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JetBlue Adds Checked Bag Fees and More Seats, Loses Legroom

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In a move designed to satisfy its shareholders rather than its customers, JetBlue will soon begin charging checked bag fees, and in mid-2016, will begin adding more seats to its popular Airbus A320s. Having seen the success, however controversial, of budget carriers who charge individual fees for everything from carry-on bags to seat assignments, JetBlue projects that both of these combined changes will eventually raise more than $300 million a year in added revenue.

Once JetBlue introduces its new fees, Southwest will be the only U.S. airline that doesn’t regularly charge fees for checked baggage.

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JetBlue will begin charging checked baggage fees in 2015, and add 15 seats per plane to their A320s in 2016.

At present, JetBlue doesn’t charge for the first checked bag, but charges $40 for the second. In the first half of 2015, JetBlue will roll out a new system of three fare bundle options, similar to Choice Fares from American Airlines. JetBlue’s basic fare won’t include the option of checking a bag for free, while the other two fare types will include the option to check one or two bags, respectively, and will offer bonus TrueBlue points and increased flexibility. The airline hasn’t yet specified an exact launch date or the added cost of these new fares, which will fluctuate according to routes and demand.

JetBlue's TrueBlue Mosaic loyalty program allows you to check your first and second bags for free.
Membership in JetBlue’s TrueBlue Mosaic program allows you to check your first and second bags for free.

Note that JetBlue’s loyalty program, TrueBlue Mosaic, gives you two free checked bags, while additional bags cost $75-100 each, depending on the weight. Meanwhile, the JetBlue American Express Card offers a decent sign-up bonus (20,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of cardmembership, which is worth up to $340 according to my October valuations) and perks like 50% off select in-flight purchases, but it doesn’t waive checked baggage fees.

Despite decreasing seat pitch from 34.7 o 33.1, JetBlue's seat additions will still leave it with the most legroom in coach of any U.S. carrier.
According to this chart, though JetBlue’s seat additions will decrease its seat pitch, they’ll still have the most legroom in coach of any U.S. carrier.

Following JetBlue’s recent and popular refresh of their Airbus A321 fleet, the airline will begin to retrofit its Airbus A320 fleet in mid-2016, adding 15 more coach seats to each plane, for a total of 165 instead of the current 150. JetBlue describes these new seats as slimmer, lighter and more comfortable, and though packing more of them onto each plane will knock back the average seat pitch in the JetBlue Core Experience from 34.7 to 33.1 inches, the airline says they’ll still have the most legroom in coach on any U.S. carrier.

JetBlue’s new coach seats on the A320 will have larger, 10-inch seat-back screens offering 100+ channels of DirecTV, and additional changes to these planes will include power ports at every seat, as well as new lighting and lavatories.

JetBlue has found recent success with innovations like its Fly-Fi onboard wireless access and Mint Business class.
JetBlue has found recent success with innovations like its Fly-Fi wireless access and Mint business class.

JetBlue has had success with its most recent expansions and improvements, which will continue through 2015. The airline will continue to expand its new Mint business class, which features 80-inch lie-flat seats (the longest  in the industry). I enjoyed my first Mint experience flying from JFK to LAX in October, shortly before the launch of the new service to SFO. By the first half of 2015, JetBlue’s entire Airbus A320 and A321 fleet is expected to be outfitted for Fly-Fi, the carrier’s branded in-flight, high-speed wireless Internet service, with installation set to begin soon thereafter on the airline’s EMBRAER 190s.

Will JetBlue’s new bag fees and seat additions change your mind about flying the carrier in the future?