Frequent Flyer

JetBlue Changes Course, Embraces Bag Fees

Remember when checked bags were free on JetBlue? Cherish the memory, because as of today it’s just that, a memory. With the airline’s new fare scheme, most flyers will pay to check bags.

Remember when checked bags were free on JetBlue? Cherish the memory, because as of today it’s just that, a memory.

JetBlue announced late last year that, under pressure from Wall Street to boost profits, it would impose new fees and pack more passengers onto its planes. So while the checked-bag fees are a disappointment to JetBlue loyalists, they’re no surprise.

The fees are integrated into JetBlue’s new fare scheme, which takes effect today. Flights with no Mint service will feature three fare types, Blue, Blue Plus, and Blue Flex, with prices that vary according to the number of restrictions. In other words, JetBlue has adopted a version of the pricing model that is pretty much standard industry-wide, with lower-priced fares available for those willing to live with some restrictions (discounted coach) and pricier fares for those who require more flexibility (full coach).

When it comes to fees for checked bags, for instance, those booking the cheapest Blue fares—the great majority of JetBlue customers, presumably—They will henceforth pay $20 or $25 to check the first bag, depending on whether it’s checked online or at the counter. Travelers paying the mid-priced Blue Plus fare can check the first bag for free, but will be charged $35 for the second bag. And flyers who splurge for a Blue Flex fare can check two bags for free.

Elsewhere, Blue Plus customers pay less than Blue customers to cancel or change a ticket; and Blue Flex flyers can make such changes for free. Blue Flex customers are also entitled to expedited security clearance, where available.

JetBlue has built a modest frequent-flyer kicker into the new fare structure as well, with Blue, Blue Plus, and Blue Flex flyers earning three, four, and five bonus points per $1 spent on tickets booked on JetBlue’s website, respectively.

There’s still a lot to like about JetBlue. But with the new checked-bag fees, the airline has abandoned one of its signature benefits, leaving Southwest as the only U.S. carrier with no such fees. And in 2016, when JetBlue plans to add an extra 15 seats to its planes, reducing seat pitch from 34 to 33 inches, there will be even less to like.

Enjoy what remains of the JetBlue experience while you can.

Reader Reality Check

Will you follow JetBlue down its new path?

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By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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