August 4, 2008

JetBlue Says You’Ll Pay for Pillow and Blanket

By James Bernstein, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.

Aug. 4--Next time you're on a JetBlue Airways flight and reach out for a pillow and a blanket, remember to also reach for something else as well -- your wallet.

The Forest Hills-based carrier, seeking to offset higher fuel oil prices, said Monday that effective immediately it will now sell -- no longer give away free as used to be the case -- a pillow and blanket set for $7 on flights of two hours or more. On shorter flights, JetBlue spokeswoman Alison Eshelman said, passengers requesting pillows and blankets may get them for $7, but there is no guarantee that they will be available.

The charge for pillows and blankets is another first and the latest thrust by airlines to make up for the price of fuel, which has soared about 80 percent this year.

Last week, USAirways, a major operator at LaGuardia Airport, began charging $1 for coffee and tea and $2 for sodas, juices, and bottled water. Most major carriers now charge to check-in a second piece of luggage. In the past, the soft drinks and extra bag were free.

Eshelman said that JetBlue is not just selling any old pillow and blanket, but ones that are "eco-friendly," designed by CleanBrands LLC, a Providence, R.I.-based maker of products to promote healthy sleeping.

Passengers who buy the 10-by-12 inch pillow and 39-by-51 inch fleece blanket, can keep them, JetBlue said.

Additionally, JetBlue said, the pillow and blanket come with a $5 coupon to Bed, Bath & Beyond.

"It's a high-quality product and environmentally friendly," Eshelman said. The pillow features a fabric called MicronOne that JetBlue says block micro-toxins larger than one micron in size, such as dust mites, mold spores, pollen and pet dander.

Passengers can bring their own pillows and blankets if the choose, just as they can bring onboard their own water and snacks.

That may be just what customers will do, said Paul Hudson, executive director of the Aviation Consumer Action Project in Washington, D.C.

"The public will decide" whether the JetBlue deal will work, "but in general I can tell you this nickel and dime stuff doesn't work," Hudson said. "A lot of people view this as harassment."

Robert W. Mann Jr., an independent airline analyst and consultant in Port Washington, said he saw a positive: airlines may be finally admitting that the pillows and blankets they used to hand out for free were not always of the cleanliest variety.

"That's a plus," Mann said.


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