Let’s Re-think Airfares – Can Jet Blue’s New Pass be a Sign of Change?

Earlier this week, Jet Blue announced a different sort of airfare.  Unlimited three month airfare “pass” between two of their key cities.  Like the unlimited rail passes so attractive to backpackers in Europe, the unlimited fares have a number of desirable characteristics.

The fares are good until November and include the ability to book up to 90 minutes prior to flight time, the ability to fly standby and no change or cancellation fees.

This is great news for frequent travelers looking for a break on a repetitive route.  Business travelers have been battered by the ongoing recession and could really use a break!  In the days since the announcement, one of the three options is already sold out.

So is this an indication of airlines that airlines are finally starting to think like their cousins in the travel industry?  Could it be that airlines are taking a page from the theme park and destination book and might even consider……bundling?

While Jet Blue’s announcement is already making waves, there are several other models which have a great niche.  Airlines should consider how to leverage these well-known, and popular, bundles.

Qantas has offered “Around the World” airfares for years.  You create your route, which needs to keep going in one destination, and must return to the city you departed from within a certain amount of time (usually three months or more).  The fare offers up to 15 stops and leverages the One World Alliance between Qantas and its partners.

Who the heck has time to go around the world?  Australians do.  When they travel, they go farther and travel longer than Americans.  Of course, they also have an 8 week vacation annually, too.

Another bundling example which airlines could use as a model for new fare structures,  is the venerable Eurail Pass, friend to backpackers for decades.  Still available and still reasonably priced.

Theme parks have been doing all types of “frequent visitor” programs for years – tailoring to consumer travel habits.  Annual passes, two day passes, second day free incentives, all keep visitors coming back.  Even destinations like San Francisco, New York, Boston and others are doing City Passes, which bundles multiple attractions for one low price.

It’s time for airlines to look more closely at this idea.