JetBlue has announced it will join American, Delta, and United in offering bare-bones “basic economy” fares beginning in 2019. The new, no-frills fares will still include the line’s standard free on-board Wi-Fi, snacks and soft drinks, and a full-size carry-on bag plus personal item, the airline said. But basic economy passengers can expect to see fees for things like picking a seat and changing their reservation—JetBlue hasn’t yet said what exactly will change.
As with the big three and other legacy lines, the idea of adding ultra-low base fares is really a fare increase in disguise. The idea is to make the lowest-fare conditions onerous enough to force travelers into a higher fare category to come out ahead, overall.
But JetBlue attributed the change to customer habits, according to USA Today:
“‘At JetBlue, we never liked the no-frills approach,’ JetBlue president Joanna Geraghty said in an email to employees. ‘But with these competitors now offering basic economy on many routes we fly, customer behavior suggests our success is at risk if we do not disrupt this market by lowering fares without sacrificing the experience.’
The airline insists its basic economy experience will be different that its competitors, with Geraghty saying, ‘We will not make them feel like second-class citizens.’ Unlike most airlines, JetBlue offers free in-flight internet service and live TV.”
It’s also worth noting that economy fares on United don’t include a carry-on bag, and the same was true of American until it recently changed course.
But to some observers, this is yet another indication of JetBlue’s long transition from an above-average line to an average one. First, it was cutting back from an industry-leading 34-inch pitch to 32 inches in its newest planes—still better than the competition, but a move in the wrong direction. Then it was elimination of one free checked bag, and reasonable ticket change fees. Then it led the latest industry move to hike baggage fees.
And now this. Sad to say, some consumers worry that JetBlue may be slowly turning into a clone of American, Delta, and United, only smaller.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 3 Airlines Raise Checked Bag Fees to Match JetBlue Change
- United Will Charge Fees for Economy Seats at the Front of the Plane
- Smart Ways to Avoid Bag Fees
Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.