Choosing between JetBlue vs American Airlines for your next flight?
The quick answer is that JetBlue tends to have better customer service and more comfortable seating while American Airlines offers more international coverage as well as more domestic flights. JetBlue does charge a fee for checked bags, while American provides one checked bag free of charge.
That’s a very oversimplified breakdown, so we’ll dig further into the details throughout this article. Both are more affordable airlines and will have a few things in common, which is why lots of you might end up comparing them.
Here’s a quick profile on each company to set us up:
JetBlue is an independent airline that was founded in 2000. It places a high focus on comfort and the most up-to-date technology possible for a more enjoyable flight. It’s the 7th largest airline in America by passengers carried and is highly rated as a low-cost airline.
American Airlines is the world’s largest airline based on fleet size and number of passengers carried per year – nearly 200 million of them. This was a direct result of merging with US Airways in 2011, but American got it’s original start in 1930 when two airline organizations merged at the time.
Pricing & Extra Fees
Pricing is one of the most important details we’ll be looking at, since it usually dictates your budget for traveling. Airfare can be one of the highest expenses to take into consideration while traveling, aside from hotel costs, so we’ve fully explained the difference between each airline’s fares, fees and other expenses.
JetBlue pricing varies by class and for the sake of comparison we’ll be using the standard Economy seating ticket prices. JetBlue has several options for bundling fares, allowing travelers to choose pricing that fits their travel budget.
The process starts with baseline for airfare, averaging around $250 round trip on the East Coast, about $525 cross-country, and around $765 round trip to South America for a single passenger nonstop with favorable flight times.
This base cost – called “Blue Basic” – includes one carry-on bag and one personal item, no advanced seating selection, no cancellations and you’ll be last to board. If you want more than this, the cost will increase and fees will be assessed.
Here’s the full breakdown of JetBlue’s fare options:
- Blue: includes carry-on and personal item, and advanced seat selection with general boarding for about $30 over Blue Basic
- Blue Plus: includes carry-on and personal item, one checked bag and advanced seat selection with general boarding for about $60 over Blue Basic
- Blue Extra: includes carry-on and personal item, advanced seat selection, no cancellation or change fees and early boarding for about $100 over Blue Basic
- Mint: is not available for every flight, includes carry-on and personal item, up to two checked bags, advanced seat selection, placement in Premium Seating with early boarding for over $100 above Blue Basic
American uses a standard booking system, separating options into classes. Main Cabin seating is what we’ll be using for the pricing example, which includes the ability to choose your seat and has no change fees, which is a plus. It’s the best equivalent to JetBlue’s Blue Basic.
We averaged out the cost for several flights throughout the year and concluded that a round trip along the East Coast is generally around $240, about $400 cross-country and an average of $500 to South America for a single passenger with a possible stop at favorable flight times.
Here’s a full breakdown of what each class includes:
- Basic Economy: includes carry-on and personal item, and advanced seat selection with general boarding for the lowest cost possible
- Main Cabin: includes carry-on and personal item, one checked bag and advanced seat selection with general boarding
- Main Cabin Extra: includes carry-on and personal item, one checked bag and advanced seat selection with early boarding, more leg room for $20 over Main Cabin
- Premium Economy: includes carry-on and personal item, one checked bag and advanced seat selection with early boarding, priority check-in and security, wide seats with more leg room, complimentary amenities bag, free WiFi, and exclusive meals with free alcoholic beverage for about $300 over Main Cabin
- Business: includes carry-on and personal item, one checked bag and advanced seat selection with early boarding, priority check-in and security, wide seats with more leg room, complimentary amenities bag, free WiFi, and premium dining on international flights with access to the Flagship Lounge and Admiral’s Club for about $1000 over Main Cabin
- First: includes carry-on and personal item, one checked bag and advanced seat selection with early boarding, priority check-in and security, wide seats with more leg room, complimentary amenities bag, free WiFi, and premium dining on domestic flights with access to the Flagship Lounge and Admiral’s Club for about $500 over Main Cabin
P.S. – When you’re done reading this one, don’t miss our other expert airline comparisons:
JetBlue‘s baggage fees are included for those who choose the Blue Plus or Mint option on their airfare, but if you want to bring checked bags with other ticket options, the first bag is $35 and the second bag is $45. Oversized bags like bikes and surfboards are a $150 fee per item.
American baggage fees for one checked bag are included in the above list, but extra bags are priced as follows: first bag, if not included in ticket price, is $30, the second is $40, the third is $150 and each additional bag after that is $200. Pricing may vary for international flights.
JetBlue‘s Blue Basic is where you’ll experience the most fees for extra things. If you’d like to select your seat with Blue Basic, it ranges from $11 for a middle seat up to $75 or more in “Mint” – or premium – seating up front per flight. All other bundle options will include advanced seating selection.
