JetBlue Airways Corp., bowing to rising competitive pressures, will begin offering a no-frills option in the first revamp of its fare categories since they were introduced in 2015.
Customers buying a reduced Blue Basic fare won’t get a refund if they have to cancel, can’t make changes to the reservation and will have to board last — standards that match other airlines for the category. There are no extra fees for a carry-on bag and one personal item.
JetBlue is feeling pressure from ultra-discounters such as Spirit Airlines Inc. and Frontier Airlines, as well as from larger carriers like Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc. that adopted the cheaper, no-extras basic fares several years ago to keep from losing customers to cheaper rivals.
“Over the last few years, it’s become very clear this no-frills basic economy segment has become a larger and larger set of customers,” Dave Clark, JetBlue’s vice president of sales and revenue management, said in an interview. “Not having that offering, we couldn’t compete effectively.”
Blue Basic also will give JetBlue the tools to “more aggressively” drive fares lower, said JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty. The carrier, which plans to begin trans-Atlantic flights in 2021, hasn’t decided whether to offer Blue Basic on those flights, she said.
JetBlue hinted about a year ago that it would begin offering the no-frills fare. Unlike on competitors, the Basic Blue fare will allow passengers to select a seat 24 hours before a flight at no charge. They also will receive the normal on-board amenities like seat-back entertainment screens and free Wi-Fi.
JetBlue offers “bundled” fare categories where the price rises along with the number of options it includes, like free carry-on bags, loyalty points, boarding position and more leg room. The airline will retain its existing Blue fare category, and a new option named Blue Extra will replace Blue Flex, with lower fares, more flexibility to change or cancel reservations and early boarding. A category dubbed Blue Plus will be offered only in limited international markets.
JetBlue plans for the Blue Basic fares to be available on a few routes as early as Tuesday, while Blue Extra will appear on most routes at the same time. Availability will be expanded over the next two months, Geraghty said.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.