New JetBlue Refundable Fares and other observations

George Hobica, January 29, 2008
Fares from Washington DC:
    JetBlue this week began offering new refundable fares through their website and third-party partners. This new option provides additional flexibility to people who want the ability to change or cancel their travel plans without penalty. This comes on the heels of Southwest’s launch of their “Business” and “Business Select” classes of service in November which also allow for ticket changes and refunds. JetBlue appears to be playing a bit of catch-up in this space.

    JetBlue allows unlimited changes to the ticket without penalty as well as a full refund at any time prior to the flight’s departure. If you miss your flight and do not notify the airline, you will receive a full credit for the cost of the flight to be used at a future date within one year.

    This appears to be a positive development, but in investigating the new fare structure, has noticed that travelers need to carefully compare their options when considering the new refundable fares.

    For example, we checked prices on flights from West Palm Beach to New York, JFK on a Friday in March and found that JetBlue’s everyday fare was $99-$119 each way, while the refundable fare for the same flight was priced at $399 each way. That’s up to four times the cost for the added flexibility, which is quite steep.

    However, when we checked prices for New York, JFK to West Palm on the same Friday, prices ranged from $204 to $324 at their everyday fare vs. the same $399 for the refundable fare. In this instance, the price premium was not as great and may be worth the added cost for the additional flexibility.

    We recommend doing your homework and comparing the lowest available JetBlue fares with the new refundable fares before booking. Depending on your specific situation and the prevailing fares at the time of booking, the new refundable fares may or may not be an option worth pursuing.

    One final note on JetBlue’s fares… We have noticed that when booking two or more passengers, *some* JetBlue flights drop in price as much as $15 each way. When we checked flights from West Palm Beach to New York, JFK on March 14, we noticed that the lowest fare when booking one passenger was $99 each way, while the lowest fare shown for two or more passengers was $84 each way. We have noticed this before, and it seems to be a nuance of JetBlue’s reservation system, although it’s never been officially documented anywhere to our knowledge. Yet one more thing to keep in mind when comparison shopping for airfare.