Just in time for the holiday travel season, JetBlue announced that it will now have baggage fees for discount flights, as well as increased seats per plane in order to maximize their profit potential. The Airbus 320s in the airline’s fleet will now have an additional 15 rows of seats per plane, decreasing leg room by about an inch-and-a-half per passenger. That still allows JetBlue to have more leg room per passenger than its competitors, Southwest and Virgin.
Reducing the amount of leg room will allow the airline to increase its passenger load from 150 to 165 per flight. There are currently 122 active Airbus 320s in the fleet. While customers will lose leg room, the airline will upgrade the seats to include larger seat back screens, power ports and more entertainment options. The new seating will begin in 2016.
In addition to the redesign of the plane seating, JetBlue has also decided to roll out a three-tiered fare system labeled as “Better, Even Better and Best.” With the “Best” feature, customers will be allowed two checked bags, “Even Better” will be allowed one checked bag, “Better” will not allow checked bags without fees applied. There will also be an accompanying fare structure. The airline has not disclosed what that will look like as of yet. The line’s premium brand, Mint, will also be increasing operations over the next year.
JetBlue gained popularity among travelers for its lower fares combined with its free checked baggage plan for ticket holders as well as other free amenities such as in-flight snacks and entertainment. Most major airlines charge $25-$50 per item of checked baggage on top of a purchased ticket. Ticket prices have also soared over the last two years with the increase in fuel prices, causing consumers to look at smaller airlines like JetBlue and Southwest for their travel needs.
Critics of the move by the airline to maximize their profit margins cite that the reason travelers fell in love with the discount airline is because they had the leg room and affordability while maintaining a comparable travel experience. With JetBlue adopting these policies they risk becoming like the airlines that sent consumers to them in the first place.
With JetBlue adding baggage fees and more seats, this leaves Southwest as the only airline that does not require extra fees for checked baggage. Many avid travelers on popular travel forums slammed the changes by accusing the airline of putting customers second, and abandoning the original mission of making comfort and affordability in air travel a priority over large profits. Many frequent fliers have vowed to abandon traveling with JetBlue for Southwest.
The company’s stock jumped 4 percent upon news of the new changes. Airline president, Robert Hayes, said in a written statement accompanying the airline’s press release that JetBlue will still remain different from the pack by giving the best travel experience possible to the underserved traveller. While the stock market and loyal customers seem to be split on their opinions of the changes JetBlue is making, it is impossible to know what the final verdict will be for the airline until the baggage fees and reduced seating leg room take effect.
By Jennifer Gulbrandsen