBlue, and their efforts to outsource to South American heavy maintenance facilities may come back to haunt them. The recent jetBlue A320 landing at LAX with the nose wheel cocked turned out to be a media blessing for them, but what few people realize is that the A320 may have had up to seven other incidents just like this. If there is another issue with a jetBlue aircraft, regardless of the outcome, people are going to start looking at their choice of maintenance.

The result of jetBlue's A320 cocked nosegear landing
Not everyone has forgotten about ValueJet’s maintenance nightmare in 1996, and a quick reminder of how violently the public responded should be enough to scare jetBlue into distancing itself from anything resembling shoddy maintenance, but so far they haven’t. With costs as low as they are right now, and jetBlue still unable to make money, its easy to understand why jetBlue is outsourcing their maintenance; they can’t afford not to. This is the first sign that jetBlue has backed itself into a financial corner, and I predict over the next few years, we’ll see many more.

When jetBlue started, they did have an outstanding product that set them apart from the competition. The DirectTV in the aircraft was an outstanding selling point, and one that was not matched by any competitors. Now, more and more competitors are beginning to put entertainment systems in every seat. jetBlue’s product is quickly becoming a commodity like the rest of the industry, and the “wow” factor to fly on jetBlue is fading. Yields are down, due partially to jetBlue’s own expansion, but also due to competition, and Neeleman is finding that he can no longer raise prices just because its jetBlue. Their answer to progressing competition was the 190, which is an innovative and potentially successful strategy, but not with as many as they’re receiving.

jetBlue has always required a higher load factor to break even due to lower fares, but with costs increasing and performance decreasing, jetBlue's low fares may be a thing of the past

The success of jetBlue has been founded on growth. Keep costs low by hiring new employees, acquiring new airplanes on bulk discounted orders, and keeping the bulk of the fleet on maintenance warranties. The success of an airline should be how profitable it is without growing. jetBlue will not be able to grow indefinitely. Until they show they can deal with the actual costs of its operation without diluting it with such constant fast growth, I’ll remain a skeptic of jetBlue Airways, and it seems these days there are an increasing number of skeptics.

Last edited by mike734; 02-08-2006 at 08:57 AM. Reason: Combined Pt 1 & 2 (I can do after all! :)
mike734 is offline  
Old 02-08-2006, 02:58 AM
Gets Weekends Off
fireman0174's Avatar
Joined APC: Aug 2005
Position: Retired 121 pilot
Posts: 1,032

Originally Posted by mike734
Several years ago, an innovative airline executive decided to try out his long thought-out ideas on designing an airline with an emphasis on its company culture.........
Any chance you could provide the link to this article?

fireman0174 is offline  
Old 02-08-2006, 11:03 AM
On Reserve
Joined APC: Dec 2005
Posts: 16

Another story.

Economic Realities Coming Home To Roost
LCCs Add A Destination: The Red Sea

What ever will they all talk about now ?

We're referring, of course, the the Parrot Jungle of analysts and media types who for the past three or so years have been chanting about how low cost carriers had all the answers. About how stupid legacy carriers are, what with their hubs and all. About how the LCC model was, well, the wave of the future.

Heck, a couple of weeks ago, even Norman Mineta told reporters on a trip to China that US legacy carriers wouldn't be profitable until they dumped their connecting hubs. He even quoted some fleet utilization numbers, comparing legacies with LCCs. Of course, Norm isn't exactly an expert on the airline industry, or anything else, for that matter. He was working off a crib sheet some staffer slipped him. The fact is that Mineta wouldn't know the difference between Form 41 and a bottle of Grecian Formula 44. He probably had no idea what the data was, only that somebody told him that it meant bad stuff about legacy carriers.

But, gee, it's not just Norm. Everybody, it seems, is saying it: LCCs are the future. It's, well, the consensus.

