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JetBlue responds; folded bikes can now fly free

Posted by on January 8th, 2009 at 9:24 am

“Our bicycle policy has now been updated to reflect that customers traveling with a folding bikes in a bag that fits within the standard checked bag weights and dimensions will not be charged the Bike fee and will be treated like any checked bag.”
— Morgan Johnston, manager of corporate communications for JetBlue

Yesterday we shared the story of Carl Larson, a BTA staffer who was irked when he was charged a $50 fee by JetBlue airlines simply because he had a foldable bike in a piece of luggage.

The story traveled around the web and was noticed yesterday evening by someone at JetBlue. Then, a few minutes ago I got a response via email from Morgan Johnston, JetBlue’s manager of corporate communications:

Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for helping to bring this to our attention. We pride ourselves on our customer service and when we’re faced with a situation where policy doesn’t make sense in practice, we’re always ready to correct or clarify. On reading your article, and Carl’s post on BTA4Bikes.org I reached out to our Airports team to address the policy which lacked the definition needed to accommodate situations ‘outside the norm’ such as customers traveling with folding bikes.

Our bicycle policy has now been updated to reflect that Customers traveling with a folding bikes in a bag that fits within the standard checked bag weights and dimensions (62 inches in overall dimensions and 50 pounds in weight — see our baggage requirements here) will not be charged the Bike fee and will be treated like any checked bag.

Thank you again for helping us keep JetBlue attentive to the needs of our customers.

Morgan Johnston
Manager Corporate Communications
JetBlue Airways

I asked Mr. Johnston when customers could reasonably expect the new policy update to appear in the checked baggage requirements page on their website and to trickle down to JetBlue staffers. He said a memo went to out all airport crewmembers this morning and that “both internal and external documentation will reflect the change within 24 hours.”

Now that’s a responsive company. Less than 24 hours to notice an issue, address it, and then communicate their decision. Well done JetBlue. And well done (and thank you!) Carl Larson for taking the time to follow-up on this.

See folks, there’s no need to lie (which is what many readers said Carl should have done) when you have a legitimate grievance. This is also a great reminder that one person (with a bit of publicity of course) can make a difference.

UPDATE: Carl Larson wrote in to tell us that his $50 fee has been refunded.

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Comments
  • chuck January 8, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Hey, look at that. one person can make a difference. :)

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  • Val January 8, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Good deal – now how about all the other airlines? The French bike maker Lapierre makes a full size folding mountain bike that comes with its own bag. Straight from the factory, the bag is labelled: “Handle with care – 26″ bike parts inside”. A very nice touch, I thought, as most airlines will allow “parts”, but not a “complete bike”. It would be nice if sneaky strategies like this were unnecessary. As I understand it, no one gets hit with a surcharge for golf clubs, so why bikes?

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  • RJ January 8, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Hip, hip, HOORAY!

    Cheers to that!

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  • velocipede January 8, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Looks like it wasn’t a waste of time after all, eh?

    Nice work Carl and Jonathan. And thanks to JetBlue for being responsive to your customers. I promise not to call you GougeYou anymore.

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  • K'Tesh January 8, 2009 at 9:45 am

    wow!!!!

    Way to go guys! Thanks JetBlue for listening!

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  • Steve January 8, 2009 at 9:45 am

    I didn’t see any mention of a refund of Carl’s $50.

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  • alex January 8, 2009 at 9:58 am

    That is great. I am glad to hear JetBlue did the right thing and I have a little more respect for them now….

    Great job with this

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  • Carl January 8, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Thanks, Jonathan, for the publicity and to those who offered to write in.

    And to all those folks who lied their way through this situation in the past and then took the time to smugly comment about it online…it’s exciting to think what could happen if you directed that energy less cynically. You might’ve saved me some hassle at JFK.

    I got the $50 back, too.

    The same woman who responded to both of my emails called me this morning to inform me that they’d decided to change the policy and that the fee had been reversed. I definitely got lucky with this one but it’s restored some of my faith in customer service.

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  • Kevin January 8, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Wow. It’s great to see a company responding to customer concerns in such a quick and friendly manner.

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  • shawn. January 8, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Go Carl!

    Now I really want to see bahueh’s response to this.

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  • Jay January 8, 2009 at 10:12 am

    good news, but the wording still isn’t fantastic. It still distinguishes that the within-regulation free-check bag is a bike bag. They should word it so that it’s just like… “meh, it’s in size in weight, so long as there aren’t 8-balls in it, good deal”.

    ie, take “bike” out of the whole situation. my 2c.

