JetBlue Basic Economy Has Arrived: What You Need To Know

by Chris Dong

And then there was just one.

While it was expected to happen, it’s still sad when an airline joins the basic economy bandwagon. JetBlue just announced the launch of their version of the universally-loathed basic economy fare. JetBlue is calling it “Blue Basic” and it will be available for bookings starting today (lucky you!), with a rollout across their entire route network in 2020.

That leaves Southwest Airlines as the sole holdout in the US that doesn’t have a basic economy-like fare.

Here’s what you can expect with JetBlue’s new Blue Basic fares and overall fare structure changes.

First, What’s The Outrage Over Basic Economy?

Citi ThankYou Reserve to JetBlue transfer points

If you haven’t heard flown on a US airline for the last five or so years, you’ve might have actually missed that basic economy has taken the industry by storm.

JetBlue, like the other airlines that have a basic economy fare, love to emphasize that by offering a new fare class, they are providing customers with a new low cost choice that is stripped of benefits. Don’t need seat selection or don’t care about boarding last? Only care about price? Great, book our new basic economy, every airline says.

But that’s just marketing spin. Fares aren’t actually getting lower. In most cases (there’s always exceptions), airlines are just making basic economy the new normal everyday price that was available before as a regular economy ticket (that had some benefits).

As consumers, we’re supposed to trust an airline that they’ll actually reduce their ticket prices with basic economy. But that’s not happening.

A Basic Economy Pricing Fallacy Example

Take this example that I found when Alaska Airlines introduced their basic economy fare called “Saver.”

Right before Alaska introduced “Saver,” a standard economy ticket was $69 between Seattle and Oakland on AS370.

Less than 12 hours later when “Saver” was actually implemented online, I searched again for the same flights. Same date, same time. Lo and behold, “Saver” didn’t lower the fare, it just made the Main fare (standard economy) more expensive by $30.

To be fair, Alaska and JetBlue didn’t actually say they were reducing fares with basic economy — but their websites and press releases basically imply that.

Airlines are influencing consumer behavior since they want you to pay up from the lowest fare class. That’s how they’re making money on these changes — keep prices the same (and not decrease them).

This is particularly true for elites who want to make use of their status. They’d pay more for the chance to be upgraded, etc.

The whole concept of basic economy is deceptive, but it’s working for the airlines so on it goes.

JetBlue’s Five Fare Types

Frankly, I find JetBlue’s fare structure unnecessarily complicated. Besides introducing Blue Basic fares, they have renamed Blue Flex fares to Blue Extra. Then, there’s the already existing Blue fare, Blue Plus fare, and Mint. To make things even more confusing, not all fare classes will be available in all markets and are based on factors like demand, dates, etc.

The Five JetBlue Fare Classes (From Most Restrictive To Least)

  • Blue Basic
  • Blue
  • Blue Plus
  • Blue Extra
  • Mint

For example, Blue Plus fares, which include a checked bag, will primarily only be available in Latin American markets. Oddly, Blue Extra fares don’t include a checked bag.

Here’s a breakdown of the five different fares.

What Is Included On All JetBlue Fares

JetBlue is quick to say that no matter what fare you purchase, you’ll get your snacks, seatback entertainment, free WiFi, and a full-size carry on.

JetBlue Blue Basic Fares: What To Know

  • You won’t be able to change or cancel your tickets at all.
  • You can’t make a same day change or standby.
  • You’ll board last (unless you buy an Even More Space seat)
  • You can only select seat assignments prior to check-in for a fee.
  • You’ll earn two TrueBlue points per dollar spent on JetBlue airfare directly through JetBlue (compared to the usual six points for all other fare types). You’ll earn just one TrueBlue point per dollar if you booked elsewhere.

What About JetBlue Elite Benefits For Blue Basic?

JetBlue Mosaic elites won’t be happy with these changes, but it’s basically in line with how airlines like American treat their elites when they buy basic economy.

  • Mosaic elites still get free 2 checked bags on JetBlue-operated flights
  • Mosaic elites can still use their priority boarding privileges
  • Mosaic elites still have many of the same restrictions as everyone else — you can’t cancel or change flights, no same day changes or standby, still have to pay for seat selection
  • Mosaics elites can’t use TrueBlue points to upgrade seats

The Upshot

JetBlue has finally joined the basic economy bandwagon with similar restrictions to the competition.

While “Blue Basic” doesn’t seem to be any worse than American, Delta, and certainly not United’s version (which doesn’t allow a full-size carry-on), this is still not good news for flyers. The illusion of more choice for consumers is only padding the airline’s bottom line.

Related: JetBlue Adds More Entertainment In Push For Multi-Screen Experience

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