Grounded! JetBlue's all-you-can-fly pass sells out, but only a day early
JetBlue had warned everyone that the pass could sell out, and it did. Granted, it was only supposed to have been on sale until Friday, Aug. 21, and the airline pulled it late Wednesday, so customers didn't lose out on much booking time.
The end of a travel opportunity for you means a bright publicity opportunity for the airline, which gets to tell the world that its product was so popular that it simply couldn't provide it to everyone who wanted it. Brilliant.
Whether lucky customers will find that the pass pays for itself depends on whether they want to spend the period of Sept. 8 to Oct. 8, the month it's valid, sitting on planes.
When the pass was announced, several consumer reporters did calculations that indicated a person would have to fly three or more flights over the month of the pass' validity in order to make it pay for itself. And even then, the flights needed to be relatively long ones, not short jumps such as New York-Buffalo, one of the airline's classic routes. Most travel experts proclaimed the pass something that only a business traveler (or unemployed vagabond) could love.
Late last week, travel sage Arthur Frommer and I debated the pass on his national radio show. He said few average people would travel so much as to make the pass worth it.
Dubious, I ran the numbers again. Indeed, because of rising airfares brought about by declining availability, the pass' worthiness had improved since its announcement. It could pay for itself in as little as two round-trips, even if one of them was not all that long (New York-Fort Lauderdale). It was still borderline, but it could be a money-saver for people taking two trips.
Plenty of other prospective passengers must have recognized the same thing, because the pass sold out a few days later.
Or maybe that was JetBlue's plan all along. After all, what little the carrier may lose to customers who ride their passes the max has been regained by enjoying two episodes of priceless national publicity in a week.