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JetBlue To Include Full-Size Carry-Ons in Basic Fares

The new policy for the cheapest fares will be effective at the end of the summer season.

A JetBlue Airbus A321 (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

As the airline industry in the U.S. is gearing up for its busiest summer on record, some good news for budget-conscious travelers arrived from JetBlue. The New York-based carrier has decided its carry-on policy for customer traveling on their cheapest fares (Basic Blue).

For all flights departing on Sept. 6, 2024 onwards, customers who have purchased Basic Blue fares will be allowed to carry onboard a full-size standard carry-on (22” x 14” x 9”) in addition to a personal item (17” x 13” x 8”).

“Carry-on bags are an important part of travel to customers, and when presented with a choice between JetBlue’s award-winning service and another carrier’s basic offering, we want JetBlue to be the easy winner,” said Marty St. George, President of JetBlue, in a press release. “We’re always looking for ways to evolve our offering in response to customer preferences. This is a win-win as we improve the customer experience and keep JetBlue competitive in our industry.”

A Departure from the ULCC Model

During the past few years, all full-service and hybrid carriers have introduced a new family of fares to compete with ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit or Frontier for the business of the most price-sensitive customers, those who just look for the cheapest fare, no matter what the level of service is. In order to do that, these fares have been stripped of most features, like the ability to collect frequent flier miles, the possibility to change or cancel the trip, or the option to select a seat at check-in.

Some carriers also decided to reduce the carry-on allowance by limiting those passengers to a small personal item: United Airlines and, until now, JetBlue, were among those, while the other two big U.S. network carriers, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, did not go that far and still allowed all customers, regardless of the fare purchased, to carry onboard a full-size carry-on bag.

The creation of a new fare family offering a product very similar to what ULCCs provide stemmed from the need to be competitively positioned in the ‘price grid,’ the most common output of a price search in most comparison websites. JetBlue is now departing from this approach, focusing on the concept of “value” rather than trying to match the lowest fare at all costs.

Is the ‘Small Backpack’ World Starting to Collapse?

At least in the U.S., a reality where it is considered normal to travel thousands of miles from home just with the clothes on one’s back and a small personal item fitting under the seat in front, could soon be confined to the ULCC arena if United decides to follow JetBlue’ decision.

In Europe, the big low-cost carriers Ryanair, Wizz Air, and easyJet have taken the concept one step forward by revenue managing bag fees based on demand. Traveling with a full-size carry-on or checking a bag does not have a set price any longer, but its cost varies depending on the destination, the day and time of the flight, and based on the time of booking, just like with seats.

Adding a carry-on or a suitcase to a booking can double or triple the cost of a trip, with permitted sizes varying considerably between one carrier and another, to the point that the European Parliament is considering a specific regulation to eliminate extra charges for hand baggage “on condition that such hand baggage meets reasonable requirements in terms of its weight and dimensions, and complies with applicable security requirements.”

The U.S. environment is usually more inclined to let the market decide the appropriate level of service, but this decision by JetBlue could be the first step towards a return to a still recent past.

Vanni Gibertini


  • Vanni Gibertini

    Vanni fell in love with commercial aviation during his undergraduate studies in Statistics at the University of Bologna, when he prepared his thesis on the effects of deregulation on the U.S. and European aviation markets. Then he pursued his passion further by obtaining a Master’s Degree in Air Transport Management at Cranfield University in the U.K. followed by holding several management positions at various start-up carriers in Europe (Jet2, SkyEurope, Silverjet). After moving to Canada, he was Business Development Manager for IATA for nine years before turning to his other passion: sports writing.

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