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If you’ve ever held elite status with a travel provider, you’ve experienced the variety of perks that can positively impact your travel experience. But if you qualify for elite status with an airline, exactly how much value can you get in a year? Today I’ll continue my 2018 series that tries to peg a value on each elite status tier for the major carriers in the US.
As in past years, I started with the three big legacy carriers (American AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus) before moving onto Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and Southwest Rapid Rewards. Now I’ll analyze the sixth and final airline, one that has really upped its game in recent years: JetBlue’s TrueBlue program.
As I’ve pointed out in earlier posts, this series isn’t designed to conflict with the comprehensive elite status analysis I completed in fall 2017. That particular study considered the different benefits offered to elite flyers from both a numerical value and relative importance standpoint. I also didn’t go into any in-depth analysis of the individual airlines, instead providing a high-level comparison across the major airlines here in the US. This series of posts has attempted to remedy just that.
Before we get to the ins and outs of the TrueBlue program, a couple of quick reminders. First, this analysis is just one way to peg a value to elite status, so you should adjust any of my assumptions or calculations based on your own travel patterns and considering what each perk is worth to you. You may not consume alcohol and thus don’t care about free drinks, or you could always check multiple bags and get a ton more value from that perk. Make sure that the numbers below are relevant to you.
Second, I’m basing this analysis on the assumption that you’ve already earned the status and will have a similar travel pattern in 2018. However, if you’re starting from scratch and plan to work your way up to JetBlue elite status, the numbers are a bit skewed, since you won’t enjoy any perks until crossing the qualification thresholds. To help those of you in this position, I’ve included a link to an Excel spreadsheet below that’ll give you an idea of the value you’d get from the TrueBlue program.
The third and final critical part of this analysis involves the underlying assumptions I’m making. To truly land on a value for a given level of elite status, I have to assume a certain amount of flying and a corresponding amount of spending. For the sake of this analysis of JetBlue, I’m making the following assumptions:
- You earn 20% more base points than the minimum required for earning status.
- You take at least 7 round-trip paid flights during the year.
As always, you should adjust these assumptions based on the level of travel you expect to complete.
Two final details before getting into the valuation. As an elite member with JetBlue, you’ll earn bonus points when you travel, and I’m basing the value of those points on TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg TrueBlue points at 1.3 cents apiece. In addition, I’m rounding all numbers below to the nearest $5 to make the calculations a little simpler.
Given this information, how does the JetBlue TrueBlue program and its sole elite status tier stack up? Here’s what I found:
JetBlue Mosaic ($1,885)
The only elite status level in the TrueBlue program is Mosaic status, and you can earn this through traveling in two different ways: by flying 30 segments and earning 12,000 base points or by earning 15,000 base points in a calendar year (you earn 3 base points per dollar spent). You can also earn this status outright by spending $50,000 in a calendar year on a JetBlue credit card.
For this analysis, I’ll base my numbers on the latter of the two qualification criteria and assume that you earned 18,000 base points, indicating a total spend of $6,000.
- Waived change and cancellation fees ($500): One of the most unique perks of Mosaic status is that you (and others traveling on your itinerary) can change or cancel JetBlue flights without any fees at any time. While most other carriers offer this privilege to top-tier elites on award tickets, Mosaic members can utilize it on all tickets. Since JetBlue changed its fare structure in 2015, you almost need a doctorate degree to determine what fee you’d pay as a non-elite member, but it ranges from $0 to $150 depending on the type of ticket you have, the fare you paid and/or how close you are to departure. Of course, you’ll still need to pay any applicable difference in fare when you change your flight, but if you regularly need flexibility for you and your travel companions, this could be a very valuable benefit.
- Two free checked bags ($250): JetBlue’s lowest fare (Blue) doesn’t include a checked bag, so you’d need to either bump up to the next fare type (Blue Plus) or pay a bag fee. Unless, that is, you’re a Mosaic member, since you and others on your itinerary can check two bags for free, regardless of the ticket you book. This will save you $20 for the first bag and $35 on the second bag. If you (and your friends or family members) regularly need to check multiple bags on JetBlue flights, this benefit could be quite lucrative, though keep in mind that you can get one free checked bag for you and your travel companions with the JetBlue Plus Card, one of the many reasons why I find that card to be quite lucrative.
- Take 3 and Lucky 7 bonus ($155): JetBlue also offers a couple of tiered bonuses when you complete a certain number of flights. The Take 3 Bonus awards 5,000 bonus points when you fly three paid round-trip flights, while the Lucky 7 Bonus will give you 7,000 bonus points after flying seven round-trip JetBlue flights. While not officially a perk of Mosaic status, it is something that you’d almost certainly earn during your qualification. These 12,000 bonus points are worth up to $156 based on TPG’s most recent valuation.
- Qualification bonus ($195): When you officially qualify for Mosaic status, you’ll enjoy a one-time bonus of 15,000 points, worth $195.
- Bonus points ($235): As a Mosaic member, you’ll earn 3 extra bonus points for every dollar spent on JetBlue flights. Since I’m assuming $6,000 worth of spending, that’ll give you 18,000 bonus points, worth $234.
