Since entering the industry in 2000, jetBlue has gained a hugely loyal fan base by highlighting their much-beloved freebies like extra legroom, free bags, and blue potato chips. But now the airline has changed course, by announcing the reduction of legroom and introduction of bag fees.
Yes, it's true — jetBlue is following the trend set by most other U.S. carriers, by reducing legroom in order to add more seats to the plane. My inside source tells me that on their A320s, seating capacity will be increased from 150 seats to 165. Their economy seat pitch, which was formerly a generous 34 inches (compared to other airlines at 28-32 inches) will be shrunk to 32 inches. Smaller lavatories will also be installed to make the capacity increase possible. While they will still be able to boast "the most leg room in coach," the leg room for their "Even More Space" seats will in fact become narrower than the Economy Plus or Premium Economy of their competitors.
Current jetBlue A320 seats by Angelo DeSantis (Flickr / CC Commercial License)
JetBlue also said they're no longer offering to check your first piece of luggage for free, if you book their cheapest fare. They're adopting a new pricing structure that consists of three fare choices. The cheapest one doesn't get you a free checked bag. This move leaves Southwest as the only carrier in the U.S. offering free checked bags for every passenger, regardless of ticket class or frequent flier status.
The L.A. Times says these changes may be the result of pressure from Wall Street analysts and investors — the same pressure that may have forced CEO David Barger to abdicate his throne at the airline. JetBlue's CFO Mark Powers said, "As we execute this plan and continue to grow, we also seek to drive significantly improved returns for our shareholders."
JetBlue's release says they're keeping their Fly-Fi wifi free, while seeking ways to monetize it through sponsorships. They're still installing Fly-Fi on their Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft, while installation will begin on their Embraer E190s once the Airbus fleet is complete. In another money-saving move, the airline announced they will defer the delivery of 18 planes for six years, in an effort to optimize their fleet and better match capacity with demand.
The moves announced on Wednesday seem to have appealed to shareholders, as jetBlue stock rose 53 cents per share for the day.
Top image by James Wang (Flickr / CC Commercial License)