JetBlue CEO: Airlines Will Have To Rethink Change Policies

In an interview, Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue, said last week that he believes airlines will have to rethink some of their policies as traffic and demand begins to pick back up following the near standstill of the COVID-19 spring. Notably, they may need to provide people with the ability to change flights more easily than they felt they could in the past.

Jetblue grounded planes
The JetBlue CEO believes more lax rebooking policies will be sticking around. Photo: Getty Images

Rebooking flexibility will stick around

In an interview series by the Washington Post called The Path Forward, Robin Hayes, JetBlue CEO, discussed how airlines’ change policies would need to, well, change, as a result of COVID-19.

He believes that the newfound flexibility airlines have been quick to grant anyone willing to book a ticket at this time will become the norm for some time, or at least for as long as coronavirus decides to stick around.

“I do think that airlines are going to have to rethink how they sell their product. Because it’s not ever really going to be acceptable for someone who is unwell to feel that they’ve been made to fly,” Hayes said in the interview seen by Simple Flying. 

The JetBlue CEO of four years believes carriers will have to reconsider how they monetize their fare structures. They will need to create products that will allow people to change flights and rebook tickets more easily than they have been able to in the past.

Hayes also stated that one of the essential questions commercial aviation is facing as an industry right now is how to give people the confidence to fly again.

JetBlue, New York, Guatemala City
The JetBlue CEO says one of the most important issues is regaining customer confidence in flying post-pandemic. Photo: Getty Images

Social distancing policy not sustainable

US air travel is down by 95% from a year ago, and the average domestic flight has 17 passengers. While that makes for easy enough default social distancing on board, JetBlue CEO Hayes does not believe blocking out the middles seat is sustainable, not even for the near future.

“I think you’re going to definitely have to sit next to a stranger again on a plane, because the economics of our industry, most airlines have a break-even load factor of 75 to 80%. So, clearly, capping flights at 65% right through to July the 6th is not sustainable.” the CEO said in the interview.

The carrier has previously promised it would block adjacent seats to passengers on all flights up until July the 6th. It said in May that no traveler would need to sit next to someone they didn’t know. Families, however, would, of course, be given seats next to each other.

JetBlue, New York, Guatemala City
JetBlue was recently called out by lawmakers for cutting employee hours despite accepting CARES funds. Photo: Airbus

In trouble with lawmakers

JetBlue, along with Delta Air Lines, found itself in trouble with lawmakers recently as it decided to cut employee hours after having been granted government support through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. JetBlue received nearly $936 million, some of it loans, and some of it payroll grants.

However, 60% of JetBlue crew have taken voluntary leave to prevent furloughs when the protection provided for staff by the stipulation of the CARES conditions runs out on October the 1st.

What do you think, will the generous rebooking policies airlines are implementing during COVID become the new norm? Let us know in the comments.