You can also choose to bypass regular security for a fee of $15, which will send you through your own designated lane. Check in is always free, whether you do it in advance online or in person on the day of.
American doesn’t charge for much in addition to your selected airfare, but there are a couple extras you can get. For example, if you’d like to insure your flight and get a refund, fees will be assessed according to the price you paid for the round trip flight. These are usually between $50 – $150.
Ways to Save
JetBlue has a Best Fare Finder option when booking to help you find the cheapest option available for your flight. You can easily find it on the home page of their website. It’ll pull up a calendar of options in order for you to select the one that fits you best.
They also have the TrueBlue program, which is a points system that gives you benefits for flying with JetBlue. You can earn points by booking flights, as well as purchasing items through their credit card partners. The points can be spent on trips for yourself or others.
American has the AAdvantage Program, which is a loyalty program with points given for taking flights, or spending money with their hotel, rental and dining partners. The points can be used for flights, upgrades and car or hotel rentals. Their Elite Status reward members get the best advantages if they are very frequent flyers.
Seats & Flight Experience
JetBlue features standard row seating with a live TV screen on the headrest of each seat. Passenger reviews say that JetBlue has some of the coziest seats available for lower cost flights, which include large tray tables. The company prides itself on having the most leg room of any airline’s economy class and complimentary snacks and drinks are also included.
American‘s Main Cabin seating has become noticeably smaller in recent years, allowing for more passengers to board each flight. Travelers have noticed that the leg room has become smaller and the lavatories have slightly shrunken. It’s possible if you’ve never been on an American Airlines flight before that you can easily compare it with other affordable airlines, but for those who fly American regularly, this was a big change.
JetBlue‘s premium option, called “Mint”, is placed at the front and includes large, comfy seats that lay into beds. The highest option has a sliding door for privacy. The seats have adjustable settings and a massage feature for added relaxation. Seat backs have TVs in the headrest for live entertainment, movies and shows during the flight.
The flight crew gives special attendance to Mint passengers who receive exclusive meals prepared by Delicious Hospitality Group. This includes a menu of small plates by renowned NYC chefs, a large variety of wine and cocktail options, and a custom playlist based on the meal you choose.
Amenities are also included, like a comfy pillow and blanket, upscale essential toiletries and noise-isolating headphones. At the end of the flight, attendants will hand out packages of fancy nuts as you deplane. Mint is currently only available on certain cross-country flights, trips to Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as flights to London.
American has Premium Economy, Business and First Class, which provide roughly the same experience. All promise early boarding, large and cozy seats, and special service from the flight attendants. An amenities bag with sleeping blankets and eye masks, a special menu created by professional chefs and more privacy make the premium positioning worth it.
However, there have been reported complaints about the flight crew not attending to the premium seating as expected and reports of bumping people from first class. In recent years, it appears that American is doing more to step up their game. But when you’re paying such a high price for luxury air travel, it’s best to ensure you’ve chosen the correct airline for the money.
Your comfort level on any flight is often the biggest takeaway from the journey to your destination. Even if the fees were low, an uncomfortable seat or unfriendly staff might make it unworthy of your time. We’ve broken down the details on how each airline handles the experience on their flights in all classes.
For the most part, you should be able to find a flight to your destination fairly easily if you’re going to a major city. Most airlines make big cities and state capitals their number one priority. However, if you’re looking for a more obscure destination, it’s important to note the availability of each airline – not only for initial booking, but also in case of cancellations and rescheduling.
JetBlue sends flyers on over 1000 flights daily and has 267 aircraft in it’s current fleet.
American shuttles travelers on nearly 6800 daily flights and has 864 aircraft in it’s fleet. That’s over 6x the number of passengers that JetBlue assists each day.
Booking, cancellations and changes are usually simple with JetBlue since they have good relationships with other major airlines. In the event of a cancellation, they can typically find another flight on a different airline if JetBlue doesn’t have one quickly available.
Because of American’s giant alliance and network of codeshare agreements with other airlines in the country and around the world, booking, cancelling and flight changes should also be manageable with fewer headaches – that is, if their relationships with their many various worker’s unions are in tact. There has also been a more recent bout of cancellations due to mandatory plane groundings, which accounts for about 4% of their flights. This is a high number in the airline industry.
JetBlue has lots of destinations available in the United States, it’s provinces and in countries around the world. The farthest country available is Bangkok, Thailand. JetBlue also serves Toronto, Canada, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
International destinations include Central America, the Caribbean, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, most countries in Europe, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and South Africa.
