How JetBlue is Winning Hollywood With Cheap Prices for First Class

JetBlue is winning Hollywood. Not the studio contracts, of course. If you have a deal with Paramount, you’re flying American on the lucrative Los Angeles – New York route. But the ‘real’ Hollywood. The actors and directors and producers and independent talent who work for a living, aren’t traveling on a studio’s dime, but view the world through the lens of those who do.

One of the best sources of clients for my award booking business has been Hollywood – recognizable actors who have had many small roles in film, or recurring roles on cable TV, comedic directors whose shows we know but that we wouldn’t recognize in an airport.

They travel in circles with actresses and actors who fly private, or who are flown in international first class all over the world. They want to travel this way, but they frankly can’t afford to. And they love miles and points as a result because it opens up the world that they’re otherwise merely on the fringes of.

One really great client who I like a lot recently emailed,

Boy, JetBlue Mint is great for the money.

He’s otherwise picking and choosing flights based on which airline, day, and time has confirmable upgrade space. He’s buying the cheapest coach ticket, spending miles, and a cash co-pay. By the time he does that roundtrip, he’s effectively paying at least as much as just buying the seat outright from JetBlue.

The thing is, American, United, and Delta are regularly selling seats at these prices. Just not to you, and not to him.

Corporate contracts on these routes are much more cost-competitive with JetBlue than the prices you see quoted on an airline’s website, or on Orbitz or Expedia.

JetBlue will sell seats to anyone. And that’s why the A-listers may fly American, but the B-listers choose JetBlue.

Premium cabin travel used to be priced several multiples that of coach on domestic flights. And as a result, no one bought the tickets. 90% of domestic first class seats were taken by upgraders. Now with airlines generally reducing first class fares, they unsurprisingly sell more first class tickets.

That doesn’t mean the seats are cheap. JetBlue gets $600 each way. But it’s much less than what competitors are charging on the route.

There’s a premium market where prices modest multiples of economy. That’s a market that legacy carriers are currently ceding.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Surprised Virgin America commands such a high price with recliner seats! If I were in the market for transcontinental first class I would surely cough up $39 extra to lie flat.

  2. Unfortunately everyone is cluing into this and nowadays the $599 seats are fully booked a month out and your are lucky if you can get the $800 ones.

    Also at some point they will stop this – when VX first started their F was supposedly going to max out at $800 each way.

  3. I work for a huge company, but have no access to discounts like those on the legacy carriers. Is there any other way to get access to them?

  4. I loved JetBlue Mint! As a New Yorker, I felt the experience (from food to IFE to service, etc) was very American! I’d certainly fly it again and wish they had it on other transcon routes like jfk-sea or jfk-san.

  5. I would think B-listers would be happy to pay $600 to travel one-way between NYC and LA in comfort and without the hoi polloi. Heck, I would think most corporations would happily pay that for their execs.

    At $800, though, it starts being “real money.” 🙂

  6. This is a decent deal but it doesn’t seem super cheap to me. It’s nice to be confirmed into business, but I just bought a $500 RT ticket SFO-JFK. 30k miles and $150 upgrades it to business. Even valuing the AA miles at two cents each that’s about the same as Mint. And it didn’t require a 30-day advance purchase.

  7. Talking about flying premium other than AA what other options do I have for flying from say NewYork to Miami in Biz/First or direct from the West Coast to Miami? No chance right? Esp from the west coast?

    Thanks !

  8. Next battle – get hotels to sell suites twice as big as standard rooms for just twice the price!

  9. Gary – I’d like to know your source for the information that there are drastically reduced corporate discounts on this route. I book travel for several large companies and none of them have such a discount. They pay full freight so to speak.

  10. Well I’ve never worked anywhere with negotiated Premium Cabin fares. I wonder what companies have these?
    When First Class fares get to 2x economy fares I’m interested, 3x is usually highly questionable and 4x is just crazy unless you are in a position where you can’t avoid it (e.g., suddenly gotta fly tomorrow across the world and must hit the ground running as soon as you get there.) But the “deals” I get offered by UA often run 5 to 10x.

  11. @Gary;
    Your article is right “on the money”.
    I often fly SFO-NYC on my dime.
    I am a UA MM so have some benefits in flying UA but lately it is a hassle to try to upgrade.
    Why bother. For $1200 roundtrip I can go JetBlue Mint and let UA keep its upgrades. They also loose my $500-600 coach ticket.

  12. Do Paramount and AA actually have a deal or is it just common practice that stars fly them these days?

  13. Are the large corporate contracts still ~60% off published unrestricted J fares?

    That would translate into $1,200 each way on LAX-JFK on AA, still double than B6!

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