JetBlue's $7 pillow: Tossing and turning in the wild blue yonder

Last year, despite serious competition, JetBlue gained pre-eminence among America's airlines. While most carriers were locked in a battle to see who could provide the worst, most dangerously contemptuous service to their customers, the bargain airline emerged triumphant.

This year, amid rising gas prices, airlines have had to cut back further and further, increasing JetBlue's competition for worst airline. However, in spite of some companies' decisions to charge for all checked bags, not to mention a wide variety of other silly fees, JetBlue has once again soared to the front of the pack. In addition to charging for second checked bags, onboard drinks, and "extra" legroom, the airline is now making passengers pay for pillows and blankets.

I've tried to stop criticizing America's airlines. After all, every week or two, the airlines come up with a new way to extort a few more pennies out of their customers; to be honest, the novelty has worn off. Also, every time I question the policies of America's major airlines, I immediately get hit with a litany of complaints from airline employees. I've been told, time and again, that I don't know what it's like to run an airline, I have no idea about the difficulties that airlines go through, and I should take it easy on the tender feelings of our nation's major carriers. I've even started to feel like kind of a bully, as if my modest little posts are inflicting long-term psychological damage on the airline industry.

There's also the fact that most of these charges don't really bug me. I don't eat on-board snacks, I rarely check more than one bag, and I refill my empty water bottle in the airport water fountains. In fact, I would have remained silent if JetBlue had attacked anything other than the complimentary bedclothes. The trouble is that I generally like to sleep on planes. With a pillow, a blanket, and a moderately boring book, I can enjoy any flight. In fact, given my druthers, I'd have the pilot thin out the oxygen mixture in the cabin so I could simply pass out.

JetBlue's decision to charge $7 for a pillow and a blanket hits me where I live (and sleep); added to this, other airlines have announced that they are considering following in JetBlue's footsteps with their own extortionate "sleep kits." The airline's general manager for product development, Brett Muney, has tried to position this as an "Ecoconscious, health-conscious, and consumer-conscious" decision, and another spokesman has stated that the kit is designed to be re-used.

Frankly, I have a hard time imagining a traveler searching through the closet for his JetBlue travel kit while packing for a trip. After digging out the bedclothes, trying to find space in a carry-on, and lugging the kit to the airport, the frugal traveler would, no doubt, discover that security has decided to seize anything that looks like it could be used to smother a pilot. The upshot of this decision will probably be a lot of pillows and blankets in landfills, a lot of ticked off passengers, and a lot of overstressed flight attendants. Still, if it saves a few bucks, I'm sure it's worth it...

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. If he's going to bring a pillow to the airport, it's not going to be a tiny little airline cushion!
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