WestJet May Have the Right Idea with its New Loyalty Program

By | March 9, 2010
WestJet over the Rockies
Image by SixFourG via Flickr

WestJet has launched a new frequent flier program, called the Frequent Guest program. Now, the way that they are organizing this program is unique. It seems to be a program for the average flier, rather than the frequent flier.

We recently bemoaned the fact that airlines have effectively devalued their miles by allowing people to accumulate them on every credit card purchase. We know this is a good deal for them, and for many consumers, but it devalues the definition of the term frequent flier. These companies keep devaluing their miles and limiting the number of award seats.

Then comes along WestJet’s program. WestJet offers 2.5% in WestJet Dollars for every dollar you spend with WestJet. There is a credit card as well, because those things are big moneymakers for the airline. The WestJet dollars don’t expire for five years, and each dollar can be used toward purchases of WestJet tickets as if they were real dollars. Thus no blackout dates, no capacity controls…you are paying for the seat. This only applies for the fares. Taxes, fees, and charges are cannot be paid for.

When you reach $4500 WestJet Dollars in an annual period, you get a $165 bonus and a complimentary companion flight anywhere within Canada, four advance seat selection vouchers and two airport lounge passes. They estimate this is a value of $500 actual dollars. At $6000 you get a $230 bonus and a complimentary companion flight anywhere WestJet flies, even internationally, as well as the previously mentioned vouchers. At $7500 you get an extra $300 bonus.

There is no minimum usage of your dollars. So you could use $5 in WestJet dollars off your ticket if you wanted. Redemption cannot be done online yet, but it is coming.

JetBlue Airways switched its TruBlue program over to a point system based on price paid over length of trip, which is what a tradition mile based program has flown. The whole idea is to reward passengers based on the amount of money they spend with the airline and its partners. This sort of system is best for the average regular flier, who will take 1-4 trips per year.

And let’s be honest, there are many more of them than there are truly frequent fliers. Perhaps the best solution is a hybrid program. One that has this sort of benefit for the average and the additional rewards that come with status for the frequent fliers. Beyond that, all fliers can appreciate a system where there are no limits on when you can get a seat, merely market conditions and miles can be turned into dollars off your ticket.

But, what do you think?