JetBlue has unveiled the details of a plan that intends to make no one happy it seems, except investors. Starting in 2015, the company will start charging for the first checked bag for certain fares. Also, by 2016 there will be five percent less legroom as the airline plans to add 15 seats to planes. (Though, at 33.1 inches, that’s still more than some other airlines, JetBlue says.) And there will now be different classes to separate passengers: one at a “basic fare” that wll include that aforementioned baggage fee; and then two higher classes that will include the free bag and other perks (but will cost more for the ticket).
Basically, JetBlue is moving to become more like other airlines, which will impact their messaging. How do you stand out when you’re doing the same thing that other companies do?
JetBlue has been financially surpassed by other airlines that have instituted similar practices in order to maximize profits. Indeed, when this news was announced, “JetBlue shares jumped 4.1% to $13.24 Wednesday in Nasdaq trading, hitting a 52-week high,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
“Overall, U.S. airlines took in almost $1.7 billion in bag fees in the first half, compared with $218 million in the first half of 2007, according to federal data,” the article continues. JetBlue has made far less than its competitors.
The changes were expected; the company’s economic situation hasn’t been increasing the way people would like and there has been a change in leadership. The company’s new president, Robin Hayes, has said that he’s sure customers will be fine with the changes because the baggage fee was already included in the previous fare model. Now, the basic fare won’t have that fee included.
Another exec, Marty St. George, an SVP with the airline, told the Journal, that free checked baggage no longer drove sales anyway.
“As it’s become ubiquitous across the industry, people just sort of expect it,” he said.
In terms of messaging, this is a plus for Southwest, which will now be the only airline to offer a free checked bag. JetBlue also used to include legroom in its ad messaging, so that’s gone. So the question is how they’re going to position themselves in a competitive landscape where so much is the same and there’s so much not to like.
Once these changes go into effect, JetBlue will be a different airline. The company will have to spend some time explaining to passengers why these changes are happening. (Will they come out and say it’s because they simply need to make more money? Probably not.) And they’ll no doubt spend time talking about how customers are actually benefiting from all this. On this, they’ll probably emphasize that prices actually are still in the customer’s favor. Sigh. Do they still hand out those blue chips?