Earning Points in JetBlue’s Complicated New TrueBlue Program (Part 1)

While Southwest’s acquisition attempt of Frontier was getting all the press last week, JetBlue quietly started emailing their TrueBlue members about a relaunch of the program on September 27. When I spoke with CEO Dave Barger in March, he assured me that it would be “a best-in-class frequent flier program. It’s going to be very customer relevant.” Is he right? I’m not sure, but I do know that it’s really complicated.

I was planning on writing about the program in one post, but it started getting long and unruly. So, I’ve broken it down. Today I’m writing about the earning side of the program and tomorrow I’ll talk about the redemption side.

Let’s start with the old program. As a reminder, the last program gave you 2 points for a short haul trip, 4 points for a medium haul trip, and 6 points for a long haul trip. You got double points if you used jetblue.com and the only award was a free roundtrip ticket for 100 points. Pretty simple, yes, but pretty restrictive as well. Your points expired in 12 months regardless of your activity, and there were blackouts, inventory controls, and other restrictions.

The new program looks a lot like Virgin America’s in that it’s a spend-based program with varying redemption levels. You now earn 3 points for every $1 you spend on JetBlue or 6 points if you book at JetBlue.com. Well, sort of. It’s based on the amount of money you spend on the base fare, so taxes are excluded. Uh, well, some taxes are excluded. When you go to JetBlue.com, this is what you see:

JetBlue Availability Display

That number at left is $39 and that’s what they consider the base fare. Technically, that’s the base fare plus a federal 7.5% excise tax that you rarely see broken out, but JetBlue will use that to determine points. You’ll end up paying $49.60 for that ticket once all the other taxes and fees are added in, but the $39 is what the earning will be based on. That means you get 234 points if you book on their site or 117 if you book elsewhere.

That’s not too tough, right? But now we have to talk about the bonuses. When I was first doing the math, this didn’t seem to be even remotely generous but that’s when I noticed that they have two types of bonuses you can get.

First they have the Go Big Bonus. This one rewards those who spend a lot. Instead of trying to explain it, I’ll just show you the grid they put out:

JetBlue Go Big Bonus

There’s also the Go Long Bonus. If you take 5 long haul roundtrip flights (each segment must be over 2,000 miles) within 12 months, then you get a 10,000 point bonus. So this one is to reward those who fly long hauls a lot, regardless of how much they spend.

Oh, and by the way, if you use the JetBlue Amex card, then you earn 1 point for every dollar you spend, but you earn 2 points when you buy JetBlue flights. So if you use your JetBlue Amex to buy tickets at JetBlue.com, you earn 8 points per dollar. Whew. My head just exploded.

Do you see how ridiculously complicated this is? I like to pride myself on breaking things down into more manageable explanations, but I’m having a lot of trouble here. Heck, I’m having trouble just understanding it myself.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about the redemption side. We actually know very little about it so far, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to get some more info before the post goes live.

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41 Comments on "Earning Points in JetBlue’s Complicated New TrueBlue Program (Part 1)"

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David SF eastbay
Member
Do airlines really want the public to be able to understand their program rules? Any program that you lose the points/miles after 12 months is only meant for the real die hard travelers, so it keeps their computer clean of the once or twice traveler crownd that make up the majority of their passengers. After all, that’s why it’s called a frequent flier program. But that can be annoying if you are so close to an award right when the 1 year is up. But then again their hope is you would spend money on a quick trip to reach… Read more »
David
Guest

While a FF programme based on spend is better than one based on miles, it should really be based on ticket profitability. If that US$70 short haul ticket costs the airline US$50 to operate, the airline should give out miles based on the US$20 difference. If that US$200 long haul ticket costs US$120 to operate, the customer should be credited with US$80 of miles.

Follow this approach, and there is no need to stipulate Go Big or Go Long bonuses – the airline ends up rewarding the customers who help its profit figures, rather than those who just represent turnover.

edahlvig819
Member

Do you know if the JetBlue AMEX cardholders get that ‘Go Big Bonus’ too?

jaybru
Member

Does any of us expect companies in this industry to make anything simple? Fares? What may or may not constitute a delayed flight? Mileage/points accrual and redemption? And, on and on!

Good to see UA announce that it has come up with a “new/improved” plan for yet another Chase/Mileage Plus card, actually three cards, each with its own minimal(?) annual fee, mileage/segment/points accrual rules, and invitation to a not-recently-closed Red Carpet Club.

