In an attempt to boost fall season sales, JetBlue is auctioning off last-minute flights to a variety of destinations on eBay. Opening bids were set at 5-10 cents. Flights must be completed before October.
So far, people’s bids are creeping up towards market prices. One New York (JFK)-San Juan flight, listed at $270/person on JetBlue’s website, has already been bid up to $355/person on eBay. There doesn’t seem to be much reason to clamor at this opportunity as a consumer, unless you’re looking for a less popular flight.
From JetBlue’s perspective, however, it’s a marketing windfall. The airline is already king of co-branding. Here’s a partial description of JetBlue’s perks from the eBay site:
Onboard JetBlue, customers enjoy:
* 36 channels of free DIRECTV® service on your own seatback TV
* More than 100 channels of XM Radio® free at every seat
* Complimentary name brand snacks and beverages including freshly brewed Dunkin Donuts® coffee
And now…special flights listed on eBay (TM). Slick. Other airlines also use name-brand products–Tropicana, Budweiser, and Minute Maid come to mind–but they don’t flaunt them as a marketing strategy. A professor cited in an AP article also said that the eBay move is good for JetBlue’s word-of-mouth strategy.
This auction could also be a taste of things to come. The FAA, peeved at New York airports’ notorious delays (JetBlue is among the most delayed airlines), is trying to auction off runway space.
The industry is fighting the move. If it loses, passing on the auction model directly to consumers, which would conceal the inevitable markup more effectively than jacking up listed prices, could be a good sales strategy for airlines.
The moral of the story remains the same as always. Get cheap fares while they last, no matter how they’re listed.