Inflight Review: Portland to JFK on jetBlue

For the past five years, the majority of my flying has been with United or a Star Alliance partner. Of course, over the past year, American has been getting much more of my business, but besides those two airlines, I don't have too much of a chance to experience the product of non-alliance carriers very often. I last flew jetBlue in 2008, from Denver to Boston, and then from New York to Denver, though both of the flights were delayed for several hours, which left somewhat of a bad taste in my mouth. Why book a flight in or through JFK when I can avoid that mess by going through Chicago or Dulles?

On a recent trip, I had to go from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, two cities that often have high airfare. My first instinct was to check United, though they wanted over $600 for a one-way ticket (PWM-IAD/ORD-PDX). The next possibility was American, though their closest station to PWM is JFK. Their cheapest option, JFK-SFO on American, and SFO-PDX on Alaska, was much cheaper, though I would still have to make it down to JFK.

jetBlue is the only carrier that flies non-stop from PWM to JFK, and even with no competition on the route, prices are usually pretty reasonable. In this instance, however, jetBlue wanted $250 for the flight, so I decided to redeem some TrueBlue points for the flight. Though it set me back 5,500 points, I was happy to part with the points in exchange for saving $250.

Portland International JetPort - New Terminal

Portland recently opened an addition to their terminal, which meant that all check-in counters moved from the end of the terminal near the rental car counters to the opposite end of the airport. Though this meant I would be able to try out the new terminal, it was quite a long walk from the Hertz counter, up an elevator, across the parking lot, and down a second elevator to reach the jetBlue check-in counter.

Originally, I had a seat in the first few rows of the aircraft, though when I discovered that an under-age participant from the organization I work with was on the flight, the check-in agent moved the two of us to the very last row of the aircraft.

Unfortunately, the new terminal saw the addition of Nude-O-Scopes to the airport, though one benefit of flying with a child is that the TSA will open up the metal detector for the child and accompanying adult to go through together. I had observed this when I flew from San Francisco to Sydney in May.

When we reached the gate, the agent announced a delay of over an hour, due to weather in New York (surprise, surprise!), so we found the nearest block of chairs, with power outlets, and waited out the delay. Though Portland has free wifi, the speeds were extremely slow, so I switched to my 4G mifi for the duration of our delay.

PWM's New Terminal

While waiting for our aircraft to arrive, a Delta flight at the next gate was in the process of re-boarding. What was originally schedule to be a 3:30pm departure, a mechanical issue forced the flight to be delayed until 6:30pm, at which point it only had eight passengers. The gate agent seemed pretty amused, as she called each passenger individually to board their CRJ-200.

Thirty minutes later, our Embraer-190 from JFK arrived to the gate. FlightAware was showing some pretty rough weather between Portland and JFK, some of it severe enough to possibly cancel the flight.

The boarding process was fairly easy, and the friendly gate agents took the time to explain each part of the process in a clear and concise way. I was surprised to not be stuck in the middle of a stampede while trying to board, like I usually am on United.

Twenty minutes later, we were aboard the aircraft. This was my first time flying in the very last row of an aircraft, though it did not seem as bad as I originally thought it to be.

Seat-back XM Radio and Satellite TV

The best part of flying on jetblue, in my opinion, is the free DirecTV and XM radio. Other carriers charge between $5.99 and $7.99, per flight, which can add up quickly if you fly more than a few times per month.

Row 25

There was no wait for take-off, and we were airborne just a few moments later. Despite some turbulence for the first few minutes of the flight, both flight attendents came through the aisles, offering small bottles of water, and a snack basket with many of the items listed below.

Though it was a short flight, the flight attendants also offered the following drinks for sale.

Forty-five minutes later, we began our approach to JFK. Due to some weather in the New York area, the descent was quite turbulent, though we broke through the clouds just in time to catch a small view of the city and surrounding area.

Once inside the terminal, I made my way to the taxi-queue for a ride to the airport Hilton. Though the hotel does offer a shuttle service, I have never been impressed with it's reliability, and frankly, find JFK confusing to navigate. The only downside to taking the cab was the driver, who swore at me for not tipping him. Normally I will tip a cab driver, but this guy offered no help with my bags, got lost on the way to the hotel (while using a GPS!), and had a pretty poor attitude. Do you tip cab drivers?

Overall, I was pleased with my flight on jetBlue. I would certainly fly them more often if they had service out of Kansas City. All of the employees that I interacted with were friendly and professional, and certainly seemed as though they enjoyed their jobs. The lead flight attendant even had a sense of humor, and kept the entire flight entertained on the trip down to New York.


David February 24, 2013 at 08:35 am

Yes. You ALWAYS tip cab drivers. The only exception is if they break the law while driving. They live on only tips. His attitude probably sucked because he waited in line for 45 minutes for a 10 dollar fare instead of the 50+ one he would've gotten had you gone to Manhattan.

ORDnHKG February 24, 2013 at 04:22 pm

@ David - Sorry, but I have to disagree. Even if they don't break the law while driving, not helping with bags like Daniel had mentioned, got lost while using a GPS (some of those cab drivers are doing it intentional, as they think you are a out of town visitor that you don't know your way so that they can rip you off, this practice happens frequently in all major cities in the US particular from airports or convention centers !

And it is a poor excuse saying they had waited in line for a long time so they expect you travel far to get BIG money from you, many people take cabs to hotels near the airport too, so would those people get treated badly because of how short of a distance they go as well ?

Whether they live on only tips are irrelevant, no service no tips period, that's fair. If they don't like that they can choose another job that paid by salary, no one point a gun to their heads to force them to be a cab driver. And that's why MANY cab drivers have poor attitude in the US, as they think you must tip no matter what. You would never see that kind of attitude from cab drivers if you go to other countries.

Josh February 26, 2013 at 09:19 am

"The next possibility was American, though their closest station to PWM is JFK."

AA DOES fly to BOS, quite a bit closer than JFK. Until circa 2006 Eagle flew BOS-BGR/PWM, and seasonally from LGA.

ptahcha February 26, 2013 at 12:20 pm

B6 is not the only carrier that flies PDX-JFK - DL does the nonstop as well.

Also, for most JFK hotels, you have to call them to get a shuttle, and they do free pick up from outside the rental car agency, usually within 10-15 min.