JetBlue Is Said To Be Raising Baggage Fees. Are American and United Next?

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

It’s as inevitable as a Tesla with a personalized license plate.

Fuel prices are going up, so airlines will raise their own prices. One way or another.

Raising fares seems the obvious thing to do. And some airline executives are nothing if not obvious. 

But putting a big number up front can be offputting.

Baggage fees are the obvious place to start. 

Some might have suspected that American Airlines would be the first to offer them a little hike and give the excuse that no one checks a bag anymore.

Yet troubling news emerged today that it’s looking like JetBlue.

Emily McNutt at the Points Guy says employees have already been forewarned that baggage fees will go up to $30. For the first bag, that is.

That’s compared to the current $25, which is the favored number of American, United and Delta. (Southwest remains staunchly opposed to this form of nickel-and-diming.)

Those vindictive change fees? Well, the current JetBlue change fee of $150 — for fares above $200 — is going up to, oh, $200.

Just as painful — or perhaps more — is the new change fee for JetBlue’s Mint Class.

Currently, if you change your flight more than 60 days in advance, the fee is $75. Within 60 days, it’s $150.

Now, the memo says that, regardless of the timeframe, it’ll be $200.

I asked JetBlue to please, please say it isn’t so.

Doug McGraw, the airline’s vice president of corporate communications, told me: “We aren’t able to comment on rumors regarding fee changes.” 

Which isn’t a no. And may be a portent of increasing darkness.

In its second quarter results, JetBlue bemoaned fuel prices going up 40 percent year on year.

Many of its rivals, those who love money slightly more than, say, customer service, are enduring the same circumstance.

Of course, one reason the bigger airlines haven’t yet raised these infernal fees is that they want smaller airlines like JetBlue to suffer more first. 

I suspect there’s a hope among the most venal of executives at the likes of American and United that smaller, more budget-oriented airlines will feel an excessive amount of pinch leading to severe amounts of pain.

Indeed, Doug Parker, American’s CEO admitted not long ago that the more budget-oriented airlines are likely to suffer more from higher fuel prices.

This might lead to the bigger airlines getting more business without even trying, something of which they’re quite fond.

Perhaps, then, the likes of American, United and Delta will hold off upsetting passengers for some time yet.

I fear, though, that $30 will quickly become the new norm. 

And to think it was once $0.

Please allow me to offer more darkness.

Are the days of variable baggage fees — depending, say, on the time of day — that far away?

And then there are the additional fees increasingly being charged for seemingly every single seat in the plane — United being the latest example

Finding actual, rather than perceived, value in airline fares will become all the harder.

Which is just how the big airlines like it. 

Carol Humphreys