‘We’re doing all we can to keep passengers entertained,’ says Jet Blue CEO
Airlines have hiked rates three times in recent months, and are contemplating more increases as the busy summer season approaches.
“It’s supply and demand,” Dave Barger, JetBlue CEO, told host Matt Lauer on the Today Show recently.
“There have been continued increases in fuel prices, insurance and of course our in-flight entertainment costs are sky-rocketing,” he added.
Questioned about those “entertainment” costs, Barger elaborated: “Passengers used to be easily distracted by one old movie on a single monitor, or a few tiny, off-color, grainy monitors throughout the cabin. Then airlines started installing more and more screens, until we at JetBlue came along and gave everyone their very own monitor, built into the seat in front of them, with a bunch of different channels to switch to.”
“In hindsight, not a good move. Airline customers are insatiable, always wanting more and better.”
So, eventually, JetBlue started experimenting with live entertainment, says the somewhat unconventional airline CEO.
“We decided, OK, competition is tight. Let’s do something really big. Let’s bring on some live entertainment. You know, live actors,” said Barger.
At first it was just a storyteller or clown for the kids. But soon JetBlue was experimenting with dramas acted out by stage-trained attendants, and later, even pilots with some thespian experience.
“That’s what passengers were treated to in the Clayton Osbon case,” he said. “I’m afraid he just went too far with his method acting.”
In another recent case, an American Airlines attendant also appeared to freak out, on a flight from Dallas to New York. She started rambling about 9/11 and warning of imminent danger, announcing “I’m not responsible for this plane crashing” over the public-address system, according to passengers.
“Then she acted out a scene from ‘Flight 93,’ the TV movie — she was quite good,” said Julie Freeman, who witnessed the performance.
“I think there was a little competition going on, to be frank,” Barger told Lauer on the Today Show. “That gal that appeared to fly off the handle a couple weeks ago was one of his old acting partners. He told me he felt she had raised the bar.”
Osbon was 49, and had been a pilot at JetBlue since 2000, the airline’s first year of flying. “It’s only natural he would get tired of the same old routine, and want to spice it up,” Barger said.
“Let’s face it, it was a dream come true at 35,000 feet for those passengers yesterday. It was not just an ordinary flight. They got to be heroes. They’ll relive this day forever, and tell stories to their grandchildren. That’s marketing at its finest — they will remember JetBlue!”