Can’t decide between JetBlue vs United Airlines for your next trip?
The quick answer is that JetBlue is considered by most to be a top tier low-cost airline, while United is often less-than-ideal on the customer service technology. On average, United will have lower fares, but JetBlue is the clear winner for overall experience.
That’s a very simple way to put it, so we’ll look deeper into the full details throughout this article. Both are fairly affordable airlines and will have a few things in common, which is why lots of travelers will end up comparing them at some point.
Here’s a quick background on each company to set us up:
JetBlue is an independent airline that was founded in 2000. It places a high value on comfort and features the most up-to-date technology possible for a more enjoyable flight. It’s the 7th largest airline in America by passengers carried and has consistently high ratings for a low-cost airline.
United Airlines is the world’s third largest airline, traced back to Varney Air Lines in 1926. Varney actually charted the first private air mail flight on April 6, 1926. Boeing Air Transport later purchased Varney and several other airlines to form United Air Lines, Inc. in 1931. In 2010, United merged with Contintental Airlines to create the giant fleet we see today.
Pricing & Extra Fees
Pricing is one of the biggest details we’ll look at, since it usually dictates your budget for traveling. Aside from hotel accommodations, airfare is one of the larger expenses to consider while traveling. So we’ve fully explained the difference between each airline’s fares, fees and extra expenses you might not know about.
JetBlue pricing varies by class and for the sake of comparison we’ll be using the standard Economy seating ticket prices. JetBlue uses several options for bundling fares, which allows travelers to choose one that fits their travel budget.
The process starts with a baseline airfare, averaging around $300 round trip on the East Coast, about $500 cross-country, and around $565 round trip to the Caribbean 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 Basic: includes carry-on and personal item, last to board with pre-assigned seat
- Blue: includes carry-on and personal item, and advanced seat selection with general boarding
- Blue Plus: includes carry-on and personal item, one checked bag and advanced seat selection with general boarding
- Blue Extra: includes carry-on and personal item, advanced seat selection, no cancellation or change fees and early boarding
- 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
You can find all of JetBlue’s fares listed here on their site.
United uses a checklist process when booking your flight. On the first page of the booking process, you select all your preferences to narrow the search results – you can even search and compare other Star Alliance airlines to United’s options. We used United’s Economy class option for this particular pricing comparison.
Our research showed that the average cost of a round trip flight on the East Coast is around $350, cross-country flights from New York to Los Angeles are about $415, and a trip to the Caribbean is approximately $615 at any point during the year.
Here’s the breakdown of United’s class system and what’s included with each option:
- Basic Economy: includes carry-on and personal item, last to board with pre-assigned seat
- United Economy: includes carry-on and personal item with general boarding
- Premium Economy: available on international flights, includes carry-on and personal item, two checked bags with general boarding
- First: includes carry-on and personal item, two checked bags with early boarding, premier access check-in, premium dining and complimentary beverages
- Business: available on international flights, includes carry-on and personal item, two checked bags with early boarding, premier access check-in, premium dining and complimentary beverages
- United Premium Plus: available using the Mileage Plus program in the First/Business Class section, includes carry-on and personal item, two checked bags, free alcoholic beverages, free meal on domestic flights, noise-reducing headphones, premium bedding, larger entertainment screen
- United Polaris Business: this is top-of-the-line experience is reserved for select guests on select flights and has limited access. Polaris lounges have custom dining options for three-course meals with exclusive access to rest stations and shower facilities. Seasonal menus are offered in flight while seated in giant reclining seats encased in separate pods.
You can find all of United’s fares listed on this page of their site.
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 Blue Basic or Blue, the first bag is $35 and the second bag is $45. Oversized bags like bikes and surfboards are a $150 fee per item.
United is very comparable to JetBlue with baggage fees. United only includes checked bags in premium classes, so Economy guests will pay $35 for one checked bag and $45 for an additional checked bag per person. Economy guests are reduced to 50 lbs per bag, while premium guests can pack over 70 lbs in their suitcases. A fee will be assessed for overweight luggage.
JetBlue‘s Blue Basic is where you’ll see 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 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 – this service is included with Mint. Check in is always free, whether you do it in advance online or in person on the day of.
United has extra fees for upgraded experiences, as well. For example, Economy Plus is an upgrade that Economy guests can purchase for $70 per person, per flight in order to access more leg room and in-seat charging power closer to the front of the plane. Premium flight passengers can purchase access to United’s predeparture lounges (the fee is assessed based on the destination).
United also has several hundred dollars in cancellation and change fees. In order to avoid this, we suggest purchasing their refundable ticket options (usually $75-100 over Economy).
Ways to Save
JetBlue has a Best Fare Finder option when booking to help you find the cheapest prices 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.
United has a similar program called the MileagePlus Program. Spending on this Visa card or flying with United will earn miles that never expire and can be used toward many different flights, hotels and destinations. Premier members gain access to even more deals and complimentary perks like Economy Plus and upgrades to their flight experience.
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.
United gets mixed reviews on their Economy class seating areas, usually dependent upon how old the aircraft is. It’s likely that each flight in Economy will provide a different experience due to the age of the plane. Many guests state that the seats are far too small in even some of the newer jets, with limited legroom and seat placement a little too close for comfort.