Living On The Hedge. Reality has a habit of ruining really fun fantasies. Like the one about how the typical LCC model is the secret to financial fun and profit. Unfortunately, market realities are a bit different from the consensus-thinking among the consensus-worshippers.

Deal with it: reality has caught up with LCCs. Fuel costs are hitting home. Increasing intra-LCC competition is taking its toll, too. Today, if it's got a wing, carries passengers, and depends on jet-A for motivation, it's probably losing money.

jetBlue has announced its first quarterly loss, and - just two months into 2006 - they've suggested that they'll lose money for the rest of the year. Frontier is losing money. AirTran reported a razor-thin profit.

But the real news is Southwest. True, it reported a profit for the last quarter, but it was predicated entirely on the fuel-hedge cost advantage it currently enjoys. Take that away, and the Southwest Model - as it's currently structured, and within the current pricing environment - doesn't make money.

In fact, if Southwest was paying all-up for fuel, as is most of its competitors, it would have lost in the neighborhood of around $90 million last quarter. Worse, its all-up ASM costs would have been well over nine cents. Hardly what would be considered as low cost.

Needless to say, Southwest is well aware of this, and it's a lead-pipe cinch they're moving to fix things. So plan on some very un-Southwest changes in the months ahead. They will also almost certainly loosen up on fare increases - where they can. This was covered a couple weeks ago. (Go There)

The LCC Achilles Heel - Revenue. Again, take it to the bank - there are two sides to the airline ledger. One is costs. The other is revenue. The LCC cost advantage v legacies is materially less than it was three years ago. Legacies can get their costs down, but for LCCs to get their revenue streams up, well, that's a different story. It's one thing to stimulate traffic to points in Florida and to Las Vegas. It's another to access the markets where the real, fundamental economic and revenue growth will be in the future. It ain't between Philly and West Palm. Or Hartford and 'Lauderdale. Or BWI and LAX, either.

Orlando's Nice. But Taipei & Montgomery Are Where It's At. That fleet of A-320s or 737s or E-190s are great airliners, but they're not well suited to take advantage of the the new domestic and international revenue flows that are starting to emerge.

The economic impact analyses The Boyd Group accomplishes for various clients reveal a lot of air traffic relationships that traditional studies miss. For example, the major increase that is now emerging in high-yield business traffic generated by Montgomery's Hyundai plant to places like Lansing, or Flint, or Rochester, or Toledo. Or to the company's design studios in Los Angeles. Or their corporate headquarters in Korea. Or the traffic generated by dozens of second-tier and third-tier suppliers located all across the country as well as internationally.

More Examples. Beyond these domestic traffic flows, it's legacy carriers that have the upper hand in capturing the high-yield revenues represented by the international traffic generated, say, from the Haier plant in the Carolinas to Shanghai and Beijing. Or the traffic to Europe generated by that new, partially Russian-owned steel mill being built in Columbus, Mississippi.

Think this is minor stuff? Think again. Here's a hint: When a German company - BMW - opened a plant in Spartanburg, SC, traffic between GSP and industrial points in Michigan jumped 30%. We are in a global economy, and that is affecting traffic at mid-size and smaller points across the nation that the LCC model can't access. So, when you hear some PR flack at a legacy carrier touting a "revenue premium" - he's right.

Less Low-Hanging Fruit. More Fighting For Discretionary Scraps. The LCC model, such as it is, works. But it has limits. And they're getting reached pretty quickly. Sure, you can stimulate traffic - to a point - between New York and Florida. With the right fares, those discretionary dollars sitting in banks in Nassau County can be shifted from that planned camping trip in the Adirondacks to a quick vacation in Orlando.

However, there is a finite limit to those available discretionary dollars. The potential for traditional LCCs to generate new revenues with cheap fares to Florida or 'Vegas is getting pretty close to being tapped out. So the next option is to try to stimulate traffic to Lincoln. Or Grand Rapids. Or Toledo. Possible, but no gold mine.

