Leave it to those wacky Canadians to launch one of the more unique and straightforward frequent flier programs. WestJet has rolled out its Frequent Guest program along with a WestJet Mastercard, and I like the idea even if it’s not the most lucrative program around.
As I said, the program is simple and it’s only targeted at frequent fliers. In other words, “if you fly Air Canada, please stop and fly us.” Once you reach $1,500 in spend on airfare within 12 calendar months of enrollment, you get a $50 credit to use for a future flight. After that, for every $1 you spend on WestJet, you get 2.5 cents to spend on a future flight. Oh sure, there are a couple of tweaks, mostly around WestJet Vacations spend, but otherwise, that’s pretty much the deal. The dollars you earn must be used within five years. The credit card works the same way. You get 1.5 cents back per dollar you spend on regular “stuff” and bonuses for spend on WestJet.
So how do you spend these magical “dollars”? Each dollar is worth one real dollar when you spend on WestJet. Well, not one “real” dollar. It’s actually one Canadian Dollar, but close enough. So it’s effectively like a cashback card but instead of cash, you get a bank of dollars to spend toward travel on WestJet.
On top of that, you also get a bonus for every $1,500 you spend. When you spend $4,500 a year ($3,000 for this year only), you get a free companion ticket to be used within Canada along with a few advance seat selection vouchers (everyone else pays) and a couple lounge passes. Swanky. At $6,000 a year, you get a companion ticket for international travel along with more free seat selections and lounge passes. You also get some bonus bucks at each level along the way.
So is this a great deal for travelers? If you’re an infrequent flier, no. It’s worthless to you, because if you don’t spend $1,500 a year, you get nothing. But those are people who are more than likely shopping on price anyway. This is a fight for the lucrative business traveler.
But even if you are a business traveler, whether or not it’s better than Air Canada’s program is highly dependent upon what you’re doing. If you fly from Vancouver to Montreal, you’ll earn about 4,600 miles roundtrip. Six of those and you get a free trip domestically, if you can find availability. On WestJet, let’s say the price is $500 per roundtrip. Six of those and you get $105 to use on a future flight, any flight you want. If you spend more, you earn more, of course. So we’re really comparing apples and oranges.
The reality is that this is a nice, if small, bonus to keep those fliers that really wanted to get some sort of recognition flying with WestJet. It’s not the most lucrative program, but it’s simple and straightforward, and that’s something we’re lacking in this industry all too often.