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Old 03-14-2005, 03:40 PM   #1  
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Default J.D. Power ranks JetBlue #1

JetBlue ranked tops by J.D. Power

By August Cole, Marke****ch

SAN FRANCISCO (Marke****ch) -- Perhaps proving the adage that "less is more," JetBlue Airways' streamlined and customer-friendly operations earned it J.D. Power and Associates' top ranking among its competitors Monday.

The low-fare operator has made its name with cheap flights, during which passengers can tune in to satellite TV. Though there are no free meals on board, JetBlue's (JBLU: news, chart, profile) Airbus A320s are among the newest in the air and have leather seating throughout.

JetBlue's performance put it ahead of the carrier ranked No. 2, Southwest Airlines (LUV: news, chart, profile) .

"It's such a significant performance over second-ranked Southwest," said Linda Hirneise, executive director of travel industry research at J.D. Power.

Delta Air Lines (DAL: news, chart, profile) , which operates its own low-fare carrier called Song that was not included in the study, ranked No. 3.

J.D. Power said it surveyed about 2,600 passengers who traveled last year from May through October. It's the first such study since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In surveying the fliers, J.D. Power found that bypassing a ticket agent for the automated kiosks could cut check-in time in half.

But to travelers, the most important measure was the friendliness of the flight crew. "I cannot stress enough the importance of that," added Hirneise.

JetBlue has plans to expand its current fleet of 72 A320s to more than 90 jets this year. For starters, the carrier is going to add seven smaller Embraer (ERJ: news, chart, profile) E190 jets, as well as a dozen more A320s. Keeping customers enthralled with the service through that push will be key to JetBlue's growth.
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