JetBlue’s opened an eBay store to auction tickets and vacation packages to some of its 50 destinations, and early bidding has been strong despite a technical glitch that shut the store down for a few hours.
The store features seven-day auctions for more than 300 one- and two-person round-trip flights. Bidding starts at a nickel and there is no reserve, but it’s tough to say how much shoppers will save — or JetBlue might lose. Still, it could be a smart move for the airline.
“It’s a way for the airline to bolster its direct sales, and it’s different from a traditional fare sale in that other airlines can’t simply match it,” Henry Harteveldt, an analyst with Forester Research, tells us. “From that standpoint it’s a very smart idea.”
This afternoon the high bid on a flight from Chicago O’Hare to Long Beach was $202.50 versus $300 when booked on the JetBlue website, but with six days left in the auction, it’s anyone’s guess how much higher the bidding will go. Round-trip tickets for two from New York to Vegas on Sept. 26 were going for $620, compared to a maximum of $349 through the airline’s website, further proving the best deals aren’t always on eBay.
The JetBlue auctions work like any others on eBay: winners receive an invoice for the winning bid plus applicable taxes and fees and settle up through PayPal. JetBlue sends an email confirming the itinerary within 72 hours. That’s it.
Although JetBlue is offering only a few routes and flights up for auction, Harteveldt says it’s more than a publicity stunt. “It allows the airline to sell extra inventory during a period that is typically soft for leisure travel,” he says, adding that JetBlue’s decision to go the eBay route might also signal a more widespread softness in demand for air travel.
Hartveldt says that while some hotels and car rental companies in Europe are also selling inventory on eBay, it is too soon to tell if the JetBlue store is the beginning of a trend that will be copied by other US airlines. “They’ll all be watching it very closely,” Harteveldt says. “And if it’s working for JetBlue, you can bet that others will be interested.” (Reprinted from Wired.com)