JetBlue’s cheapest tickets are getting cheaper but will come with a major catch: no carry-on bag allowed

JetBlue Airways is shaking up its ticket perks and restrictions, with some changes that will thrill travelers and a major one that will infuriate plenty of passengers.

The biggest news for travelers who book the cheapest fare they find: JetBlue says it is lowering prices on many basic economy tickets to better compete with no-frills discounters like Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant. 

The lower fares will come with a major catch, however. Travelers buying JetBlue’s “Blue Basic” tickets beginning next week will not be allowed to bring a traditional carry-on bag as of July 20. They will only be allowed to bring a small bag that fits underneath the seat. Other bags have to be checked for a fee.

United Airlines has a similar restriction on its basic economy tickets. American and Delta do not. (Southwest Airlines doesn’t have basic economy tickets.) Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant passengers have to pay a fee to bring a full-size carry-on bag on board.

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JetBlue executives said they are adding the carry-on bag ban for basic economy passengers for two reasons. The airline wants to align its restrictions with those of the no-frills carriers and it wants to free up overhead bin space as part of a bold new promise guaranteeing other passengers spots for their carry-on bags.

Beginning July 20, JetBlue will guarantee passengers buying any ticket but a basic economy ticket for flights within the U.S. room for one carry-on in the overhead bins. If the airline runs out of space and a passenger’s bag has to be checked at the gate, the airline said it will issue a $25 travel credit good for one year.

Worries about having enough room for carry-on bags is a top stressor for travelers, with most of JetBlue’s planes only able to accommodate about 60% of passengers’ carry-on bags if everyone brings on a roller bag.

“We’re really excited to be offering this … first-of its-kind in the United States carry-on bag guarantee,” said Dave Clark, JetBlue’s vice president of sales and revenue management. “We think that makes our (standard economy) Blue Fare really strong.”

In a memo to employees about the changes, JetBlue said travelers have enjoyed not having to jockey for overhead bin space during the coronavirus pandemic given less-full planes. U.S. airlines carried 60% fewer passengers in 2020, the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported Tuesday.

“As customers return, we want to hold on to a little of this zen during the boarding process and make overhead bin space an expectation, not a gamble,” the memo says.

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