JetBlue’s cheapest tickets are getting cheaper but no carry-on bag allowed

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The biggest news for travelers who book the cheapest fare they find: JetBlue says it’s lowering costs on many basic economy tickets to better compete with no-frills discounters like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant. 

The lower fares will come with a major catch, however. Travelers buying JetBlue’s “Blue Basic” tickets starting next week won’t be allowed to bring a traditional carry-on bag as of July 20. They will only be allowed to bring a small bag that fits underneath the seat. Other bags need to be checked for a fee.

United Airlines has a similar restriction on its basic economy tickets. American and Delta do not. (Southwest Airlines doesn’t have basic economy tickets.) Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant passengers need to pay a fee to bring a full-size carry-on bag on board.

JetBlue executives mentioned they’re adding the carry-on bag ban for basic economy passengers for two reasons. The airline wants to align its restrictions with these of the no-frills carriers and it wants to free up overhead bin space as part of a bold new promise guaranteeing other passengers spots for their carry-on bags.

Beginning July 20, JetBlue will guarantee passengers buying any ticket however a basic economy ticket for flights within the U.S. room for one carry-on within the overhead bins. If the airline runs out of the house and a passenger’s bag must be checked at the gate, the airline mentioned it will issue a $25 travel credit good for one yr.

Worries about having sufficient room for carry-on baggage is a top stressor for travelers, with most of JetBlue’s planes only able to accommodate about 60% of passengers’ carry-on baggage if everybody brings on a roller bag.

“We’re actually excited to offer this, first-of-its-kind in America carry-on bag guarantee,” mentioned Dave Clark, JetBlue’s vice president of sales and revenue management. “We expect that makes our (standard economy) Blue Fare really strong.”

In a memo to staff about the changes, JetBlue mentioned travelers have enjoyed not having to jockey for overhead bin space during the coronavirus pandemic given less-full planes. U.S. airlines carried 60% fewer passengers in 2020, the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported Tuesday.

“As clients return, we need to hold on to a little of this zen during the boarding process and make overhead bin space an expectation, not a gamble,” the memo says.

JetBlue and different airways have been waiving change fees for all ticket holders during the pandemic, even those with basic economy tickets. However, these policies are expiring at many airways. JetBlue’s current policy covers tickets purchased through March 31.

JetBlue announced basic economy tickets in 2018 and launched them in November 2019, much later than competitors.

JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty mentioned JetBlue overlaps with budget carrier routes in half of its markets, with the figure topping 80% in South Florida.

The discounters have decrease fares than JetBlue on some routes, sometimes just barely lower, and travelers who do a quick online search gobble them up instead of comparing the airways’ in-flight amenities, she mentioned. JetBlue offers free in-flight TV, WiFi, and snacks. Allegiant, Spirit, and Frontier do not.

“If you’re someone who purchases entirely on price – and a lot of my friends fall into this category – they will pick the airline with the lowest fare and not look behind that,” Geraghty mentioned. “We need to make sure that we’re within the decision set for the customers who purchase solely on fare.”

The airline is not taking away any of the facilities for basic economy passengers except the carry-on bag, she mentioned, and is assured budget-conscious passengers who try the airline for the first time will pick JetBlue the next time they have a choice.

“I assume this ultra-price-sensitive customer has been so underserved for so long,” Geraghty mentioned.

As with all airways offering basic economy fares, JetBlue is also banking that less-price-sensitive travelers will see the restrictions and trade up to the common economy.

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