In an effort to compete with ultra-low cost airlines, Delta introduced basic economy fares in 2015: no seat selection, no overhead bin storage, no snacks. In the years since, United and American airlines have joined the bare bones trend. And now, according to a report from Airline Weekly, JetBlue is “closely studying the implications of basic economy fares that the Big Three are now offering.”
This is not to say that the airline has any immediate plans to bring basic economy to its planes, however “it could quickly do so,” according to the report.
JetBlue was long an airline known for its “egalitarian” seating, but in 2014 the airline introduced Mint, its first premium cabin, thus eliminating its one-class-fits-all approach.
And in a step toward basic economy, JetBlue presently offers “Blue” fares, which do not include a checked bag. It wouldn't be take too much to transition the “Blue” fare into a basic fare.
No matter how unpopular with travelers, basic economy fares are likely here to stay. At a press conference in October 2017, Delta Air Lines president Glen Hauenstein told reporters that his airline gauged the success of the product by how many people chose not to buy it. “Our sell-up [from basic economy] continues to remain high and I think that’s the key part,” he said.
If JetBlue did introduce basic economy fares, that would leave Southwest as the only major airline that didn’t offer the reduced fare class. However, because Southwest doesn’t assign seating, it can make money in other ways. (Last year, the airline made more than $358 million in fees from its “early bird check-in” service.)
Executives at Alaska Airlines (newly merged with Virgin America) also said last month that the airline was considering introducing basic economy fares.