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Say goodbye to cheap seats on JetBlue?

A $42-million quarterly loss. An airline saddled with high fuel prices and rising operating costs. What happened to the invincible JetBlue we thought we knew—the one with the lowest fares, best in-flight amenities, and seemingly bright future?

The first cracks in the facade appeared earlier this year with the airline’s fourth-quarter revenue numbers. Then came the silent price hike and the subtle hints that more were on the way. And now? An overt admission that low fares are going to become harder and harder to come by.

“The biggest responsibility I have,” says David Neeleman, JetBlue’s CEO, “is making sure that we can get an extra $5 or $10 a ticket.” That’s apparently the magic number the airline needs to return to profitability. And its plan for doing so is subtle enough that most people won’t even notice it—at least until they try to book those super-low fares.

According to a recent USA Today report, Neeleman wants to do it by a combination of using “the right aircraft” and selling fewer seats at the most deeply discounted prices.

Allow me to translate: You’ll still see those attractive $39 one-way flights advertised all over the place, but there will be fewer seats available at those prices (potentially a lot fewer). I don’t begrudge the airline its right to set its own prices and make a profit. But I will miss these days, perhaps rapidly coming to an end, when JetBlue is still more than just another airline.

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