What is JetBlue Elite Status Worth in 2016?
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Continuing his series on the value you’ll get from the various elite tiers in frequent flyer programs, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen takes a look at JetBlue Airways’ TrueBlue.
Here at TPG we’re constantly asked questions like, “Is it worth it for me to earn ____ status with ____ airline/hotel chain?” There’s no easy answer to this question, as many factors come into play (like your typical travel patterns, home airport, how you value each benefit, etc.). Earlier this month, I kicked off a revision of last year’s series that quantified the elite status tiers of the major programs. Thus far I’ve analyzed the three major legacy carriers (American AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus) as well as Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Our next (and final) subject is the JetBlue Airways TrueBlue program.
Before we get to the analysis, a couple of disclaimers. First, it’s important to note that these mathematical analyses represent just one way of calculating the value you’d get out of a given elite status level. You probably have your own way of calculating how much value you can get from these programs; if you (or your company) pays for first or business class, you probably don’t care about complimentary upgrades, while traveling exclusively within the US means you probably don’t care much about lounge access on international itineraries. Just like with any analysis, feel free to adjust the numbers to make it more relevant to your own personal situation.
Second, these numbers are all based on the benefits you’d enjoy after achieving the given status level and continuing to qualify each year thereafter. If you’re starting from scratch or if you suddenly have a drop-off in your travel, the calculations become significantly more complicated.
This brings me to the third and final critical part of this analysis: the underlying assumptions I’m making. To really hit a value for benefits, I have to assume a certain amount of flying. JetBlue is similar to Southwest in that you don’t earn status based on the distance you fly. Instead you must take a certain number of paid one-way flights plus earn a certain number of base points (or on base points alone), the latter of which are based on how much you spend.
For the sake of this post, I’m making the following assumptions:
- You qualify solely on base points (rather than segments + base points).
- You earn 20% more base points than the minimum required for the given status level.
- Your travel is evenly spaced across the year.
Two final bits of information: For the sake of this analysis, I’m valuing any bonus points earned based on the midpoint of TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg JetBlue points at 1-1.4 cents apiece. In addition, I’m rounding all of the individual benefit valuations to the nearest $5 to make the math a bit simpler.
So, all that being said, where does JetBlue Mosaic land? Here’s my analysis:
JetBlue’s only elite status level is Mosaic, which normally requires 30 segments plus 12,000 base points or 15,000 base points (you earn 3 base points per dollar spent on airfare). For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on earning 18,000 base points, so a total of $6,000 in spending.
- Waived change and cancellation fees ($400): One of the unique benefits of Mosaic status (in comparison with the other programs we’ve already considered) is that you won’t pay any change or cancellation fees on both revenue and award bookings. This also extends to travelers on the same reservation, though you’ll still need to pay any difference in fare to change to the new flights. Depending on which of JetBlue’s new fare options you book, you’ll save anywhere from $60 to $150. Naturally, the value of this benefit will depend on how frequently you need to change flights and whether you regularly travel with others on the same reservation.
- Two free checked bags ($250): Another perk of Mosaic status is two free checked bags on all JetBlue flights. The carrier used to offer a free bag to all travelers but now includes a fare option (Blue) without a checked bag. If you book this lowest fare as a Mosaic member, you’ll save $20 on the first bag and $35 on the second bag. Like the other baggage fee waivers I’ve already covered, the value here depends on how frequently you need to check bags.
- Earning bonus ($215): Mosaic members will earn an additional 3 TrueBlue points per dollar spent on airfare, so with $6,000 spent during the year, that’ll get you an additional 18,000 points. Assuming a valuation of 1.2 cents per point, you’re looking at a value of $216.
- Qualification bonus ($180): In addition to earning these bonus points on all flights, you’ll also enjoy a one-time bonus of 15,000 TrueBlue points when you qualify for Mosaic status, worth $180.
- Priority security and boarding ($200): Mosaic members can also enjoy Even More Speed security at designated airports and also are among the first to board.
- Complimentary alcoholic beverages ($150): One of the nice in-flight perks for Mosaic members is that you’ll enjoy complimentary alcoholic beverages, a new benefit that was just announced back in December. This isn’t a single drink (like the benefits offered to other carriers’ elites when they aren’t upgraded) but rather extends to the entire flight. These drinks usually cost $6-$9, so depending on the length of your flight, this could be quite a lucrative benefit.
- Priority phone line ($100): You also have a dedicated phone line as a JetBlue Mosaic member, a perk that comes in handy when you’re facing inclement weather or other irregular operations.
Note: JetBlue now also gives Elites an opportunity to redeem points for Even More Space seats at significantly discounted rates. Depending on whether or not you take advantage of this benefit, you could get even more value from Mosaic.
Is It Worth It?
Given these values, is it worth it for you to push for JetBlue Mosaic? As with any analysis, there isn’t an easy answer to that question, as it entirely depends on your travel patterns. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help make this decision:
1. How much will you be traveling in the future? If you go out of your way to earn a given elite status level, it would be a shame to not utilize the benefits as much as you’d like.
2. What’s the incremental value of Mosaic status over no status? If you’re close to qualifying for Mosaic, consider the benefits you’d get. There’s no sense in taking a mileage run to earn status when the additional perks you’d get don’t matter to you.
3. Would you sacrifice price or convenience for elite status? One of the hardest things to quantify in this hobby is whether or not it’s worth booking with your preferred carrier if it isn’t the most convenient or cheapest. As the father of a 14-month-old, I’ve come to love the nonstop flight both when traveling for work and for fun. As a result, I typically don’t go out of my way to fly a particular airline; if Southwest is the best option, I’ll do it!
While the answers to these questions won’t give you an absolute answer, they can help bring out the key considerations to be made as you’re deciding whether you want to push for the next status level (or whether you want to earn status at all).
As I’ve lamented before, JetBlue Mosaic isn’t the most rewarding elite status out there, but the carrier does provide some intriguing perks for all travelers, like free Wi-Fi and updated cabins. It’s somewhat challenging to identify whether Mosaic — or any other status — is worth it, as you likely have your own way of valuing the perks offered. Nonetheless, going through this type of analysis can be useful in deciding whether to pursue status, and I hope this post has given you a framework to apply as you evaluate the JetBlue TrueBlue program and whether or not it makes sense for you to pursue Mosaic status.
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