The free ride for checked bags is over on JetBlue. The New York-based carrier officially introduced the JetBlue Fare Families product today, meeting its stated goal of launching in Q2 2015 by the narrowest of margins. Each trip now comes with three choices for the “family” of features customers may wish to purchase, offering different bundled features such as included bags, change fees and more. For passengers buying the “Blue” family with no checked bags it will cost $20 to check that first bag if paid online or an airport kiosk; it will be $25 if paid at the check-in counter.
JetBlue Fare Families
Buying the “Blue Plus” fare family which includes one free checked bag is only $15 more expensive (subject to change/vary, but that’s where it is at now). That fare also comes with a reduced change fee, though it remains non-refundable. For travelers who know they will be flying with a checked bag the Blue Plus fare option is absolutely the correct choice. But that does require the consumer to commit at the time of purchase to knowing that the checked bag is part of their travel plans. If they don’t make the commitment when buying the ticket then there is a $5-10 premium for deciding later that they want to check that bag.
The “Blue Flex” fare family comes with a $100 surcharge (also subject to change/vary) over the basic Blue fare and includes two checked bags and also no change fees, though the fare does remain non-refundable. It also includes access to the Even More Speed priority security line at airports where that is available. In many ways this is the equivalent of buying the Mosaic elite status for a day; the benefits are nearly identical.
It is interesting to note that JetBlue sent an email to all Mosaic members this morning encouraging them to book the “Blue” fares based on the status benefits:
Our suggestion when booking your next flight is to select the Blue fare because as a Mosaic member, you already enjoy many of the benefits in the other fares — free first and second checked bags, 3 bonus points per dollar spent (plus online booking bonus points) and no change or cancel fees. We also recommend the Mint experience when you fly coast-to-coast.
There are 10 markets where even the Blue fare family still includes one free checked bag. The are:
- Santo Domingo
- Port of Spain
- Mexico City
And, just to keep things interesting, there are also fare families on refundable tickets. Which is to say that a refundable fare does not necessarily include a checked bag. The up-charge levels are consistent at the $15/$100 price points for refundable tickets, too.
The bag fees are the same or lower than the other US-based carriers where JetBlue is competing, especially with the online/kiosk discount. The new fare families also represent a lower second bag fee for everyone and reduced change fees from the prior version. Plus Fare Families can be booked differently for each direction of a round trip flight (but not yet on multi-city bookings). Headed on vacation and planning on bringing home lots of souvenirs? The option to pay for Blue Plus only one way is available.
TrueBlue Fare Families
And, as previously promised, passengers buying Blue Plus or Blue Flex fares will also earn more TrueBlue points if the ticket is booked at JetBlue.com. The Blue fare family will continue to earn 3 base points plus 3 bonus points (6 total) per dollar spent. Blue Plus fares will earn 4 bonus points (7 total) and Blue Flex will earn 5 bonus points (8 total) per dollar.
Still on the TrueBlue front, award tickets also come with the three different fare family options. The base points price is still variable based on the underlying fare and whatever other quirks the JetBlue algorithms put in place (my sample JFK-Syracuse flight ranged from 1.48-2.02 cents/point value) but the Fare Family premiums are fixed. Going from Blue to Blue Plus is 1,100 points and Blue to Blue Flex is 7,400 points. The point value for these upgrades is about 1.35 cents which is not tremendous, but there’s no way to mix-and-match cash and points so overall it is what it is. Buying Blue Plus of Blue Flex with points will reduce the overall value of your points in most cases but it may still be the smart decision based on bag fees and such. If you look at the trade-off of 1,100 point for one checked bag fee at $20 the value jumps up to 1.8cpp which is at the high end of the TrueBlue range.
Overall the introduction of Fare Families looks to be exactly what the company promised. And reducing some of the other fees along the way is a nice “give” to balance out the “take” of adding the first bag fee at all. Now to see what impact it has on the bottom line and also on the in-cabin experience. After all, the overhead bins were already starting to get a bit crowded.
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