JetBlue is adding an irksome catch to its cheapest category of plane tickets.
Any customer who books a basic economy fare—dubbed "Blue Basic" by JetBlue—for travel after July 20 will not be allowed to board the plane with a carry-on bag. A small personal item that fits under the seats is still permitted, but the overhead bins are off-limits for basic economy passengers.
They'll be required to pay a fee of $65 to check a carry-on bag at the gate.
Frommer's reached out to JetBlue for clarification on how the policy will be enforced, but we haven't heard back as of this writing.
The airline will want to make sure it has plenty of overhead bin space, however, because the company has also made a nervy new promise that travelers in all other ticket categories are guaranteed room in the cabin for their carry-ons. If the overhead bins are full, you'll get a $25 credit valid for 12 months.
Among U.S. airlines with basic economy fares, United also charges extra for overhead bin space. American initially had a similar policy but later dropped it. Delta has always allowed a carry-on with a basic economy ticket.
According to USA Today, JetBlue, which introduced its basic category in 2018, is making the carry-on change in part to compete with no-frills budget carriers such as Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit, which rank high in internet searches thanks to low starting rates. Then, to make up revenue, those airlines pile on fees for features and services that used to come standard with air travel—such as access to overhead bins.
JetBlue once cultivated a reputation for avoiding such measures, eschewing bag fees altogether and striving for an affordable yet elevated experience.
But the airline has embraced the nickel-and-dime approach of late.
Right before the pandemic, JetBlue raised checked baggage fees to what remains an industry high of $35 for the first bag. Most other U.S. carriers are still at $30 (shout out to Southwest for the old-school generosity of allowing two free checked bags per passenger).
At the time of JetBlue's baggage fee increase, Frommer's lamented that the airline was ceding its claim to being a "customer service maverick" that tailored policies "in anticipation of passenger wishes."
As if clinging to its consumer-friendly image, JetBlue's announcement of its new carry-on policy underscores the low starting rate for Blue Basic fares and plays up the added confidence that other flyers will have knowing their hand luggage will fit in the compartments over their heads. Sounds like spin to us.
There is some good news in the announcement, though: Following in the footsteps of other major U.S. airlines, JetBlue is permanently getting rid of change and cancellation fees—except, of course, for Blue Basic tickets.
Most carriers don't allow changes or cancellations with basic economy tickets even with a fee, but JetBlue will allow those bookings to be altered for $100 for U.S. flights and $200 for international trips.
For further details on fares and fees, visit JetBlue.com.