JetBlue’s CEO says people who wear masks outside while socially distanced are ‘morons’

Breeze Airways David Neeleman
David Neeleman with the pilots of his new airline, Breeze Airways.

JetBlue’s CEO David Neeleman has criticized the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including widespread mask-wearing, as a complete overreaction.

“I think people who wear masks outside when they’re social distanced are complete morons,” he told Bloomberg. Double-maskers bother Neeleman the most: “I just want to go up and shake them and go, ‘What the f— is wrong with you!,” he said.

It’s not the first time Neeleman has spoken in opposition to mask mandates and other pandemic measures like lockdowns. Last October, he tweeted: “I continue to believe that it is less safe to require everyone to wear ineffective cloth masks and gators which gives a false sense of security.”

Neeleman’s views underpin his desire to get the economy rolling after the airline industry took a massive hit due to restricted travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even during the widespread global disruption, Neeleman’s impatience led him to start his fifth airline, Breeze Airways, last December 2020.

Breeze was scheduled to launch flights in late-2020 but these were delayed due to the pandemic. The airline’s website now displays the message: “Welcome to Breeze Airways, a new airline scheduled for take-off in 2021!”

Breeze joins Neeleman’s other airlines Morris Air, WestJet, JetBlue Airways, and Azul Brazilian Airlines.

The new venture aims to provide a convenient, low-cost alternative to the dominant airlines, as previously reported by Insider.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I flew on JetBlue for the first time since it began filling planes to capacity and found it’s still doing more than most to keep flyers safe

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

  • JetBlue Airways has been slowly returning to normal and abandoning pandemic-era protocols.
  • Middle seats are no longer blocked and back-to-front boarding was recently discarded.
  • I still felt perfectly safe on the airline and was impressed with its array of safety measures.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
JetBlue is firmly on the road back to normal as the pandemic enters its second year.

JetBlue Airways Airbus A321
A JetBlue Airways Airbus A321.

Flights are being filled to capacity as the airline stopped blocking seats in January following the Christmas travel rush. Middle seats had been blocked until October 15, 2020, around the time Southwest Airlines also announced an end to its policy.

Flying JetBlue Airways Airbus A320 New Phase 2 Interior
Flying on a JetBlue Airways Airbus A320 with a new interior.

Read More: JetBlue will soon fill its planes to capacity and is offering refunds for travelers who don’t want to fly on the airline as a result

But it didn’t stop there, JetBlue has been gradually moving away from pandemic-era safety measures like back-to-front boarding and has brought back fan favorites like soft drinks and more snacks in the in-flight service.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After flying JetBlue during the summer at the height of its safety efforts, I decided to take JetBlue home from Los Angeles to New York in March on one of its flagship routes. Here’s what flying JetBlue Airways is like in 2021.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Los Angeles is JetBlue’s new West Coast hub, having moved operations from nearby Long Beach during the pandemic.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

JetBlue doesn’t have an entire terminal to itself as it does in New York here at LAX but it makes the space work.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Check-in kiosks were spaced and JetBlue even installed social distancing reminders on the floor.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Hand sanitizer stations were available next to the bag drop station.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

And even the regular check-in line had multiple social distancing and face mask reminders from both the airline and the airport, in addition to plexiglass partitions at check-in counters. It was the most impressive setup I’d seen in the terminal.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

JetBlue, like many US airlines, now requires customers to acknowledge a health declaration at check-in. I had to affirm that I didn’t have any COVID-19 symptoms, been exposed to the virus, or tested positive for the virus.

Flying JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

I also had to agree to JetBlue’s face covering policy and affirm I didn’t have a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or greater.

Flying JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

I used the kiosk to print my boarding pass and was reminded about the touch-free option by using the JetBlue mobile application to do everything from check-in to get a mobile boarding pass. Customers checking a bag could also just scan their boarding pass and the bag tag would automatically print without having to touch the screen.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

I booked JetBlue’s version of basic economy for this flight but I was luckily still assigned a window seat. Most of the middle seats went empty on the flight and I was glad to see JetBlue wasn’t randomly assigned seats as some other airlines are for basic economy flyers.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Ticket in hand, I headed to the gate and saw some of the same safety features. Plexiglass partitions were installed at the check-in counter and the airport had installed social distancing placards on the floor but that was about it.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Boarding soon began in JetBlue’s standard procedure based on groups. There was surprisingly no pre-boarding reminder to wear masks

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Passengers boarding first included JetBlue elite status holders, those traveling in Mint business class, active duty military, families with small children, customers with disabilities, and travelers with “Even More Space” seats.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

JetBlue gave up on back-to-front boarding in early March.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Read More: JetBlue is abandoning back-to-front boarding as more travelers take to the skies and vaccinations take off

