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JetBlue made it just a little harder to book its flights on websites other than JetBlue.com. In an continuing effort to drive passengers directly to its own website to book, JetBlue has just stopped a dozen online travel agencies (OTAs) from being able to sell its flights.
There are multiple reasons that the airline would want to do this. Most directly, JetBlue saves money by avoiding paying travel agency commissions to these websites. Perhaps more importantly, JetBlue can upsell highly profitable ancillary services such as travel insurance and hotel and car rental packages on its website. These revenue streams are dry when passengers book elsewhere.
In what’s being described as “phase one” of its “new online distribution strategy,” JetBlue pulled the plug on the following websites this week:
SmartFares, MyFlightSearch, VacationExpress, FlyFar.ca, FlightNetwork, Vayama, WhatsCheaper, Vegas.com, JetsetVacations, CheapFlightsFares, QuickTravels, kiwi.com
However, that still leaves a long list of online travel agencies you can choose from. For a couple sample itineraries, we found that (at least) the following OTAs sell tickets at the same price as JetBlue’s website: Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, JustFly, Cheapfaremart, ExploreTrip and Flightsbird.
In addition, the following OTAs are selling JetBlue tickets at higher prices: Cheapoair, Flightsbank, Kiss & Fly, CheapestFareNow, Hop2, Travomint, Travelmano, FlightsMojo, PaylessFlights, Flying.com, GoTravel123, Cheap Best Fares, OneTravel and JustAirTicket.
It’ll be interesting to see which of these might be cut in future rounds of this new strategy. Or, perhaps JetBlue will go with Lufthansa’s strategy of adding surcharges to third-party bookings.
Based on expert analysis provided to Bloomberg, just to break even JetBlue might need to charge $9 more for these bookings. Henry Harteveldt of Atmosphere Research Group explains a typical OTA reservation “would cost a carrier $10.40, excluding agency incentives or commissions” vs. “less than $2 to process through its own website or mobile app.” When some JetBlue fares (before taxes and fees) are as cheap as $14.88, an $8+ difference is a massive percentage to lose.
Likely safest from any additional fees would be those aggregators that direct passengers to JetBlue’s website to book flights — such as Google Flights, Hipmunk and Kayak.
While JetBlue’s intentions to drive customers to its own website are clear, there are reasons passengers would also want to use JetBlue’s own website. For those with an The Platinum Card from American Express, you’re only going to get 5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent if you book through the airline’s own website.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees