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JetBlue Breaks Our Hearts: Will Cut Legroom, Charge for Bags

JetBlue just broke my heart. The discount airline is putting its best flyer-friendly perks to death, one by one. JetBlue is crowding more seats onto its planes and taking away that one free checked bag we all know and love. With the announcement of a new tiered pricing system, JetBlue joins the majority of the cruel, cramped, and fee-hungry U.S. carriers that make up the unpleasant domestic airline industry. (Southwest remains an exception—I’ll get to that in a minute.)

Bowing to pressure to increase revenue through ancillary fees and more tightly packed places, JetBlue introduces “Branded Fares.” Branded Fares will happen in 2015. This is a tiered pricing system that forces passengers to choose from one of three bundled fare options: the cheapest ticket, which doesn’t include free checked luggage; or two pricier options that feature one and two free checked bags, and extra TrueBlue points.

The more expensive ticket bundles will offer greater flexibility, but JetBlue hasn’t offered any clear details on this. We don’t know anything about the exact frequent-flyer points differences, either. JetBlue is releasing this information slowly and carefully, like the author of a very dull mystery novel.

Additionally, JetBlue says it will do a “Cabin Refresh.” That’s a pleasant-sounding way to tell us that other peoples’ seatbacks (and elbows) will be closer than ever.

In 2016, JetBlue will retrofit its A320 aircraft with thinner cushions, jamming 15 more seats onto its A320s. The airline claims it will still offer “the most legroom in coach,” although legroom will be reduced by 5 percent. Bottom line: The A320s are going to get more crowded, with less available overhead-bin space.

This is all part of a larger disturbing trend: The arc of the airline industry is bending away from consumer-friendly policies. Virgin America indicated earlier this month that it would scale back some of its perks. In the spring, Frontier rolled out a two-tiered pricing system featuring $50 for carry-on bags with its cheapest ticket options. And some folks in the industry have speculated that even Southwest might axe its popular two-free-checked-bags policy sometime in the future.

For now, Southwest, the only major U.S. airline remaining that doesn’t charge for checked bags, has yet to cave to the pressure. The airline is throwing shade JetBlue’s way. Here is a tweet Southwest made today:

We love you too, Southwest.

Readers, will you continue to fly JetBlue?

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