JetBlue has begun charging passengers $35 for their first checked bag, a $5 increase and its second hike to bag fees in the last two years.
But there's a catch. JetBlue flyers can save $5 per bag by paying for luggage online at least 24 hours before takeoff. PaxEx.Aero first reported the news after obtaining a JetBlue internal memo. Fees for a second checked bag are also increasing, from $40 to $45.
These changes are effective immediately.
“Now we are changing our fee structure to give Customers extra motivation to use those self-service tools, while at the same time increasing revenue for JetBlue even as we keep our base fares low,” the memo noted.
The motivation here is obvious. Not only does JetBlue make more money from travelers who purchase bags at the airport, but the airline will also “reduce transactions in the airport lobby and improve the customer experience,” the memo said.
On the flipside, higher checked baggage fees almost certainly means more travelers bringing carry-on bags onboard. Even passengers with a JetBlue basic economy fare are allowed carry ons for free.
This goes beyond JetBlue.
JetBlue set off the most recent industry-wide baggage fee hike back in 2018, when it was the first of the major U.S. airlines to increase fees from $25 to $30. Within the following month, nearly all of its competitors followed suit: Delta, American, United, and Alaska all increased. Southwest is the only major airline to give its passengers two free checked bags on every ticket.
What's the reason? Baggage fees are a huge moneymaker for airlines. These carriers raked in nearly $5 billion in 2018 on baggage fees alone.
Competition between airlines is fierce, making raising fares a difficult choice. Instead, airlines have turned to an ever-increasing amount of ancillary fees to make more money: baggage fees, basic economy upgrade costs, seat assignment fees, change fees, and more.
And when one airlines sees a chance to make more from passengers, its competitors can't resist. That's why all the major airlines copied JetBlue with baggage fee increases back in 2018. And it's why it's likely only a matter of time before the do the same in 2020.
If you're flying JetBlue and checking a bag, be sure to save yourself $5 by paying for your bag online.
It's great that JetBlue has an option to avoid this latest baggage fee increase by planning ahead. Still, it spells trouble for baggage fees at the rest of the U.S. airlines.