Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Now, Southwest Airlines is the only holdout – JetBlue begins charging for the first bag

It took seven years for us to get to this point, but there’s now only one major airline that doesn’t charge customers for the first checked bag – Southwest Airlines.

JetBlue Airways is implementing its three-tier fare system that charges a bag fee to people buying the cheapest fare. Higher priced fares allow at least one free checked bag.

This practice of charging for checked bags began back in February 2008 when United Airlines announced it would charge for a second checked bag. In May 2008, American Airlines upped the game by announcing a charge for the first checked bag as well.

Over time, every major airline, with Southwest as the exception, has implemented charges on the first and second checked bag.

JetBlue was a holdout on the first checked bag. But it is rolling out a new fare structure that doesn’t provide a free checked bag to customers who choose the cheapest fare.

In the cheapest fare class, Blue, customers get no free checked bag. The next step up, Blue Plus, allows one free bag. Blue Flex allows two free bags.

We took a look at what that would mean for North Texas travelers for a trip between Dallas/Fort Worth and Boston leaving July 31. On a late morning departure, a Blue ticket cost $247, a Blue Plus ticket cost $262 and a Blue Flex ticket cost $347.

So a ticket that includes the cost of a checked bag was $15 more expensive. On a return flight Aug. 8, Blue cost $212 and Blue Plus cost $226 – a $14 difference.

If a traveler bought a Blue ticket and then checked a bag, it would cost $20 if paid on line or at a kiosk or $25 if paid at the ticket counter. The second checked bag would cost $35.

“Fare options will provide our customers the choice between three branded fares, with the first designed for customers we do not plan to check a bag,” JetBlue executive vice president Martin J. St. George told analysts on JetBlue’s first quarter earnings call April 28.

“By 2017, we expect fare options to improve annual operating income by at least $200 million,” St. George said.

Bag fees collected during first quarter 2015, including fees for the third bag and beyond, oversized bags and bags that need special handling (in millions).

RankAirlineBag fees
4US Airways$119.7
11Virgin America$13.2
13Sun Country$5.4
14Island Air Hawaii$0.9

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics

(Terry Maxon  - The Dallas Morning News)

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