In the ever-evolving landscape of airline fees, JetBlue Airways has recently made a notable addition to its revenue strategy with the introduction of "Core Preferred" seat fees, adding another layer to the payment tiers for airline seats. This move reflects broader trends in the airline industry as carriers seek to maximize revenue streams beyond traditional ticket sales.
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JetBlue's latest fee
JetBlue's Core Preferred seat fee offers passengers the opportunity to secure aisle and window seats in prime locations on the plane, such as closer to the front. However, the upgrade does not include any significant changes to the overall flight experience besides seat location.
Prices for these seats vary, ranging from around $10 to $49 depending on the route.
Seat fees: the new baggage fees
Baggage fees, which were once the primary gripe for travelers, will now take a backseat to seat fees as larger airlines like JetBlue join the bandwagon.
JetBlue is the latest among major airliners to start incorporating tiered-seating payments. Spirit Airlines is one of the more famous airlines to do this, marketed as a discount airline but then charging passengers for almost every extra add-on beyond the ticket including seat selection, carry-ons, and refreshments.
Many travelers believe these fees are deceptive as passengers book tickets based on prices displayed at the beginning of booking. For example, a flight from New York to Boston might read as $300 when searching on Google or various travel sites, but with added seat fees and taxes the ticket might ring up closer to $500.
With the total revenue generated from seat fees among eight major US airline carriers estimated at $4.2 billion in 2022, it's clear that these charges have become a cornerstone of airline profitability.
Types of seat fees
Airlines employ various types of seat fees to cater to different passenger preferences and travel needs. These may include fees for extra legroom, preferred seating closer to the front of the plane, or specific amenities such as seatback TVs and power outlets.
Understanding the different fee structures can help passengers navigate their options more effectively. Oftentimes there are ticket options that allow passengers to pay a little more upfront to have the luxury to select whatever seat they like from the time of booking and even in the event of a cancellation.
However, the new fees have many travelers feeling stuck. Should a passenger not select their seats, in many cases their tickets can be forfeited in the event of an overbooking. Purchasing a seat selection gives passengers an added level of security that they will be on their flight — but at a premium.
Also, while purchasing a seat might bump you up in the get-the-boot hierarchy, it does not guarantee anything. Sometimes, airlines randomly choose who will be punted off a flight due to their own clerical errors. That said, those paying for first class and premium economy are likely in the clear.
Is there anything flyers can do?
While seat fees may seem unavoidable, there are strategies passengers can use to mitigate their impact. Some airlines offer free seat selection with elite status or as part of higher-priced fare tiers.
Travelers can look into certain credit cards that have alliances with airlines to receive extra points/miles or make sure to sign up for each airline’s benefits system before traveling. Here are some top travel credit cards.
Additionally, passengers can explore alternative seating options during the check-in process if paid assignments are not their preference.
JetBlue's introduction of Core Preferred seat fees is indicative of broader industry trends aimed at maximizing revenue potential. Seat fees have emerged as a significant source of revenue for airlines, rivaling the once-dominant baggage fees. As airlines continue to innovate their fee structures, passengers should stay informed and explore their options to make the most of their travel experience. While seat fees may be an unavoidable aspect of modern air travel, understanding the landscape can empower passengers to navigate with confidence and make informed decisions to save money.
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