The move is a natural progression for JetBlue, which serves 11 U.S. cruise ports. The carrier is working with EzRez, the Honolulu-based software company that specializes in dynamic packaging. The booking engine will have a completely new interface and will use XML connections to pull in pertinent cruise data.
Hotels for pre- and post-cruise stays will be added to the mix later. Claydon noted that the traditional air-sea package often does not offer the lowest air fare. Airlines sell static zone fares to cruise lines, which often are not competitive with fares offered by low-fare carriers or by major airlines sale fares. Consequently, air-sea package sales have declined in recent years.
JetBlue enjoys a peculiar status in the U.S. as a low-cost, limited-frills carrier with a blue-chip brand. Devotees say it offers better service than most full-service lines. This will be a careful extension of the brand, Claydon said. When JetBlue works with other suppliers, we only include people who are additive to the JetBlue brand.
Claydon said cruise lines are enthusiastic about the idea because of the need for frequencies in cruise markets in cases of missed flights or irregular operations. A passenger flying to a cruise port needs to get there, he said.
JetBlue is working with cruise lines to create customer service policies that would accommodate cruise passengers whose flights are delayed by snowstorms, for example a not uncommon occurrence for northeast passengers taking winter Caribbean cruises.
We are quick to compensate our own customers, Claydon said. One of the advantages of working together with cruise lines is that we are looking to come up with unique irregular operations procedures to protect the customer. Claydon believes cooperation among suppliers will increase. Weve seen a level of frustration on suppliers part with third-party distributors, he said. In the hotel industry in particular, weve seen tremendous efforts to win that battle. By working together, rather than turning to major online agencies, suppliers can help each other out and gain an element of control, he said.