JetBlue Airways is looking for all the ways it can maximize revenue.
Over the past few days, the New York-based carrier rolled out a new seat-assignment fee, dubbed “Core Preferred,” on all its flights.
This new fee is for aisle and window seat assignments in more favorable locations on the plane, such as those in front of the exit row.
Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free biweekly Aviation newsletter.
These seats aren’t different from the regular JetBlue economy experience; the only upgrade is that you are closer to the front of the plane.
There doesn’t seem to be any other benefit to splurging for one of these seats aside from the preferred location and being able to deplane faster.
All JetBlue Mosaic elite members can assign these seats for free. A look at some sample routes shows that these new Core Preferred seats start from $10 for a Boston-to-Los Angeles flight, $21 for a New York-to-West Palm Beach flight and up to $49 on a New York-to-Paris flight.
As you can see, the price doesn’t seem to be correlated with distance, which is similar to JetBlue’s new strategy for selling Even More Space seats based on more in-demand flights.
This new fee is separate from JetBlue’s existing Even More Space offering, which includes up to seven inches of additional legroom, early boarding and priority security.
Reward your inbox with the TPG Daily newsletter
Join over 700,000 readers for breaking news, in-depth guides and exclusive deals from TPG’s experts
New and improved: Take a tour of JetBlue’s brand-new A321neo Mint business class
Core Preferred seats have an average 32 inches of pitch and feature seatback TVs, as well as power outlets and USB ports on most planes.
If only paid seat assignments are available on your flight, JetBlue will provide you with a complimentary seat during check-in or at the airport.
In explaining the move, a carrier spokesperson shared that “the introduction of preferred seating, in line with many other airlines, allows us to continue to offer our low fares and great service, while making progress toward returning to profitability.”
This new fee isn’t necessarily a revolution in the industry. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have long charged extra for preferred seats in more favorable locations; even JetBlue’s ultra-low-cost competitors charge higher prices for seats closer to the front of the plane.
Of course, for passengers, this new fee is no doubt a devaluation of the JetBlue experience, especially for those who usually book far in advance and have gotten used to getting their pick of the best seats.
Though this move was likely in the works for a while, it comes as JetBlue seems to be laser-focused on maximizing revenues and “closing the gap” on product offerings, as incoming CEO Joanna Geraghty said on the company’s recent fourth-quarter earnings calls.
The company’s takeover of Spirit Airlines was recently blocked, and the carrier continues to underperform financially relative to the broader aviation industry.
Plus, with the upcoming CEO transition, JetBlue is at a pivotal moment for defining its strategy for the upcoming years.
However, one thing is clear: This new Core Preferred seat assignment likely isn’t the only change coming to JetBlue’s fares and products.
“We think there are potentially additional product offerings we could introduce that tap into a broader spectrum of customers,” Geraghty said.