Jason H
Guest
While the plan isn’t as simple as it could be at bare minimum, I think it is a vast improvement over some programs. While I am a DL, AA and UA frequent flyer member, all of their programs become unnecessarily complicated and rely too much on credit card, hotel, rental car, etc, etc, etc miles. I would happily take just miles for the value of my tickets. So in that respect Virgin America and JetBlue are at least moving in the right direction. Now if only they flew outside of the country or had decent code-shares or interline agreements.
gtrjay
Guest

This is so confusing. Why not keep it simple?

Nick Barnard
Member

What I’m amazed at is that they don’t describe “sample” fliers. Its one of those things I want to pull out an excel spreadsheet and start modeling, but I think B6 should’ve done this for us already..

Ron
Guest
David, Cranky — How would you even calculate which customer is profitable? Cost per passenger is lower on a full flight than on a half-full flight. Passengers won’t be happy with earning based on how full a flight is (especially those few who end up in the middle seat on, say, a 70% full flight). Also, I’m not quite sure I agree that the cheaper fares are less profitable. The whole model of airline pricing is built on a mix of high and low fares — business class only airlines don’t seem to work very well. So the lower fares… Read more »
OAG
Guest

Hey Cranky,

You forgot about double point Wednesdays and the nite-owl bonus if you book between 1AM and 4AM EST.

Haldane Dodd
Guest

In my mind, one of the simplest schemes is Air New Zealand’s Airpoints Dollars. I am not sure how the collection of points is calculated, but the rewards part of the programme is very simple – basically, if you have $300 Airpoints Dollars, you have $300 to spend on a ticket. From what I understand, there are no restrictions on which tickets you can buy or times you can buy them – they are simply like a voucher.

Danie
Member

I don’t really think it matters how complicated it is. Most people don’t calculate their own points, they follow their account via statements or a program Web site.

Dan
Guest

CF,

Could you elaborate on how you would calculate profitability? Ron brings up a good point, which you acknowledge is “a problem” but that it is ideal from the airlines’ point of view. If calculating it is a problem, then why is it ideal?

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David SF eastbay
Member

Cranky in this blog from Aug 3 you said the new JetBlue program “….looks a lot like Virgin America’s”.

Is there something brewing between JetBlue and Virgin America? This morning Virgin America announced in November they would be starting service between SFO-FLL and LAX-FLL with 2 daily nonstops between each city pair.

So what does JetBlue announce in the afternoon, you guessed it, nonstop service between SFO-FLL starting in November with 1 daily flight between the two cities.

Is JetBlue trying to wage war against Virgin America?

DJD
Guest
I like the current program for it’s simplicity and my points don’t expire as long as I earn a few point a year using my AMEX. Since you won’t be able to extend the expiration “old” points with AMEX activity, it looks like they are trying to wipe these points off their books (points = liability) and why they will allow converting “new” point to “old”, but not “old” to “new.” I just charge quite a bit on my AMEX too and these will be “old” point. If I realized this change was coming sooner, I would have used my… Read more »
Christoph
Guest

I wonder what happened to the idea to integrate JetBlue more into Lufthansa and his Miles&More program. Any words and information about this?

Steve
Guest
I just contacted jetblue with the following statement: I have shared this concern before with the new true blue program before, but nothing came of it at all. I am comparing the validity of the old true blue program to the new one and the so called “benefits” that come along with it. The point earning process has changed completely and in no way has it gotten ANY better. My fiance and I travel to Puerto Rico quite often and LOVE the jet blue program and flights. Before, flying would earn us a total of 24 points (that was 24%… Read more »
Yuby
Guest
Steve, we are on the same boat…i just got off the phone with jetblue and couldn’t even get through to the TRUEBLUE program their wait time is 50 minutes (i guess alot of people have concerns) especially the frequent flyers who fly with jetblue because of cheap flights and the program awards…I am looking to fly soon and my flight would cost me $500 (which I would normally get 24 pts for ) now is equivalent to 3,000 points and when converted to the old points I am only getting 15 pts…I am being cheated 9 points towards my reward.… Read more »
Steve
Guest
Doesn’t matter.. it is what is is. Here’s the GENERIC reply i got ONCE AGAIN from jet blue: Hello Stephen, Thank you for contacting JetBlue Airways regarding our Newer Truer, TrueBlue program. We thank you for the opportunity to address your concerns. Our new TrueBlue program was designed with our customers best interest in mind. We created a program that was not only flexible unlike the old one and a program that has plentiful options for our customers. There are now seats offered on all flights in all markets on all dates. TrueBlue points are now earned based off of… Read more »
cheated
Guest

