Skift Take

With more airlines pushing the benefits of in-flight entertainment, we're reminded of something about bread and circus. JetBlue's investors will likely approve of this new partnership, which makes JetBlue happy too.

In the latest enhancement to its Fly-Fi and in-flight Entertainment products, JetBlue has announced a partnership with Amazon which will let passengers enjoy unlimited, on-demand entertainment through JetBlue’s high-speed Fly-Fi broadband internet.

Passengers with Amazon Prime memberships will be able to watch tens of thousands of movies and TV episodes, including Amazon Original Series at 35,000 ft, at no additional cost to their membership.

JetBlue customers will also be able to rent or buy hundreds of thousands of titles in the Amazon Instant Video store, including new release movies and day-after television programming. Passengers also get access to more than one million songs available from Prime music, and can buy and download songs from the Amazon Music store, eBooks from the Kindle store, and apps and games from the Amazon Appstore.

Some in-flight purchases made on JetBlue’s free Fly-Fi broadband will earn TrueBlue points and the airline will run TrueBlue promotions on the service.

The airline will continue to offer its LiveTV product. This Amazon Prime product will also be available on seat-back systems when it premieres later this year. Perry tells us that its including Amazon Prime entertainment on the seat-backs because JetBlue has found its customers like to multi-screen their entertainment, watching a show on the embedded screen while playing a game on their personal electronic device or working on their laptop.

Paying for Free Fly-Fi

This new partnership, the airline states, will ensure that its Fly-Fi Simply-Surf continues to be free, indefinitely. It follows the introduction of a content hub last year which gave passengers online and offline access to print and television content from HarperCollins, FOX, and National Geographic, with the additions of PBS, Random House, and the Wall Street Journal this year.

As Jamie Perry, Vice President, Brand and Product Development at JetBlue, tells us, the airline considers these partnership models essential to cover the costs of its free Wi-Fi service.

“The [business models] that were out there when we started looking for Fly-Fi were very simple. Either the customer pays for access or the airline covers the costs and makes it available for nothing. Neither of those were particularly attractive to us,” he says. “First of all, when you have a pay-for-access model, it’s pretty clear that customers don’t really pay. [That model is suited for] companies with demand that they cannot sustain, rather than delivering a model that’s good for customers. On the other hand, I don’t think anybody expects us to take a product, which is quite expensive to deliver, and carry all costs ourselves.”

Resolving this dilemma prompted JetBlue to get creative: “It involves us leveraging relationships with key content providers, and that ultimately led us to generate revenue through third parties and continue to offer the product for free for passengers,” Perry says.

He points out that this also pushes JetBlue to keep its Wi-Fi fast and free, encouraging high passenger participation which result in audience numbers which are attractive to brands considering such partnerships. “Once we’ve started to go down that path we have to go all-in,” he says.

Amazon acknowledges a benefit to its business too, expressing excitement over the opportunity to reach JetBlue’s customers. Michael Paull, Vice President of Digital Video at Amazon also points out a key user benefit in accessing its entertainment on a wide variety of personal electronic devices direct from the Fly-Fi Hub, with no previous download required. “Without the need to rush to download one more episode or movie before taking off, we’re helping make airline travel more enjoyable,” he says.

Bag Fees Matter Less Than A Unique Onboard Product

When asked whether these partnerships, free Wi-Fi, LiveTV and JetBlue’s other on-board perks are enough to make passengers forget about new baggage fees, Perry tells us it is. As he argues, these unique products are key to the airline’s differentiation strategy, and have great appeal to the airline’s customers.

“If we were exactly the same in terms of product offering as the legacy carriers, they would beat us on scale and on network reach. We had to differentiate ourselves. We have to have things that they don’t have,” Perry says, adding that he gets a lot of feedback that JetBlue is clearly identified by consumers for these products and services.

“It’s a core part of our value proposition. People fly us because of the TV and because of the Wi-Fi. I speak with many families who tell me that they fly with us because it makes it easy to travel, when they have two or three young children with them, that they can entertain them with the televisions and the Wi-Fi. It makes what would otherwise be a challenging experience for them much more bearable, and that’s hugely valuable. We see passengers actively choosing to fly with us because we offer benefits the other guys don’t.”


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Tags: amazon, in-flight entertainment, jetblue airways

Photo credit: A JetBlue plane equipped with Fly-Fi. 150344

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