Photo courtesy of JetBlue.
JetBlue may have lost a bit of its “You Above All” credit yesterday when the airline announced that in an effort to increase shareholder returns and deliver improved financial results, legroom and baggage fees will be the amenities that suffer. Not to mention that this past August, the cherished airline, known for putting its passengers above most other airlines’ needs to make an easy profit, did away with its generous absence of rebooking fees.
JetBlue was one of the few consumer-considerate airlines that would give you a flight credit, with no rebooking fee, if a fare dropped between the time you bought your ticket to the time your flight left the ground. As of August 14, JetBlue changed this policy. If you’re a Mosaic frequent flyer, these refunds still apply, however for the rest of us infrequent flyers you’ll have to pay a $75 fee to have your flight credit reissued. While $75 is a miniscule amount compared to the $200 fee required by American, Delta and United, this change is just one of many upcoming, potentially costly annoyances tainting the beloved airline’s reputation across the interwebs.
As of Wednesday, November 19, JetBlue announced that in an effort to increase shareholder returns, several seemingly insignificant changes, dubbed “improvements” to baggage fares and leg room will be applied, beginning in 2015. The airline plans to add 15 seats to each of its Airbus A320 planes, allowing JetBlue to increase the number of seats from 150 to 165. This means that JetBlue’s average seat pitch, meaning the distance from one point on one seat to the exact same point on the seat in front of it, will be reduced from 34.7 inches to 33.1 inches.
This “Cabin Refresh,” according to the media release, still boasts having “the most legroom in coach,” although now it’s not by much. According to SeatGuru, Southwest has a seat pitch of 32 inches, while Virgin averages about 31.5 inches per seat The airline will be jumping on the legroom revenue train with a new “Even More” option, which will include an extra charge for extra legroom. The retrofit will also feature bigger back seat screens, more entertainment options and power ports. These changes will be made to JetBlue’s entire fleet of active 122 A320s during late 2016 and take approximately two years to complete.
Morgan Johnston, JetBlue Manager of Corporate Communications, said, “It’s important to us to maintain our position of having the most legroom in coach. We’ve had rave reviews from customers. We’re frankly really excited. Because these seats are so much thinner than the current standard seats available, we’re still able to provide the most legroom.”
In addition to new seats, JetBlue announced that beginning in the first half of 2015, three bundled fair options will be available for bag checking.
According to the media release, “The first of these will be designed for customers who do not plan to check a bag, while the latter two will offer one and two free checked bags, respectively, along with other attractive benefits, including additional TrueBlue points and increased flexibility. This new merchandising platform will enable JetBlue to tailor its offering to individual customers' needs in a way that is simple and transparent.”
This leaves Southwest as the only airline to that will still offer a free checked bag in the year 2015.
Exact fares have not been disclosed, although JetBlue estimates they’ll earn an extra $400M per year with these new bundles.
Johnston said, “Carry-ons will always be free. As always we will allow a carry-on and a personal item on board. As for checked baggage, unfortunately we can’t share those numbers.”
Robin Hayes, JetBlue’s President, said in a written statement, “We believe the plan laid out today benefits our three key stakeholders. It delivers improved, sustainable profitability for our investors, the best travel experience for our customers and ensures a strong, healthy company for our Crewmembers. As we focus on executing this plan, JetBlue's core mission to Inspire Humanity and its differentiated model of serving underserved customers remain unchanged."
While Johnston claimed, “We have always been a customer service company, we want to be responsible to our shareholders and crew members, but also our customers,” these supposedly transparently given changes are creating quite an unsettling amount of turbulence.