The company is screwing people with the magazine offer for old true blue points…they dont tell you if you click on it all the points are transferred to a host company…I lost all my points, spoke airline they dont care :-(

marc
Guest
One point I would like to make about JetBlue’s new program is the actual number of points required for a free flight seems to always be more than 10,000 points. I am seeing roundtrip from Washington to San Juan starting at 20,000 points for a roundtrip ticket. At 6 points per dollar spent that is over $3000 I would have to spend to achieve those points (excluding bonus miles). I just paid $225.00 RT for this same trip. “Roundtrip Award flights starting at 10,000 points” is like the ONE car the dealer has on the lot at a particular low-ball… Read more »
Steve
Guest
Yea sorry, it’s not based on distance AT ALL. It USED to be based on distance, now it’s the COST of the flight. Do the math, make an effort and actually research it. The cost of the flight reflects how many points you need to get it for free. The only way you could really take advantage of this program is to 1) book ON jetblue.com, 2) have a jet blue amex and use it for EVERY purchase. The old system was great, the new one sucks. You can transfer your old points to the new system and get your… Read more »
Steve
Guest
First off I was correcting you because you stated what you thought was the answer and it wasn’t. And no there is no correlation between spend and distance. Do me a favor, go on jetblue.com and look at flights right now from New York to San Juan Puerto Rico. Now go to christmas for the same flight. Go ahead and tell me that there is a natural correlation between the cost of a flight and the actual distance. 3 things factor into the cost of your flight. 1) distance, 2) time of the day and 3) the date. I can… Read more »
Steve
Guest

Yea i’m done too. I’ll go ahead and cancel this subscription. You state one thing than state the completely opposite. Enough is enough.

craig
Guest

the new system sucks i take 20 flights a yr with jetblue what used to take me appx 6 round trips to earn a free tickt will now takes appx 12 round trips so who is really benifiting from this i guess delta will since i will not fly jet blue anymore

catty
Guest
I’m completely unhappy with the new system. I used to accumulate points pretty quickly by flying and by my AMEX, but now I spend literally 10s of thousands of dollars on my AMEX (I use it for everything, including massive vet bills), and have found that it only adds up to a single free flight that I could actually afford without the points. The best part of the old program was that you could pretty much book any flight that was available, regardless of how much it might cost without the pass. Now, I basically can get only a cheap… Read more »
Marcus
Guest

@ catty:

I calculated it will take me double the number of points,
which mostly I got from the jetblue blue amex card.

I am starting to look other airline loyalty programs.
I might switch to a hotel loyalty program instead.

A round trip that took 100 points now takes approv 22,500 points.
But also amex dollars are translating to 3 points to a dollar when
spent on non-jetblue purchases when they should be 6 points to the
dollar.
The only advantage of the new program is if you visit frequently
booked flights but if your destination always had trueblue seats
available you not getting a better deal.

craig
Guest
if u use any amex card convert the membership rewards into miles lets say u spend 5,000 amonth on amex thats 5000 membership rewards points and continental will redeem 1 miles for each membership rewards in other words you will have 60,000 miles with continental i was able to book a business first ticket from ewr to tyo for only 120,000 miles which was equilivent to 120,00 membership rewards points that ticket would have cost me over 10,000 dollars if i had to pay for it …. jet blue could never come close to that also other airlines offer 1membership… Read more »
MILAGROS M MARTINEZ
Guest

I HAVE SOME POINTS BEFORE AND I WANT TO NOW HOW TO RECUPERATE THEM.

Jessie
Guest

I actually like the program. I think it’s the best one out of all major carriers, especially considering 90% of the time jetblue has the lowest fare between TPA and JFK, which are my two major destinations. I’ve only been using it a couple months and already have redeemed a ticket and halfway to the next ticket.

dan
Guest

I hate this new program. It’s complicated and misleading and even though i fly almost every month from FL to NY i only get enough pts to redeem 1/2 a flight a year.

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