Those cost increases are tied to JetBlue's breakneck growth. Its fleet ballooned from 53 planes at the end of 2003 to 119 at the end of 2006. This year, the fleet is expected to reach 141 aircraft.
And despite the steps taken to slow its growth, JetBlue still has firm orders for 76 more 150-seat A320s through 2013, and 73 more 100-seat E190s through 2015. If it exercises all its purchase options, JetBlue's fleet could swell to 451 planes by 2015. By contrast, United, the USA's second-largest airline, has 461 mainline jets.
Still trying to stand out
Harteveldt says the trick for JetBlue will be to somehow hang on to the uniqueness that made it the toast of both Wall Street and Main Street in its early days. But it can't rely solely on its offering of LiveTV at every seat, extra legroom and its signature in-flight snacks to keep customers happy.
"There's more to a positive customer experience than 36 channels of LiveTV and serving blue potato chips," he says. "If the public doesn't believe that JetBlue is reliable, they could have a million channels of LiveTV and nobody would buy a ticket."
Loyal JetBlue customers seem to accept that the airline has to change as it grows, even though only a tiny percentage were directly affected by the carrier's February fiasco.
Yet they worry the carrier they fell in love with might change too much.
"I do wonder if they can keep their service quality high as they grow older," says Sammy Tawil, a sales executive at a Port Reading, N.J.-based importer. "Or will they become just another airline?"
Officials announced Thursday that they plan to start daily nonstops between RDU and Boston in October.
JetBlue reviewing expansion; New leaders aim for a turnaround, will evaluate fleet size and market, drop growth forecast to 10-13%
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