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  • Caroline January 8, 2009 at 10:16 am

    So from now on when I have sporting equipment in my bag I’m going to call it a “folded bike.” ;)

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  • bahueh January 8, 2009 at 10:20 am

    well…I stand corrected.

    happy shawn?

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  • DT January 8, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Wow. I’m pretty impressed with how this whole thing shook out!

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  • beth h January 8, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Impressive.

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  • Paul Tay January 8, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Folding bikes roll free on Greyhound. And, they have way better class of passengers. :-P

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  • Pete January 8, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Thanks JetBlue! Now, if more airlines were like you, we wouldn’t need things like this:

    http://www.windwizards.com/dekiforki.html

    I only wish my last issue with Continental went this well. Any chance you’ll start flying to Brownsville??

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  • Ian Stude January 8, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Many kudos to Carl & Jonathan. Thanks for being such positive and focused bike advocates. These are the kinds of small changes that add up to truly shifting a culture. Much respect.

    Thanks also to JetBlue for responding quickly and appropriately.

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  • Zaphod January 8, 2009 at 11:22 am

    If find myself on a Jet Blue route, I’ll choose them whether I’ve got a bike with me or not.

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  • Anonymous January 8, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Out of curiocity, how many other blogs and media outlets did this story hit. It would be an interesting exercise to map it along a time frame. Essentially, it would help one understand the disemination of an idea.

    Got to love the internet age.

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  • Lillian Karabaic January 8, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Good job, Carl.

    I’m still going to take the Amtrak when I travel. It’s hard to beat the lower energy use, superior customer service, great views, comfortable accommodations, and free folding bike *carry-on*. And only 10 bucks to check a full-sized bike.
    I’ll take that leg room, thank you.

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  • Scott Mizée January 8, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Wow! Thank you Jet Blue! And thank you Carl & Jonathan! It’s great to see GOOD NEWS stories like this. …and that it happened in such a short time frame is amazing! I really have to give Kudos to Morgan Johnston and the Jet Blue staff.

    I saw on a billboard just a couple of days ago that Jet Blue added a direct rout from Portland to San Diego. If I ever have the need to fly down there or to NYC, I’ll definitely check them out!

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  • Carl January 8, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    You’re absolutely right, Lillian. Amtrak, though hardly dependable, rocks. I took Amtrak OUT to the east coast on this most recent trip and nobody said a word about the bike (which didn’t need to be boxed and was a great tool for cruising around Chicago during my stopover). I would much rather travel by train to the extent that I’m considering moving back east where it’s easier to get around that way.

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  • revphil January 8, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    bikes are art. jet blue doesnt (didn’t?) charge for art.

    i want to see more national bike orgs make a stink about this.

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  • CMark January 8, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Thank you Carl Larson! And kudos to Jonathan Maus for providing an excellent example of the ‘power of the press’ when it is exercised via the internet in an open and freely conducted forum. This is grassroots activism at its best.

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  • Andy B from Jersey January 8, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Good! Now I can consider flying JetBlue again (not that ever have before but now I will consider doing business with them).

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • kww January 8, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Good news, I felt that JetBlue seemed more reasonable than other airlines, and this is proof. It is pleasure flying them, the extra seat space for anyone over 6 feet tall is great, and so is the free email.

    I wonder though, how will the penny farthing riders be affected…

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  • Icarus Falling January 9, 2009 at 12:29 am

    Now Carl,

    You should know that when they ask you what is in the box, you do not tell them it is a bicycle.

    Then you do no get charged for a bicycle.

    I thought this was common knowledge, but I guess it is not.

    That is why I own a Bailey Works messenger duffle.

    And the reason everyone wants to borrow it for trips.

    It is not a box, and you do not have to explain what is in it.

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  • GlowBoy January 9, 2009 at 1:12 am

    Wow, great work! But as Val (#2) said, what about all the other airlines? It’s common knowledge that most airlines will ding you for a bike even if it’s not oversize if they know you have a bike in your bag. The trick is not to lie about what is in your luggage (a VERY bad idea in the post-9/11 world). “Exercise equipment” works and not a lie.

    Amtrak’s all well and good for short haul trips up and down the west coast, but I’m glad guys like Carl are making change at the airlines. Amtrak (36 hours each way) is not a great choice for traveling with my 3 year old to the midwest, let alone the east coast, and works out even worse if you attempt to use it to travel to Japan or Europe.

