As the pandemic persisted across the US, it was time for me to come back to Chicago after being home in Florida for nearly 3 months. Growing up in Fort Lauderdale, a JetBlue focus city, flying them is as common as flying Spirit for us locals and is a household name.
JetBlue was founded in 1988 by industry legend David Neeleman and commenced operations in 2000 with a flight from Buffalo, NY to Fort Lauderdale, commencing a long relationship with the South Florida region. JetBlue has distinguished itself mostly on the east coast of the US for its low cost carrier business model, but with features such as satellite TV and high quality snacks. This was further elevated in 2013 when they introduced their revolutionary business class cabin: Mint, which Jeremy flew earlier this year. With this, JetBlue cemented its place as a top US carrier and has become a beloved company along the Atlantic Coast.
As mentioned in my prior reviews, this trip home was originally supposed to be a 3 week long round trip with Spirit, who I did fly on the flight down. However being around my family and dog was quite great in these difficult times and as I got used to not doing my own laundry again, I extended my trip 3 times… At first, I canceled and rebooked my original return on Spirit for 3 weeks later, then cancelled again and booked with jetBlue 4 weeks later in Blue Basic - jetBlue's version of Basic Economy; which allows one carry on, but restricts with added fees for seat selection, lesser mileage earning, later boarding, and inability for cancellation (although this is temporarily suspended during the pandemic). Then due to Hurricane Isaias hitting Florida and delaying our beach trip to the Residence Inn Tierra Verde, I ended up extending my trip one more week for good measure.
The final breakdown was as follows; I first booked my FLL-ORD flight for Sunday, August 9 for $25, an absolutely ridiculous steal for a route where I have paid $450 round trip before. However, due to the aforementioned hurricane, I extended my stay and a week prior to departure and rebooked my trip to Sunday, August 16 paying an extra $12 for the fare difference. Thus I paid a total of $37 for this one way fare in Blue Basic with my Chase Sapphire Preferred earning me a whopping total of 74 points.
JetBlue departs from Terminal 3 at Fort Lauderdale International (FLL), which is one of the better terminals at the ever expanding airport. FLL is in the midst of a near decade long project to expand all the terminals and bring them all up to 21st century standards. As such expect a lot of construction barriers and many shops being closed, especially with COVID.
Having checked in online and confirmed that I understood all the current regulations of flying, I arrived at FLL 2 hours prior to my 12:00 PM flight, which turned out to be more than plenty as security was the emptiest I have ever seen here. Within 10 minutes I was at my gate after a heartfelt goodbye to my parents at the departure level. To avoid as much contact as I could, I ate and drank plenty of water prior to heading to the airport and found an empty row of seats near my gate and settled down for the remainder of the pre-boarding time. Fort Lauderdale isn’t the most luxurious airport, but is comfortable for its size.
Around an hour before departure our plane arrived and deboarded, then went through a relatively fast cleaning period, dare I say as long as it was prior to the pandemic which felt a bit odd to me given all the commitments to cleaning I hear about all the time. During my whole time at the gate the gate agents were quite nice and continuously announced a few new procedures: Requiring that a mask be worn and pointing out that they are not afraid to ban anyone from flying if they refuse to cooperate, and that masks are provided at the gate desk if needed and must be worn the whole flight (Vs Spirit who sold them for $3). They also informed us that there are no snack options, the snack bags are pre-packaged and that they will be all that is provided. Lastly headphone sales onboard are suspended thus entertainment is limited if you do not have your own; and that boarding would take place by rows, so be familiar with your row number for the process.
Soon enough it was time to board! As mentioned, it began with groups of 5 rows from the back of the plane to the front to prevent bunching and people being too close to each other while passing in aisles. I thought this was fantastic and highly sped-up the process - dare I say I hope this becomes the new norm post pandemic as I have always felt it should be? Soon enough I was at my seat with my bag overhead and ready to go.
Seat & Cabin
JetBlue is currently updating their cabins with a sleeker look and new hard product. I had their classic cabin which, while older looking, is still very comfortable. I had seat 19A, a window seat, which is one of only 2 options currently as JetBlue continues to leave the middle seat open for social distancing. This was especially refreshing as things heated up in Florida. Upon arriving at my seat, the belt was crossed on top of the seat; however, there visibly was hair and some debris on my seat, a bit unsettling, but I brushed it off with a piece of paper and sat down.
My aircraft’s layout included 42 Even More Space seats, the same exact seat and width as economy, but with an extra 4” of pitch. There were also 108 regular economy seats featuring 17.8” of width and 34” of pitch. Certain center seats do have the in flight entertainment boxes in their foot well, so be mindful when selecting seats - we recommend checking your seat map on SeatGuru.
Each seat has a very small tv screen with a credit card slot next to it for any entertainment purchases, JetBlue prides itself in featuring DirectTV live television on board. The rest of the seat was set up like most other plane seats with a tray table, literature pocket, and armrest volume/tv control.
Food & Beverage
As mentioned in the boarding announcement, there were no snack or drink selection options for this flight. Everyone got the same set up and eating or drinking was the only time you were allowed to momentarily remove your mask . Around 20 minutes after departure, the attendants came around and handed out gallon ziploc bags which included: a bottle of water, Belgian Bro’s chocolate chip cookies, an 88 Acres cinnamon and seeds bar, and a small card encouraging passengers to take this bag and re-use it at home. I did take all the contents home and tried them: the cookies were a hit, absolutely delicious, the bar felt a little too healthy, and the water was crisp.
It was a no frills service and it was over within minutes, but not without someone complaining... A passenger in row behind me did get into a small argument with the flight attendant over the idea of removing masks to eat, as it just allowed things to spread, and suggested that snacks shouldn’t be served. The attendant wasn’t extremely graceful in answering, but did inform them that people need to eat and drink so a small window to remove the mask is allowed.
Amenities & Service
If I am being honest with you guys, I cannot say much about the service. Due to the current situation there was nearly no contact with any of the attendants aside from receiving the snack bag and saying thank you. There were multiple rounds of trash pick up, but aside from the small argument above, most of the flight was very much silent. But there was a warm good-bye upon arrival which was good.
JetBlue does provide free wi-fi in the air - they call it Fly-Fi - which during COVID (and anytime really) is extremely convenient. It was very responsive and fast for iMessage and social media. Their current coverage is across the continental US and certain planes have expanded coverage into their Carribean and Central American routes. Aside from that they offer live television which I didn’t utilize, but have heard is especially convenient for sports fans.
Arrival into O’hare was smooth after a lengthy fly-over around the Chicagoland area with great views of Midway Airport. Once on the ground, with a quick taxi past a Qatar A350 and some United B777’s I knew I was home, and though not as busy as I love seeing it, O’hare was very much filled with fliers. Within minutes I was at the front door of a very desolate departures level of Terminal 2 and ordered my first Uber ride in months, ending my cross-country jaunt.
JetBlue is alway a great choice in carriers, it is comfortable, trendy, convenient, and flexible. Including a carry-on even in Blue Basic really makes them a stand out over my typical choice of United for Basic Economy. I truly enjoy flying them, and when the price is right will gladly pick them over most carriers knowing a good flight and staff are ahead.
Flying during COVID once again was a bit stressful, but felt safe as we settled into the current normal. For me, I wore an KN95 mask with a light jacket and jeans so that I could limit my exposure and have things I could easily wash after. We encourage you to fly safe and make sure you are flying for the right reasons right now and we can’t wait to see you back in the sky.