Inside the jetway, the airport had installed its own social distancing placards, saving JetBlue the trouble. These placards are largely ignored but are still a good gesture.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Flight attendants kindly welcomed us on board but didn’t offer anything in the way of hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes. I later found out that they were available on request.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Source: JetBlue Airways

The aircraft, however, was perfectly clean. I had no concerns whatsoever in that regard.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

JetBlue is beefing up aircraft cleanings and disinfecting planes by means of “fogging” with an electrostatic sprayer, a common industry standard.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Read More: Delta, United, and American are ‘fogging’ their planes to make them safe for travel amid coronavirus — here’s what that means

Source: JetBlue Airways

I got to my seat, 25A, and settled in for the overnight flight to New York.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Everything about the seat was clean and I didn’t have any worry there whatsoever.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Health and safety aside, I was immediately reminded why flying on JetBlue is one of the best ways to cross the country, especially when flying on this aircraft.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

The Airbus A321 fleet, including the A321 and A321neo, are incredibly modern and comfortable. I’d flown across the US on four different airlines in two days but when I sat down on the JetBlue flight, it felt like home.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

These aircraft feature one of JetBlue’s older in-flight entertainment products but they still offer touch-screen capabilities, high-definition displays, on-demand content, and a map screen.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

It also helped that the airline offers 32 inches of legroom in economy on this aircraft.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

The front of the aircraft naturally filled first thanks to the new boarding procedure but the aircraft was empty enough where the back started to fill before too many people were settled up front.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Even though it was an empty flight to New York, flight attendants asked passengers to go to their assigned seats first before moving around the cabin.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Flight attendants also reminded passengers of the safety features of the aircraft including its high-efficiency particular air filters, or HEPA filters, and reassuringly said that the aircraft was just cleaned and disinfected.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

It was also made clear that wearing a mask was required by federal law.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

We departed Los Angeles with around three-quarters of the plane full.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

I lucked out and had the middle seat open but not every row was so lucky.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

After departure, the entertainment screens showed a video outlining the health and safety features of the aircraft to reassure passengers. Airlines tend to do this at the gate but I was glad to see it on the aircraft right in front of passengers.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

The “dos and don’ts” of flying on JetBlue were explained including wearing a face covering…

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

And don’t crowd the aisle. This one was interesting considering JetBlue had just removed back-to-front boarding and its middle seat block.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Even more messaging was available on the map channel.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

This kind of messaging goes a long way to reassure flyers returning to the skies for the first time during the pandemic.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

We quickly departed Los Angeles and turned eastbound towards New York. The in-flight service began shortly after takeoff.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that JetBlue had gotten rid of the plastic bag service and was serving actual soft drinks. I even got the full can.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Customers also had a choice of snacks including cookies, chips, Cheez-Its, or a granola bar. I went for the cookies.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

The rest of the flight progressed smoothly as most passengers tried to get some sleep in on the five-hour flight.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

New York soon came into view and the flight was approaching its natural end.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

When we landed, there was a reminder to social distance when deplaning but most didn’t heed that warning. It’s only natural for flyers to get up as soon as the seat belt sign turns off.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Walking off the plane, I noticed JetBlue had installed its own safety placards in the jetway.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

The terminal in New York was also way better equipped than in Los Angeles. JetBlue had installed its own hand sanitizers at the gate…

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Automated boarding gates were available to reduce contact with the gate agents…

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

And seats in the gate area were even blocked off, in addition to social distancing placards lining the falls and plexiglass partitions installed at the gate.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Overall, JetBlue did a great job at ensuring passengers are safe in both of its hubs, even though it is shedding off some social distancing efforts as more flyers take to the skies. The flight felt closer to a normal experience but there was still a strong emphasis on health and safety at every turn.

Flying on JetBlue Airways during pandemic
Flying on JetBlue Airways during the pandemic.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Delta, the last major US airline blocking middle seats, will stop doing so on May 1

Delta
A Delta Airlines stewardess sells food on a light to California in 2014.

  • Delta Airlines will stop blocking middle seats after a year on May 1.
  • The airline was the last major US carrier to keep the seats blocked.
  • Delta says many of its frequent fliers will likely be vaccinated by that date.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Delta Airlines will stop blocking middle seats on planes beginning May 1, the company announced Wednesday.

Delta is the only major US airline still blocking the seats after Alaska Airlines dropped the policy in January 2021. JetBlue, Southwest, and Hawaiian Airlines all stopped blocking middle seats even earlier, Tom Pallini reported for Insider.

“While Delta’s decision to block middle seats has given many customers a reason to choose Delta over the past year, the signature hospitality of our employees and the experiences they deliver to customers every day have also deepened their trust in our airline,” Delta CEO Ed Bastion said in a statement.

