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Program Score Card: JetBlue TrueBlue

by on August 10, 2010 · 3 comments

in JetBlue, Program Score Cards

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JetBlue is a NYC based low-cost carrier that serves 60 destinations in 11 countries in the US, Caribbean and South America. JetBlue prides itself on in-flight amenities and customer service. Legions of loyal JetBlue flyers have grown accustomed to standard in-flight entertainment, including live TV (which JetBlue owns) and free snacks.

While JetBlue is not a member of any alliance, they do partner in several capacities with other airlines, including Aer Lingus, Lufthansa, American  and most recently South African. These partnerships will continue to help JetBlue expand since their international ambitions are limited by their fleet- which consists of short-haul Embraer 190s and Airbus A320s.

In 2009 JetBlue switched their TrueBlue loyalty program from a flight-based earning system to a revenue based system (similar to Virgin America). In the new program, the more you spend, the more points you earn. Additionally, they’ve amped up their relationship with American Express, almost making it mandatory to have the card in order to accrue points quickly. These changes have rattled budget flyers, who were used to getting a free flight after X amount of flights and now they need to focus on spend- which is hard when buying $39 fares.

Along with the devaluation of the program for the budget flyer, they also made some enhancements, including more sensible expiration policies and no-capacity controls on awards. In a nutshell, with Amex spend and promotions, JetBlue gives you about 10 points per dollar spent and then lets you redeem them for about a cent each. So in total, you are getting about a 10% refund on travel, which is very similar to Virgin America.

Currency= TrueBlue Points (Sign up link here)

Earning:
Flights: 3 points per eligible dollar spent on airfare (excluding taxes and fees), plus an additional 3 points per dollar spent if you book your flight on jetblue.com.

Credit Cards: Official JetBlue American Express. 10,000 points with first purchase. 1 point per dollar on regular purchases, 2 for leisure activities like movies and golf green fees and an extra 2 points per dollar for flights purchased at jetblue.com

You can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards points at a 1: .8 ratio, so 10,000 Amex = 8,000 TrueBlue (not very generous, in my opinion).

Unique feature: The get people comfortable with the new TrueBlue program, they are currently running several activity-based promotions.  For example the Go-Long bonus: If you take 10 oneway flights, each 2,000 miles or more, within a 12-month period, you’ll get 10,000 bonus points.
Or the Go Big Bonus: You will receive bonus points after reaching specific thresholds in TrueBlue. The Go Big Bonus awards a 500-point bonus upon reaching 3,000 points. Upon reaching 6,000 points, you receive a 1,000-point bonus; at 9,000 points you get a 2,000-point bonus; and at 12,000 points, you get a 4,000-point bonus. For every 3,000 points above 12,000 points, you get an additional 4,000-point bonus.

Positives-
+ No capacity controls on awards
+ Ability to redeem for one-way awards
+ Many partners, including a very robust American Express card
+ Lots of promotions

Negatives-
- Relatively high amount of points needed for awards compared to legacy carriers and Southwest
- No first/business class awards
- No awards to Asia/Europe/ Australia/ Africa
- Expiration policy of credits is misleading- they are advertised “Our Points Don’t Expire”, but they actually do if the account sees no activity in one year, which is a shorter expiration window than most programs.
- Poor transfer ratio from American Express Membership Rewards. Membership rewards are valuable and can be converted to gift certificates at 1 cent each. When transferred to JetBlue, they are generally worth .8 cent each or less- its better sticking to gift cards at that rate.

Elite Status- JetBlue does not have an elite status program. 

Overall Summary:
JetBlue has a very straight forward loyalty program based on revenue spent. However, it is not very straight forward on the website- nowhere does it tell you how much a point is worth or how many points is needed to fly. After research, I’ve been able to deduce that it is, give or take, around 1 cent a point, which is on the low end of frequent flyer points.  Considering that JetBlue has a hardcore, loyal following, I can see why they don’t feel the need to have a super-competitive loyalty points program.

Overall scores:

Points: C
Elite Program: N/A
Overall Grade: C

First steps for JetBlue to get the overall score moving towards an A:
1) Add international partners for award redemptions
2) Be more transparent about the points needed for awards, or specifically tell program members how much a point is worth
3) Create an elite status program. While no first class or lounge access will be given, you can give your most frequent flyers priority boarding, free extra legroom seating or free cocktails.
4) Be more clear about your expiration. They certainly do expire after a year of inactivity, so stop advertising otherwise.
5) At a minimum, establish a 1:1 ratio with Amex Membership Rewards

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