JetBlue Introduces Bag Ban For Basic Economy Passengers, Diminishes Value Of Elite Status

JetBlue will ban basic economy customers from bringing full-sized carry on bags on board, and will finally eliminate change fees on other ticket types, which their competitors did last summer.

Elites used to get waived change fees, but the airline says they aren’t contemplating any new elite benefits in exchange – what they do for members is already enough.

  • Eliminating change fees on non-Basic Economy fares they’re late to the party, United, Delta, American and Alaska did this last summer. Change fees weren’t going to come back for quite some time, and Basic Economy is the new strategy for differentiating business travelers from price-sensitive leisure travelers – change fees are no longer the dominant way to accomplish this.

    It’s also why the elimination of change fees on non-Basic Economy fares is paired with some negative changes for Basic Economy customers, so that the fare types won’t be considered interchangeable by customers.

  • No more full-sized carry on bags on Basic Economy fares. JetBlue is copying United here, effective July 20, even though new Northeastern alliance partner American Airlines tried this trick and found it counterproductive.

    JetBlue says they “want[..] to align its restrictions with those of the no-frills carriers” which makes no sense because Spirit and Frontier customers can pay an extra fee to bring these bags on board, while JetBlue customers can’t if they buy the fares intended to compete with… Spirit and Frontier.

  • Basic economy tickets will have change fees. The standard approach to basic economy is no changes at all, at least once we’re out of the pandemic. JetBlue will offer $100 change fees on basic economy tickets domestically, $200 on other routes.

  • Other passengers are guaranteed overhead bin space. If you’re forced to gate check they’ll give you a $25 travel credit (meh). Bin space is less of an issue with planes often not full, and when they are they’re full of leisure travelers inclined to check a bag (and if they’d have been inclined to carry on, they’re buying Basic Economy so they won’t be able to).

    The $25 travel credit is too small an amount to matter, and just serves to push people to book more JetBlue tickets in the future after they’ve been disserviced. Think of it as an automatic low value customer service gesture.

    I find that bin space is no longer an issue on American Airlines Oasis planes with bigger bins by the way. Putting in big enough bins seems like the best solution and not having to deal with gate checking helps an airline’s operation (getting out on time, avoiding delays from scrambling at the last minute to go from cabin to belly with the bags).

JetBlue elite members got free change fees already, so there’s less of an incremental benefit to status. The airline tells Zach Griff that they do not intend to offer any additional elite benefits to compensate, that what they’ve already done is enough.

Dave Clark, vice president of sales and revenue management, reasons that “the new Mosaic benefits announced late last year have several new benefits. The free extra-legroom Even More Space at the gate is the marquee benefit that replaces flexibility.”

JetBlue, which was on a cost-cutting path even before the pandemic, doesn’t even offer extra legroom coach confirmed at booking to its elites, the way United and American (and to a certain extent Delta) do. They do not offer complimentary upgrades to their premium cabin (‘Mint’) even on domestic routes that offer it. They are offering elites a companion pass, through May 2021 only along with extra legroom seats if available at the airport.

The airline’s new business class looks nice enough, but I’m not keen on treating their lowest-fare passengers so much worse even as American started giving elite benefits to basic economy passengers who have status (basic economy passengers are basically everyone these days). The move makes me less excited about the American-JetBlue alliance.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The change is positive for leisure travelers that don’t book basic economy, which should be most leisure travelers that read this blog…

  2. JetBlue who?… Covid notwithstanding, these guys can’t even fly to Canada. They just want to cherry-pick and not take responsibility to serve smaller communities or have a network or anything.

    That all said, good on B6 regarding the basic economy restrictions. Cheapskates will get what they pay for. All, just travel with a small back pack, and slide it under the seat in front of you, so you needn’t worry about the overhead bins.

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