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JetBlue Just Launched Its Version of Basic Economy and It’s Not the Worst

By Michelle Baran

11.12.19

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Customers who book this lower-fare class will opt out of things like higher priority boarding or choice seating assignments.

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Customers who book this lower-fare class will opt out of things like higher priority boarding or choice seating assignments.

You will still get free carry-on, snacks, and live TV, so if you’re OK with boarding last and probably getting a middle seat, JetBlue’s new Blue Basic fare class might not be a bad option.

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JetBlue is getting in on the basic economy game with its own version of a lower base fare—you won’t get things like higher priority boarding or choice seating assignments, but you’ll still get carry-on bags and those coveted, unlimited in-flight snacks.

Up until now, JetBlue has offered four fare options: Blue, Blue Plus, Blue Flex, and its business-class offering, Mint. With a standard Blue fare, no checked bags are included, with Blue Plus one checked bag is included, and with Blue Flex, two checked bags were included. There was no change fee with Blue Flex bookings, and TrueBlue members got bonus miles when they booked Blue Plus or Blue Flex fares online.

As of November 12, there is a new tier structure that includes those same tiers with the exception of Blue Flex, which has been changed to Blue Extra, and we guess that stands for “extra cost” because unlike Blue Flex, Blue Extra does not include free checked bags, unless you are a Mosaic or a JetBlue Plus cardmember.

There is also a new tier: Blue Basic, or JetBlue’s version of Basic Economy. With Blue Basic, no checked bags are included, but one carry-on and one personal item are. There are no changes allowed and a cancellation will result in a forfeited fare (meaning no refund).

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Blue Basic means being in the last boarding group, and to choose a seat more than 24 hours in advance, you will have to pay an additional fee (otherwise you can choose from what is left up to 24 hours before departures—so yeah, you’re looking at a lot of middle seat options at that point). Only one TrueBlue point per dollar will be earned with this fare (or two if it is booked online on the JetBlue site or through the JetBlue app), versus three points per dollar on all other fare classes.

So why the change? “Customer behavior suggests our success is at risk if we do not disrupt this market by lowering fares without sacrificing the experience,” JetBlue’s president and COO, Joanna Geraghty, stated in a letter announcing the new fare plan to crewmembers last year.

The letter noted that despite the limitations, customers who book the new Blue Basic fares will still get JetBlue standards such as free live TV and Wi-Fi, plus complimentary snacks and soft drinks.

The truth is that the move is intended to help JetBlue better compete with budget carriers like Frontier and Spirit, as well as the basic economy fares that have been rolled out by the likes of Delta, American, and United.

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JetBlue’s move comes in the wake of Spirit and Frontier having disrupted the market over the past few years with their stripped-down base fares, according to Samuel Engel, senior vice president and head of the aviation group at consulting firm ICF. That downward pricing pressure ultimately resulted in the major legacy carriers—Delta, United, and American—all adding lower-priced basic economy fares in the past couple years, fares that are below standard economy prices and that have reduced services such as nonpriority boarding and limited flight change options.

Basic economy fares have “really helped them compete,” said Engel. And, he added, JetBlue has watched this play out in the marketplace and is realizing it is time to get in on the lower fare game. 

But the move also had us wondering: Isn’t JetBlue already considered a low-cost carrier? Isn’t it already in that game? Well, while JetBlue definitely runs some great seasonal sales and certainly offers competitive airfares, the carrier has not been considered a true low-fare airline for some time when compared with budget carriers like Spirit or Frontier, according to airline industry analyst and consultant Robert Mann.

JetBlue also kicked off an avalanche of baggage fee increases across the U.S. airline industry last summer that now makes it more costly to check bags domestically on most carriers. JetBlue was the first U.S. airline to announce in August that it would be increasing its first-checked-bag fee to $30 from $25 and its second-checked-bag fee to $40 from $35, a move that was mimicked by several other U.S. carriers. And now you have to pay for those higher-priced checked bags in three out of five of JetBlue’s fare tiers, with one bag included with Blue Plus and two included with Mint fares.

This story was originally published on October 2, 2018, and was updated on November 12, 2019, to include current information.

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