American is, again, the largest airline in the world. It serves almost the entire world with national and international flights departing daily. International destinations include 95 locations around the globe, serving 55 different countries on over five continents.
JetBlue prides itself on cleanliness and customer satisfaction, maintaining a high rating with the general public on service. With a few exceptions in some of the reviews we read, the majority of passengers prefer the flight experience and attendants on JetBlue flights to other low-cost carriers. The flight attendants have been described as polite and helpful regardless of the flight length and destination.
American seems to have mixed reviews regarding their flight crew. Some have reported praise for the captains and attendants who have gone above and beyond to serve their passengers, but many have complained about the total lack of customer service and noticeably bad corporate culture.
It’s easy to see how an environment of friendliness can get lost in the shuffle since this is such a huge company. But needless to say, airlines are in the service industry and passengers expect more out of their staff.
JetBlue food menus have a wide variety of options, no matter what class you choose. Free Wifi is included in both classes, along with onboard entertainment. Upgrades to food and drinks come at an expected price, but overall a good value for what you’re getting.
American provides free snacks and drinks with each flight, along with a large menu and beverage list for overnight and international flights. Wifi can be purchased for a small fee in Economy, but will be included with Premium seating. Headrest screens are also available for free entertainment on every flight.
This is rarely an issue for airlines around the world. As a matter of fact, air travel is the safest way to get to your destination, period. But it’s worth noting which airlines have the best safety measures in place, not only for your personal wellbeing, but also for your belongings.
Both airlines are pretty standard regarding aircraft makes and models. Airbus supplies planes to a good number of airlines across the world and the aircrafts they build come equipped with a “Skywise Reliability” program which reports safety concerns automatically to the airline.
JetBlue has mostly Airbus A320, Airbus A321, and Embraer 190. These particular Airbus models are among the most highly rated planes on the market, never experiencing a fatal crash in their entire existence.
The Embraer 190 however is one of the more incident-ridden aircrafts on the market, according to a study by AirSafe. The Embraer series is used by JetBlue for their shorter flights to and from small cities and towns with limited passengers.
American uses mainly a mix of Airbus A320 and Boeing 737-800 narrow-bodied aircraft. The wider bodied planes in operation are their Boeing 777 and 787 models. Each of these is considered the highest standard of aircraft in the industry.
JetBlue has no history of a fatal crash. The worst reported incident happened to the landing gear in 2005 when landing in John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The front wheel was abnormally turned, causing it to skid down the runway in flames. However, no passengers or flight crew members were injured.
American, being the much larger and older of the two, has had significantly more incidents. American Airlines planes have been hijacked 17 times, according to the Aviation Safety Network (two of them on September 11, 2001). Also in 2001, American Airlines experienced it’s second deadliest crash when Flight 587 crashed into a Queens neighborhood, killing all on board.
More recently, in 2016, a Boeing 767-300 caught fire before takeoff in Chicago O’Hare due to an uncontained failure. The entire crew and all passengers were able to get off safely, with only a few receiving minor injuries in th epanic.
Both airlines strictly follow the TSA guidelines for prohibited items aboard the plane. You’ll find that they also adhere to the standards of each country they fly in to during international travel. You may be asked to complete a form stating that you have not brought any prohibited items in their checked bags or carry-ons, which are subject to search.
It’s helpful to review each airline’s baggage requirements before flying. Some people may not know that the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is among both airlines prohibited items, along with most electric skateboards in checked bags. American also requires mobility devices to be within certain guidelines and given advance notice.
As far as losing baggage goes, checking directly with the airline in the airport should be your first step. Second, JetBlue has an entire phone line and website dedicated to locating your lost items.
American has an option to track your bags in the event that they get separated on the flight. The airline will even reimburse you for the items lost while you’re on vacation when you file a complaint. If the luggage has gone missing for more than three days, a questionnaire must be filled out and their Central Baggage Resolution Office will handle it from there.
Per our example for this comparison, a roundtrip, nonstop flight from south Florida to New York City during the busy summer month of June will cost one person about $384 with American and will cost one person about $266 with JetBlue’s Blue option.
JetBlue, might make you pay $35 for a checked bag, but the overall experience is far better. Roomier economy seats, friendlier staff and ease of travel are all great reasons to choose the small airline over the big one – especially if you’re traveling in or near the United States.
American may offer slightly more in their Main Cabin option with a free checked bag, but the poor customer service, smaller facilities and the possibility of getting your flight delayed or cancelled is enough to give pause. However, international flights in first class could well be worth your while.
Overall, we believe that JetBlue is the way to go for general travel, though trips outside their main East Coast flights could get pricier. American, however, is one to consider if you’re traveling cross-country or to international destinations that JetBlue doesn’t cover.