JetBlue to charge for checked bags

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JetBlue Airways announced Wednesday that it will charge certain customers for their first checked bag, yielding to pressure from analysts who criticized the airline for not adding fees in step with other carriers.

The New York-based airline also said it will add more seats to its fleet of Airbus A320 planes while maintaining leg room for passengers.

The moves reflect how an increasing chunk of airlines’ revenue comes from fees above the fare price and from squeezing more people into planes through seats with thinner backs. In particular, they show that new strategies have landed at JetBlue since it announced two months ago that its president Robin Hayes will take over as chief executive in February, although Hayes has promised to preserve the airline’s culture.

At a presentation to investors on Wednesday, JetBlue discussed its three new fare families, including a discount class that does not come with a free checked bag. The airline estimates this will earn the company about $65 million in 2015 and about $200 million total within several years.

“This was something that the carrier needed to do in order to be more competitive and to close the financial gap with its peers,” S&P Capital IQ analyst Jim Corridore said. “It (had placed) them at a serious competitive disadvantage in an industry where profit margins are very, very low.”

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