Overall, the design of the cabin and the general seating is fairly on par with other similar airlines and the majority of people may think it meets their expectations. However, the outdated tech in the headrest and the comfort of the chair might be a couple setbacks on your flight.
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.
United and their new Polaris Business Class section has gotten great reviews. However, most guests will be using the First Class or regular Business Class in most flights, which will vary depending on the age of the plane. The good news is that your seat will always be more comfortable and offer more leg room; but the actual design and experience may not be worth the hefty price if you get an older plane.
Most first class fliers state that the lie-flat seats are the ones to look for. In the booking process, you can see which kind of seat is assigned to that flight. Another helpful tip is to look up what type of plane is used for that flight. The wider body planes generally have better first class seating. In addition to this, the smaller planes have no separation between First and Economy, leaving the last row of First Class open to the rest of the cabin.
The top of the line seats are by far the Polaris Business Class lie-flat seats, but these are limited.
With most airlines, you should be able to find a flight to your desired location 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. Being a smaller airline, it’s a little harder to find great last minute flights. It’s important to book early with JetBlue.
United has 827 aircraft in their fleet, shuttling passengers on over 4,900 flights every day. United has many more options available for last minute flights and far more destinations than JetBlue currently.
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.
Tip: Blue Extra is the best selection for tickets, which includes easy cancelling and changes without the fees. It’s a little pricier, but will save you in the long run if you feel your trip might change dates.
United is based in Chicago, with other main hubs in 6 other US cities and one in Guam. It reaches 258 destinations within the United States. United is part of the Star Alliance and has good relationships with dozens of other airlines around the world. It’s likely that if United can’t get you on one of their own flights that they will book one with another partner airline in the event of a cancellation.
However, if you are the one cancelling or rescheduling with them, things may not be so easy. Many customer reports state that the customer service employees are hard to deal with and it could take hours to resolve the problem on the phone. It’s even more difficult if you happened to book your flight through a third-party website.
Tip: It’s highly suggested that you read their refund and cancellations policy before booking, just in case you have to go through these steps yourself. In general, it’s best to be sure you’re good to go before booking a flight or just select the “full refund” option on the ticket. This will be slightly more expensive, but could save you the hassle of dealing with customer service when changing or cancelling.
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.
United has a great international presence and flies to 362 different cities across the globe. They reach all 6 continents around the world with international flights departing daily.
JetBlue prides itself on cleanliness and customer satisfaction, maintaining a high customer service rating with the general public. 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 most other low-cost carriers. The flight attendants have been described as polite and helpful regardless of the flight length and destination.
United has mixed reviews with customer service; some exclaiming the service was great, but many more complaining of the lack of empathy for passengers in the booking process, as well as in flight. With United being one of the biggest airlines in the world, empathy seems to get lost in the shuffle.
Premium passengers report the same feeling from the staff (less than ideal service despite the high price for First Class), though there are a few great reviews about particular employees that went out of their way to make someone’s day.
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. The staff is almost guaranteed to be friendly and the comfort will be above average.
United offers complimentary beverages and snacks to all classes, with additional items for purchase. Premium passengers will have varying levels of complimentary alcoholic beverages, but everyone else will pay. The tech in the headrest has been a major complaint for many, especially in the old, outdated planes, and there have been reports of the Wifi going out often. Customer service is generally lacking and the outdated planes will be less comfortable.
This is rarely an issue for any airline. 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 makes planes for most of the 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.
Embraer 190, however, is among one of the most fatal models on the market with a 3% crash rate per 1 million flights, 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.
United employs Airbus and Embraer, but primarily uses Boeing 757, 767, 777 and 787 models. United also plans to replace many of their older 757 models with Airbus’ state-of-the-art A321XLR within the next few years.
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.
United has many different incidents, primarily related to passenger arrest or minor plane damage. Two of the most notable plane crashes to date includes Flight 93 and Flight 175 on September 11, 2001 – which all will agree is an anomaly.
More recently in February 2018, a Boeing 777 lost engine power en route to Honolulu. The plane was landed safely with no injuries or deaths. Again in February 2021, another Boeing 777 en route to Honolulu lost engine power causing debris to trail the plane shortly after takeoff. The plane returned to the airport and landed safely with no injuries or deaths. However, many Boeing 777 models were grounded after the incident for thorough inspection.
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 passengers may not realize that the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is among many airlines’ prohibited items, along with most electric skateboards in checked bags. Lithium batteries are strongly prohibited on United flights.
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. United has a bag tracing web page where customers can search for lost luggage and file complaints.
It’s undeniable that JetBlue is one of the top rated airlines simply because they hold their staff to a higher standard of customer service. This is a major factor for many vacationers, who feel a friendly staff can outweigh any minor issues that they might encounter while traveling.
JetBlue, might have fewer destinations and can be a little pricier, 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. It’s possible that the Mint First Class is a better option than most of United’s First Class sections (aside from Polaris).
United is less than ideal on the customer service and outdated technology front, but the fares and fees are usually lower. Aside from a lack of empathy for passengers, the need for renovation and difficulty getting refunds are among the top complaints. Even if you took First Class, unless you booked Polaris, it’s likely that your experience will be less than stellar when compared to JetBlue’s atmosphere.
Overall, we would recommend JetBlue in most cases, as we place a high value on good customer service along with fair pricing. The experience from beginning to end is less of a headache with JetBlue, especially in the event that your flight needs to be changed or cancelled.