JetBlue Eliminates Most Change Fees But Makes Basic Economy A Lot Worse

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One of the few silver linings to the current travel crisis is that it has seen a number of US airlines eliminate change fees for a significant proportion of the fares they sell. However, even as American, United, and Delta eliminated these fees, JetBlue held out. It even suggested that the elimination of change fees was not something it was considering. That changed yesterday.

JetBlue Eliminates Change Fees (Mostly)

Like a lot of airlines around the world, JetBlue is currently waiving change/cancellation fees for all bookings while the pandemic continues to play a significant part in most people’s lives. This policy will continue for bookings made through 31 March 2021 but, from the beginning of April, changes will be introduced.

For bookings made on or after 1 April 2021:

  • There will be no change or cancellation fees for passengers booking Blue, Blue Plus, and Mint fares on any of JetBlue’s routes as long as the change/cancellation is made prior to the day of travel.
  • For passengers wishing to change Blue, Blue Plus, or Mint fares, fare differences will continue to apply but same-day changes can be made for $75 without paying a fare difference.
  • There will be no change or cancellation fee for Blue Extra fares and while fare differences will be applied to most flight changes, Blue Extra fares will receive free same-day changes.
  • Blue Basic fares (Basic Economy) will see change/cancellation fees charged on all of JetBlue’s routes. Changes/cancellations to bookings on routes within the United States or to the Caribbean, Mexico, or Central America will incur a $100 charge. Changes/cancellations to bookings on all other routes will incur a $200 charge.
  • Passengers booking Blue Basic fares will be able to make same-day changes for $75 and that fee will be waived for Mosaic members.

There’s good news and bad news here.

The good news is that change/cancellation fees are being removed for a lot of JetBlue’s fares and that even the cheapest basic Economy fares will be changeable (for a fee).

The bad news is that the free booking changes that Mosaic members have been used to having as one of their benefits are now a thing of the past and Basic Economy will now be charged up to $200 for changes/cancellations.

It’s also important to note that while JetBlue will now allow customers who have purchased Blue, Blue Plus, or a Mint fare to cancel their fare without incurring a fee, the airline will not be refunding any payments. The funds from any cancellations (assuming the cancellation was initiated by the customer and not the airline) will be deposited into a traveler’s JetBlue Travel Bank and will be redeemable against future flight bookings.

JetBlue Removes Overhead Bin Space From Basic Economy Fares

In a move announced alongside the news that most change/cancellation fees would be eliminated, JetBlue has said that it will be cutting back on the hand baggage allowance currently afforded to customers with Blue Basic (Basic Economy) bookings.

Blue Basic fares booked on or after 25 February 2021 for travel from 20 July 2021 onwards, will only give passengers the right to bring on board a personal item that fits under the seat in front of them. Passengers booking Blue Basic fares will no longer be able to place bags into an aircraft’s overhead bins.

Exceptions: Mosaic members, travelers that are combining a Blue Basic fare with an Even More Space seat, active military personnel, and unaccompanied minors will still be allowed to bring a carry-on bag on board.

If you have booked a Blue Basic fare, any carry-on bag brought to the gate (aside from a personal item that fits under the seat in front of you) will incur a fee and will have to be checked. The fee is $65 (if it will be your 1st or 2nd checked bag) or $180 (if it will be your 3rd).

Amusingly, JetBlue is attempting to paint this clearly negative move as something positive for other passengers by introducing what it calls a carry-on bag guarantee. Here’s what the airline has said:

For more certainty and speed (and less stress) while traveling, we’re implementing a new carry-on bag policy, which guarantees overhead bin space to those traveling within the U.S. on Blue, Blue Extra and Mint fares or who booked an Even More Space seat—or you get a $25 Travel Bank credit.

There are a couple of things wrong with this.

Firstly, the Travel Bank credit will only be valid for a year so this new policy won’t be of much use to infrequent flyers who, though no fault of their own, are forced to check a carry-on bag. A guarantee isn’t really worth very much if the airline is giving itself a way out which can cost it absolutely nothing.

If my fare is supposed to “guarantee” me overhead space, I want a proper guarantee and not some cop-out like this.

Secondly, it’s interesting to note that the new carry-on bag guarantee is very clearly limited to “those traveling within the U.S.” while I can’t see any wording to suggest that Basic Economy passengers will keep their carry-on allowance for trips outside of the United States.

From what I can see (apologies to the airline if I’m misreading things), JetBlue is cutting the carry-on allowance for Basic Economy passengers on all routes, but only offering a carry-on guarantee (of sorts) to other fare classes on select routes that the airline operates. That shows up the new negative changes to Basic Economy fares for what they really are – an attempt to force people to buy the more expensive fares and not, as the airline would have us believe, a way of guaranteeing overhead space for other passengers.

Bottom Line

JetBlue may have a beautiful-looking new transatlantic Mint product on the way but it still looks every bit like a low-cost carrier that enjoys nickel-and-diming passengers whenever possible.

Be under no illusions, JetBlue isn’t doing anyone any favors here. It has been forced to remove most change/cancellation fees by the actions of its competitors and not through any wish to do the right thing for its customers.

Unlike most of its competitors, however, JetBlue clearly sees this as a zero-sum game so rather than accept the fact that it will simply have to make do with gorging on the extortionate checked bag fees that it loves to charge, it has decided to try to raise more revenue by introducing a policy whose sole aim is to try to force customers to buy a more expensive fare than they otherwise would. That’s not a particularly classy move.

Featured image courtesy of JetBlue