The campaign by domestic carriers to lure travelers with premium seats is really no big deal in the grand scheme of airline amenities.
JetBlue said Monday that it will begin offering premium seating on select flights next year. A321 jets flying between New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco will have 16 premium seats, including four in suites that can be enclosed for privacy. All will lie flat for sleeping, and include a massage feature and air cushions that adjust for firmness.
It's the latest move in a battle among domestic carriers to offer seats that collapse into flat beds for business- and first-class customers on competitive transcontinental routes. American Airlines has said it plans to begin using Airbus A321 jets in November that include lie-flat seats. Delta Air Lines began offering them in March on select routes, and United has had them since May.
As the economy recovers, and airfares with it, such amenities offer a way to grab market share on competitive routes, said Brian Kelly, founder of ThePointsGuy.com, a site for frequent fliers..
"U.S. airlines are out of survival mode," he said. "They're really all about increasing the quality of their product."
But while lie-flat seats may help travelers willing to pay more get a few extra zzz's, they're relatively snooze-worthy compared with some of the perks offered to premium passengers globally. Like separate beds, with mattresses. Meals prepared by an on-board chef. And even an in-flight shower.
"All of these are an attempt to serve high-value customers and make them feel greater affinity for the brand," said Jason Clampet, co-founder of travel advice site Skift.com.
Pampering doesn't come cheap, however. Many of the standout perks show up only on long-haul international flights, for which first-class tickets can run five figures. "They're charging $30,000 for a first-class seat, so they can really lay it on thick," he said.
If money is no object, six over-the-top airline amenities travelers may encounter.
By Kelli B. Grant
Posted 8 Aug. 2013