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  • Jessica Roberts January 9, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Contact email address to thank them? Anyone?

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  • bDave January 9, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Go Bootycarl!

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) January 9, 2009 at 10:17 am

    “Contact email address to thank them? Anyone?”

    Well, Mr. Johnston said he’s enjoying reading these comments, so I’m sure thanks left here will get noticed…

    I’ll let him decide if he wants his email add. posted. I noticed this “give us a compliment” page on the JetBlue site.

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  • ~Star~ January 9, 2009 at 10:40 am

    I just want to say thank you. As a traveler but also as a crew member of JetBlue. Stories like this about JetBlue are what makes me proud to be part of the JetBlue team. It feels good to be able to be proud of the company you work for and this is also an example for those who ever have concerns or complaints our people will listen we are hired to care its part of our values here. Good Job to all who took part in this out come!

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  • Morgan January 9, 2009 at 11:50 am

    I certainly still am reading the comments Jonathan and appreciate them all – but the thanks certainly go to you and Carl for raising the question.

    - Though of course we certainly welcome the compliments which are all read by real people and gives each us the drive to continue delivering the JetBlue Experience. :)

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  • BURR January 9, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    go Carl!

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  • Fitz from Boston January 9, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Nice going Carl. Your being proactive in this matter rather than just openly bad mothing another typical airline, allowed us to correct an inadvertent injustice. As a JetBlue crewmember it justifies my efforts of going out of my way every day to help a customer with the “little things”. We do have a daily company newsletter and in it is a section for customer compliments. This allows us to read of other crewmembers that go out of their way every day to try and make traveling with JetBlue an experience that typifies our 5 values. Thank You for allowing us to show we do listen and do care.

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  • Andrejs January 9, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    While you have their attention, how about getting them to make a definitive ruling on the size of the Bike Friday suitcase. The Samsonite F’lite case that is currently standard is spooky close to the max 62″ — I couldn’t honestly swear that it is within specs for standard luggage treatment. True, nobody has ever been tagged for oversize luggage with this thing, but these are crazy times. And, having won on the principle of folder-in-case, it wouldn’t be surprising if some airline personnel took the next step and dinged us for the size of the case. (Your JetBlue letter mentions that very 62″ rule explicitly.)

    I would feel more comfortable if the F’Lite case had the seal of approval of even one airline.

    Andrejs

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  • Carl January 9, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Andrejs,
    If you’re concerned, you should contact them. http://jetblue.com/help/contactus/

    I don’t have a Bike Friday or a “F’Lite case,” just a borrowed single-speed Dahon and a cardboard box.

    Sorry to pass the buck, but I think we ALL have Jet Blue’s attention at this point. Speak up.

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  • Geezer January 10, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Carl’s right on a couple of fronts. First: Don’t duck the problem and lie your way through. That changes nothing. Step up and say what you think. (It is important that you think before you say, though.)

    Second: Regarding ‘to fly or not to fly’; the way you live your life away from the airport comes to bear on the use of airplanes. We won’t end air travel completely. We can reduce the number of flights flown by using airlines sparingly and doing all we can to use sustainable transportation methods whenever possible. We all have to do what we can to promote the positive aspects of cyling as transportation. If we get ten folks out of their cars and make cycling maistream and not ‘radical’ there will be a much bigger impact on the environment than if we individually vow to never get on another airplane.

    Good on ya, Carl

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  • terri January 10, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Jet Blue is a Customer Service company that just happens to fly aircraft. You can ALWAYS expect the customer’s needs to be the priority. I know, it’s the polar opposite of all you’ve come to know from ‘the other airlines’–but that’s The Jet Blue Difference…well that and the extra legroom, the DirecTV, satellite radio, free snacks,kindness and First Class treatment….soooo much more for soooo much less—amazing!

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  • Donna January 11, 2009 at 4:45 pm
  • Efrain January 12, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    That was so great of Jet Blue! I will consider this airline the next time I travel. Bike Portland, thank you so much for the articles that you publish here, I enjoy learning from all the smart people in here(just the smart ones)
    Thanks!

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  • Paul March 17, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    My only concern is that the two suitcases that my BF Family Tandem packs into are 3 inches over the 62 inch limit (W+L+H). Has anyone been caught by that? How carefully do they measure?
    Thanks

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  • [...] It’s time to reconsider your policy, just like Jet Blue as reported by BikePortland. [...]

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