Fact: there's a finite limit to the LCC model of low-fare stimulation on high-density 100-150 seat airplanes. And that's just one of the challenges facing LCCs. Add in tougher competition from legacies, more competition from other LCCs, and increasing fuel and labor costs, and the rosy picture painted by Norman Mineta becomes a pipe dream.

Like most of what he babbles about.
pickleford is offline  
Old 02-10-2006, 05:33 AM
Atmospheric Penetrator
Sike's Avatar
Joined APC: Aug 2005
Posts: 243


Sounds like jetBlue needs a new portal to Central and eventually South America for some more profitable routes. The question is, what portal? MCO perhaps? New international terminal; huge capacity that rarely sees any delays. Millions in Latin America that want to go to Disney, Universal etc.

Seems like a logical move to me.

Or maybe that's because I live there.
Sike is offline  
Old 02-10-2006, 09:25 AM
Posts: n/a

Originally Posted by pickleford
Another story.

Economic Realities Coming Home To Roost
LCCs Add A Destination: The Red Sea

The economic impact analyses The Boyd Group accomplishes for various clients reveal a lot of air traffic relationships that traditional studies miss.

........painted by Norman Mineta becomes a pipe dream.

Like most of what he babbles about.
OK, I'm not disputing anything here but.. When I see the "Boyd Group" referenced as hard fact and Norm Mineta as a "babbler" I kinda go..hmmmm
Old 02-10-2006, 10:47 AM
APC co-founder
HSLD's Avatar
Joined APC: Feb 2005
Position: B777
Posts: 5,853

Originally Posted by banger
OK, I'm not disputing anything here but.. When I see the "Boyd Group" referenced as hard fact and Norm Mineta as a "babbler" I kinda go..hmmmm
Isn't THAT the truth.
HSLD is offline  
Old 02-14-2006, 07:21 PM
Line Holder
Joined APC: Jan 2006
Posts: 40

It flies in the face of the LCC model, but as long as we're wandering in the woods of pure speculation, anyone think Jet Blue is going international? If so, when? Aloha is flying 737's from California to Hawaii, how long are the legs on an A320? ETOPS? South America shouldn't be out of reach, maybe England?
sarcasticspasti is offline  
Old 02-14-2006, 09:25 PM
Gets Weekends Off
Joined APC: May 2005
Position: B777/CA retired
Posts: 1,486

Ryan, the Irish carrier, not the nonsched here in the states, has long hinted that they will go transAtlantic at some point in the future. The A320 is more limited by the range than the 737 NG but BOS to LGW would be doable, I think. ETOPS should not be a problem for the A320. Just need to figure out where the raft and other EOW equip will go.
cactusmike is offline  
Old 02-14-2006, 11:07 PM
Line Holder
Joined APC: Sep 2005
Position: right here
Posts: 95

Originally Posted by cactusmike
The A320 is more limited by the range than the 737 NG but BOS to LGW would be doable, I think. ETOPS should not be a problem for the A320. Just need to figure out where the raft and other EOW equip will go.
FWIW, all JB aircraft are equipped for EOW with rafts, ect.

Range is the issue, especially westbound from Europe in the 320 unless additional optional tanks are installed. Just like the ones JB recently ordered, then deactivated from the 2005 deliveries. (Don't ask...)

For comparison, consider also that a full 320 can have a hard time in the winter going nonstop from JFK or BOS to the west coast. For now it appears that trans-Atlantic is impractical for the 320; although there are a few corporate 319's that operate shuttles in an all-business configuration on a regular basis.

Last edited by bluechunks; 02-14-2006 at 11:15 PM.
bluechunks is offline  
Related Topics
Thread Starter
Last Post
Hangar Talk
08-03-2006 06:58 AM
06-01-2006 07:07 PM
Hangar Talk
02-01-2006 04:06 PM
11-18-2005 07:38 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Your Privacy Choices