JetBlue significantly devalues a lucrative Mosaic elite seating perk
Airlines are busy making policy adjustments throughout the pandemic. Some changes have been positive. A few others, well, haven't.
In April, major U.S. carriers extended elite status through 2021. JetBlue offered one of the most generous perks in addition to its extension announcement. All current Mosaic elites could gift a full year of status to a friend or family member.
But now, six months later, the carrier has quietly devalued one of its top perks for Mosaic members. As first spotted by Dansdeals, JetBlue has substantially raised the redemption rate for elites looking to use points for extra-legroom seats.
JetBlue's Mosaic elite status offers a unique set of perks that are unlike most other carriers. Mosaics receive waived change and cancellation fees, free baggage, complimentary liquor and more. They don't get free upgrades to Mint or free extra-legroom coach seats.
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Instead, one of the most valuable perks for elites has long been the ability to redeem TrueBlue points at "significantly reduced" rates towards the purchase of Even More Space seats. In the past, this has been quite lucrative.
On a three-hour hop from New York to Florida, Mosaics could expect to pay 600 or so points for an extra-legroom seat that'd normally cost $55 or so. That's roughly a nine cent per point redemption, well above the TPG's valuation of 1.3 cents per point. The exact numbers varied by route, but most redemptions hovered at around eight or so cents per point.
Of course, it'd be great if JetBlue offered free extra-legroom seats to elites like the legacy U.S. carriers do. But with redemption rates this good, I never bothered to think twice. Redeeming points for seats was the single best TrueBlue redemption option.
Related: What is JetBlue elite status worth in 2020?
Effective immediately — and without any warning — JetBlue has roughly quadrupled the prices for seats purchased with points.
On a flight from New York to Fort Lauderdale in April, JetBlue is now charging 2,400 points for an aisle in the Even More Space section. That same seat sells for $56, making the redemption rate about 2.3 cents per point.
The same story applies across all the routes and dates that TPG checked. On a flight from New York to Los Angeles in June, JetBlue is now charging 2,100 TrueBlue points or $50 for a window in Even More Space — a roughly 2.4 cent per point redemption. For a hop from New York to Boston, the carrier is charging 1,200 points or $27 for an extra-legroom seat, another 2.3 cents per point redemption.
In explaining the change to TPG, JetBlue states that:
As a revenue-based program, our pricing model aligns with changes in travel demand and redemption values are linked to fare and ancillary fees. Although there was a change in the redemption rate for Even More Space seats, our most loyal customers are still able to redeem their points for Even More Space seats at significantly reduced rates. Mosaics continue to receive 15,000 bonus points when qualifying for Mosaic status, even at the lowered thresholds for this year, which can be used to redeem options such as Even More Space seats.
While the new redemption rates are still above the TPG's valuation, they're a far cry from the eight or more cents per point rate Mosaics used to enjoy.
But what's really irksome is that JetBlue made this change quietly without warning elites of the impending devaluation. As the industry slowly recovers from the pandemic, airlines are going to need to win as much business as they can get.
Many carriers will lean on their frequent flyer programs — and elites in particular — to generate extra cash. However, silent devaluations erode flyers' trust and make it harder to win business from the most loyal customers.
Another one of the key benefits of Mosaic status is waived change fees. In recent weeks, most major U.S. airlines have permanently eliminated change fees — except JetBlue.
Instead, it's taking a different approach by promising to waive change fees for all tickets booked through at least Feb. 28, 2021. If every flyer (not just Mosaics) gets free changes due to the broad coronavirus waiver, then this historically elite-only benefit is irrelevant. Combined with the devaluation for redeeming TrueBlue points for extra-legroom seats, there's much less reason to requalify for Mosaic.
Related: How to redeem points with the JetBlue TrueBlue program
In July, JetBlue announced that it will enter a strategic Northeast-focused alliance with American Airlines. The two carriers promised reciprocal elite benefits. While we've yet to hear the details, hopefully, the carrier will sweeten the deal for Mosaics — and roll back this untimely devaluation.
For now, with the greatly reduced redemption rates for Even More Space seats, one of the most valuable Mosaic perks has been significantly scaled back.