- Priority check-in, security and boarding ($200): Mosaic members have priority check-in, can access Even More Speed priority security lines at dozens of JetBlue airports and will be among the first to board, giving you early access to overhead bin space. This is a nice collection of benefits if you’re running late for a flight but isn’t the most valuable perk out there.
- Dedicated customer service line ($100): You’ll also have a priority phone line to call as a Mosaic member, which can be fantastic in the event of a large-scale weather event.
- Complimentary alcoholic beverages ($150): In 2016, JetBlue began offering complimentary drinks to Mosaic members. However, unlike similar perks offer to elite flyers on other airlines, this isn’t a single drink but rather extends to the entire flight. These beverages regularly cost $6 – $9 (though are available at a 50% discount for holders of a Barclaycard JetBlue credit card). Depending on how many flights you take and how frequently you enjoy a drink at 38,000 feet, this could be a very valuable perk.
- Even More Space redemptions ($100): A final perk of JetBlue Mosaic status is the ability to redeem your points for Even More Space seats, sometimes at a pretty fantastic rate. I’ve found JetBlue’s regular coach seats to have generous legroom compared to other domestic carriers, so Even More Space seats can seem massive by comparison. I personally like to book these seats using the airline fee credits from my Platinum Card from American Express, but having the ability to redeem points for these seats can be a nice benefit to have.
What if I’m starting from scratch?
As I mentioned at the outset, these numbers are based on the benefits you’d enjoy by spending a full year with Mosaic status. However, if you’re starting from scratch, the calculations become a bit more complicated, since you won’t start to enjoy any benefits until you hit one of the qualification thresholds to earn that status. To help modify the analysis for those individuals, I’ve taken the above valuations and converted them to a value per elite-qualifying mile, as follows:
- $1,885 / 18,000 base points = 10.47 cents per base point
I then created an Excel spreadsheet that uses these numbers to calculate how much value you’d get from JetBlue Mosaic status given a certain amount of flying. All you need to do is change the number in cell A2 to represent how much you expect to spend on JetBlue flights in 2018. The spreadsheet will then calculate the number of base points you’ll earn, and the calculations will update with the corresponding value.
For example, you’ll see that I have pre-loaded the 18,000 base points I assumed above. At this rate, you’d get no benefits from the first 15,000 base points and then enjoy Mosaic benefits for the remaining 3,000 points (at a rate of 10.47 cents per point). This means that if you’re starting from scratch and estimate that you’ll spend $6,000 on JetBlue in 2018, you’d be able to get $314.17 worth of perks from the TrueBlue program.
As always, feel free to adjust the numbers above for Mosaic status (loaded into the “Base Data” tab of the spreadsheet) based on your own personal valuation.
Is it worth it?
So given these values, is it worth pursuing elite status with JetBlue? Just like with any analysis we undertake here at TPG, there isn’t an easy answer to this, as it depends entirely on your individual situation. However, here are a few over-arching questions that can help you arrive at a decision:
- How much will you travel in the future? If you earned JetBlue elite status in 2017, it’s valid through December 31, 2018, and if you qualify in 2018, your status will last until December 31, 2019. It’s critical to think about how much you’ll be traveling in the future. If you push hard to earn Mosaic status, for example, the perks outlined above only apply when you actually travel.
- How well does JetBlue’s route map (and/or those of its partners) match your typical travel patterns? There’s really no point in pursuing elite status with an airline if you can’t feasibly fly it (or partners) on a regular basis. Be sure to consider JetBlue’s service from your home airport(s) and how easy it is to get to your desired destination(s).
- How sensitive are you to price and convenience? There are many tradeoffs in this hobby, and one of the most common is deciding whether to use your preferred airline or hotel chain when it’s not the most convenient or cheapest. Would you book a one-stop JetBlue flight if Delta had a cheaper nonstop option? If the answer is no, it may not be worth going out of your way to earn Mosaic status (or elite status with any airline, for that matter).
- Could you enjoy elite-like perks (or outright elite status) with a credit card? As noted above, the JetBlue Plus Card provides an array of perks for cardholders that may be enough for you, all for just a small annual fee. In addition, you could earn Mosaic status outright simply by spending $50,000 on the card in a year. If you’re content with the “elite lite” perks from the card or plan to spend over $50,000, there’s no need to go out of your way to earn Mosaic status the hard way.
These questions are also not easy to answer, as there are many different factors that come into play with each of them. Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile exercise to evaluate your own situation to determine if JetBlue elite status is for you!
JetBlue is unique among US carriers in that it only has a single level of elite status. Back in 2014, I took advantage of status match and challenge program, and I must say that I came away unimpressed. Nevertheless, for those of you in cities with a large JetBlue presence (especially one with existing or new Mint service, a TPG favorite), having Mosaic status can be a nice boost to an already enjoyable travel experience. Hopefully this post has provided you a framework for determining if this status is right for you!
Featured image courtesy of Boarding1Now via Getty Images.
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