JetBlue Adding More Seats And Checked Bag Fees

JetBlue had an interesting way of announcing some negative changes today. They didn’t announce the changes to customers, but rather to investors, explaining how they “plan to drive shareholder returns through differentiated products and service.”

To clarify, when they say “differentiated products and service” they don’t mean different than what their competitors offer, but rather different than what they currently offer.

JetBlue-Snacks
Just don’t touch the blue chips!

There are two significant changes:

JetBlue will begin charging for first checked bag

The first change is that JetBlue will begin offering a fare class intended for “customers who do not plan to check a bag,” starting in the first half of 2015. That’s a nice way of saying that they’ll starting charging for the first checked bag on their lowest fares:

Fare Families / Branded Fares — Beginning in the first half of 2015, customers will be able to choose between three branded fare bundle options. The first of these will be designed for customers who do not plan to check a bag, while the latter two will offer one and two free checked bags, respectively, along with other attractive benefits, including additional TrueBlue points and increased flexibility. This new merchandising platform will enable JetBlue to tailor its offering to individual customers’ needs in a way that is simple and transparent.

I always find it interesting when airlines introduce a fare class for customers “who do not plan to check a bag.” Is the price difference between the fare that doesn’t include a free checked bag and the fare that includes a free checked bag less than the cost of checking a bag? If so, great. But it rarely is. Typically they bundle it with other “offerings” — maybe a free snack or drink, free flight changes, etc., to the point that it’s substantially more expensive than the sum of the fare without a free checked bag plus the checked bag fee.

JetBlue will be adding more seats to their A320s

JetBlue will also be “refreshing” their A320 fleet starting in mid-2016, by increasing the number of seats from 150 to 165 seats:

Airbus A320 Cabin Refresh — JetBlue will build on the successful launch of its Airbus A321 fleet, which has been received with great customer acclaim, by outfitting its A320 aircraft with a similar refreshed cabin. The reconfigured cabin plan for the A320 will preserve JetBlue’s product advantage and highly-rated customer experience while helping to generate higher returns. Using lighter, more comfortable seats, JetBlue will be able to increase the number seats on its planes while continuing to offer the most legroom in coach. Retrofits of the Airbus A320 fleet are expected to begin in mid-2016 and will also include larger seatback screens with more entertainment options and power ports accessible to all Customers.

“Using lighter, more comfortable seats?” You can have lighter seats OR you can have comfortable seats. You can’t have both. That’s like those cookies and brownies they sell in the “health food” aisle of the supermarket… or low-fat Cheez-Its… or a Krug cleanse. They’re tasty, but they sure as hell aren’t healthy!

JetBlue-Legroom
Bye bye legroom?

Apparently the seats will still have 33″ of pitch, which will still be industry leading. So I’m not sure if they’re going to reduce the number of Even More Space seats or what. I guess we’ll find out soon.

Regardless, that’s not something we can really blame them for, in my opinion. The reason they offered exactly 150 seats is because you only need one flight attendant per 50 seats, so this way they only needed three flight attendants. By adding more seats they’ll have to add an extra flight attendant as well.

Bottom line

Ultimately we don’t yet have an exact timeline for the changes since they’ve only been announced to investors so far. While these changes are no doubt disappointing, they’re also not surprising. Over time, all airlines seem to more or less become the same.

Airlines start with unique business models, then consolidate, then new players enter the market, then the economy tanks and they try to offer something “unique,” and then they make record profits and try to squeeze every penny they can out of consumers.

The beautiful, vicious cycle of the airline industry… except Baltia Air Lines, that is. They have a really unique business model.;)

Comments

  1. Well I don’t mind being able to choose between a fare with no bag or a fare with a checked bag, providing that amount you have to pay to have the checked bag remains the same as it is now, and the no-bag option is cheaper. If the fare with a checked bag increases, that’s just ripping people off.

  2. People don’t fly JetBlue because of its frequent flyer program or its elite status or its broad network or even its price. They fly it because they know they’re getting a decent product, snacks, free checked bag and free TV standard without having to worry about whether an upgrade clears. Take away too many of those things and you end up with a United. Hopefully investors don’t force them to move too much in that direction. Although with 15 more seats I guess JetBlue would have room to drop fares by 10% to stay competitive.

  3. Have you actually tried them?
    I have found the newer, thinner seats be more comfortable than the older seats with the thicker cushions.
    And they actually give more leg room because of the way they moved up the seat pocket.

  4. I have found the slimline seats on United to be much better than the crap seats on the sCO narrowbodies, but they are a tad worse than the sUA seats. I don’t think they are all that terrible overall.

  5. What do you think will happen to tickets issued prior to 2015 for 2015 travel? For example, buying a ticket now for a flight in 5/2015. Will I have to then pay for a checked bag?

  6. As soon as Robin Hayes took over, everyone could see this coming….Another example of NOT caring about the customer, no matter how you try to spin it or sell it…

  7. They’ve gotten rid of two great policies that had led me to choose JetBlue even over the mainline carriers on whom I have elite status — no baggage fees and, even better, the ability to get future flight credit whenever the fare dropped without incurring a change fee. I live in NYC so JetBlue is an option to almost anywhere, but I won’t choose them anymore unless the airfare really stands out.

  8. Also, I found their email to their frequent fliers last night to be comical. They tried to make it sound like this was good news. But they aren’t really “unbundling” baggage fees from their base fares – they are re-bundling it with other stuff (more miles, flexible fare) that we likely don’t want for the price they will charge.

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