It’s sad to see, but JetBlue is joining the race to the bottom: The airline announced Friday it plans to offer a basic economy fare starting sometime in 2019.
There aren’t many specifics yet on, which it’s currently calling “Blue Save” fares. The airline said it will launch sometime “later next year.”
The New York-based carrier took pains to stress that its version of basic economy won’t be as punitive as others like United, who doesn’t even allow carry-on baggage. JetBlue is promising that basic economy passengers will still be allowed a carry-on and personal item, but may forego advanced seat assignment and priority boarding.
“Customers who opt for this fare will agree to some limits, which might include things like boarding order, seating, and change/cancelation flexibility, but we will not make them feel like second-class citizens,” airline President Joanna Geraghty wrote.
JetBlue has carved out a real niche in the airline industry, offering near-budget airline prices but full service and amenities. They also have some of the most generous legroom in the U.S.
On the inaugural flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Boston (BOS), we experienced what JetBlue is known for: warm service, gate-to-gate WiFi, seatback entertainment and 1-3 inches more legroom than its competitors. Read our review of that flight.
So while it’s hard to see JetBlue join the rush to basic economy, perhaps they can truly do it better than the big three domestic airlines and other budget carriers.
Every airline bills basic economy as a win for consumers, giving them a cheaper fare in exchange for fewer frills. In reality, these fares often drive a standard economy seat higher and allow the airlines to rake in more revenue by charging for seat assignments, luggage and more. Only time will tell how pricing will change on JetBlue once it launches Blue Save fares.
JetBlue is among the last major U.S. carrier to adopt a basic economy fare, really leaving only Southwest – which still offers all its passengers two free checked bags – as a holdout. Airlines always follow each other’s lead. You need only look at the recent stampede of increasing checked baggage fees for proof.
On its blog, Geraghty noted the difficulty of competing with other airlines that offer no-frills fares to budget-conscious travelers.
“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,” she wrote.
While JetBlue is promising to do basic economy better, its plan to allow these basic economy passengers a carry on puts them in line with Delta and American. American just recently changed its own policy.
JetBlue is betting that its larger seats and reputation for better service will push its basic economy offering ahead of the others. “We’ve all heard the horror stories from Customers about ultra-low-cost travel. JetBlue can do better for them,” Geraghty said.
Perhaps it was inevitable, but it’s still tough to see JetBlue go this route. But if JetBlue lives up to the promises it’s making for its basic economy fares, it could be palatable.
H/T: The Points Guy
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