Masks will continue to be mandatory, and Delta says it is tapping exports from Emory University and the Mayo Health Clinic to guide cleaning standards.

Delta first started blocking middle seats in April 2020 as travel numbers were at their lowest. The company was open about keeping the seats free, announcing in November that the blocks would stay at least through April.

“Nearly 65 percent of those who flew Delta in 2019 anticipate having at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, are what’s giving us the assurance to offer customers the ability to choose any seat on our aircraft,” Delta said in a statement.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A JetBlue passenger who refused to wear a mask or stop drinking alcohol during the flight could be slapped with a $14,500 FAA fine

JetBlue Airways Airbus A220
JetBlue Airways’ first Airbus A220-300 aircraft.

  • A JetBlue Airways passenger could be struck with a $14,500 fine, the FAA said.
  • The man was maskless and drinking alcohol he had brought on board – both prohibited acts.
  • He was escorted away by police at JFK airport after an emergency landing.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A JetBlue Airways passenger could face fines up to $14,500 from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for refusing to wear a mask, drinking his own alcohol, and other disruptive behaviour on a flight last year, AP reports.

The passenger was intolerable to the point where the December 23 flight that was flying from New York to the Dominican Republic had to be turned back around, Bloomberg reported.

The FAA said in a press release that the unidentified passenger crowded the traveler sitting next to him and began talking loudly. He also kept drinking alcohol he had brought on board, even though it was against federal regulations.

The man ignored several requests by flight attendants to put on a face covering, the agency reported.

Such behaviour is considered unacceptable on JetBlue flights, since its policy matches federal law and face coverings are mandatory on flights, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FAA press release stated: “A flight attendant issued the passenger a ‘Notice to Cease Illegal and Objectionable Behavior, and the cabin crew notified the captain about his actions two separate times. As a result of the passenger’s actions, the captain declared an emergency and returned to JFK, where the plane landed 4,000 pounds overweight due to the amount of fuel on board.”

Upon landing, police were waiting at the airport to escort the man off the plane, according to Bloomberg.

The passenger has 30 days to respond to the enforcements made against him, the FAA said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

JetBlue is abandoning back-to-front boarding as more travelers take to the skies and vaccinations take off

JetBlue Airways Airbus A220
JetBlue Airways’ first Airbus A220-300 aircraft.

  • JetBlue is ending its back-to-front boarding policy for travelers.
  • Delta and United airlines will keep the back-to-front boarding as their primary boarding policy.
  • The CDC still recommends limiting travel, even for those who have been vaccinated.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

JetBlue is ending its back-to-front boarding policy less than a year after implementing it at the onset of the pandemic, as more Americans are traveling and airfares are hitting record lows.

In an emailed statement to Insider, the company said, “We continue to work within public health guidelines and take clinical guidance from own medical experts to ensure we are doing everything we can to keep our customers and crewmembers safe in this next phase of our ‘new normal.'”

JetBlue was one of only a few airlines to adopt the back-to-front boarding policy when the coronavirus first broke out last year. Delta and United airlines also implemented it, both of which are still keeping it as their primary boarding policy for the time being, according to the companies’ websites.

Other airlines such as Southwest, American, Spirit, Sun Country, and Frontier are using group- or zone-boarding as their primary boarding policy for travelers.

JetBlue credits “mandatory face mask use and the hospital-grade air filtration on board every JetBlue aircraft” as being “the keys to greatly reducing the risk on board.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since February have required travelers to wear masks on any form of public transportation such as planes, buses, trains, and any other form of public transportation in the US. The guidelines also require air travelers to have “a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the United States.”

JetBlue said it remains “focused on keeping our crewmembers healthy through safety protocols and screening” as it resumes its group boarding process. The airline will continue to sanitized and disinfect commonly touched surfaces.

Since mid-February, the US has seen an increase in daily passenger numbers, according to TSA data, even as the CDC still recommends that people, including those who have been vaccinated, limit travel.

Many experts expect travel to pick up as more people get vaccinated. Kendra Thorne, owner of Royal Travel and Tours travel agency in Chicago, told NPR that “people are tired of being at home” and that she has noticed a “uptick” in people wanting to book vacations.

On Monday, the CDC released new guidelines for what fully vaccinated people are allowed to do. Those activities included being able to gather indoors, unmasked with other fully vaccinated people. These updated guidelines apply only to “fully vaccinated” people, meaning those who have waited about two weeks after the second doses of Pfizer’s and Modera’s shots, or two weeks after the single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson.

Even if you are fully vaccinated the the CDC still recommends wearing a mask in any other setting that may involve unvaccinated people.

Read the original article on Business Insider