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WestJet Frequent Guest Review Posted on Mar 4, 2010

Finally, the program that has been delayed numerous times for the past few years is now here. Live on the site as of March 4th, the program takes a page out of the Travel Rewards Credit Card industry by allowing members to redeem points for full or partial travel with no black out dates. Basically you will put your WestJet dollars towards the purchase of any ticket at the going rate from WestJet. Many Travel Point and Hybrid Credit card programs do the same, for example redeeming 5000 points for a $50 credit towards any travel that is booked. Of course the more dollars you have the bigger the discount towards that travel.

To earn those WestJet dollars mentioned above, you must spend at least $1500 in a 12 month period with WestJet flights only. The 12 month period begins from the day you sign up with the WestJet Frequent Guest Program. The $1500 you have to spend is on base airfare excluding any taxes, fees or surcharges. Once you reach the $1500 level, you will receive $50 WestJet Dollars and then be able to earn 2.5% in WestJet Dollars on all WestJet flights after the $1500 level as well as 1% in WestJet Dollars for WestJet Vacations purchases. You will receive more WestJet Dollars and other rewards once you reach higher annual spend levels, as follows:

- Spend $1500 get $50 in WestJet Dollars
- Spend $4500 get $165 WestJet Dollars + Canadian Jet Away reward: 1 Complimentary Companion Ticket within Canada, 4 advance seat selection vouchers and two lounge passes ($500 value)
- Spend $6000 get $230 WestJet Dollars + International Jet Away reward:1 Complimentary Companion Ticket anywhere WestJet flies, 4 advance seat selection vouchers and two lounge passes ($800 value)
- Spend $7500 get $300 WestJet Dollars

As an introductory offer, if you sign up before Dec 31, 10 the $4500 award level is dropped to $3000 for the first year.

Basically once you reach the $1500 you then start earning 2.5% in WestJet Dollars back on every dollar you spend with WestJet and 1% back on WestJet Vacations. The key is that you have to hit that $1500 level.

The annual spending resets every 12 months based upon when you joined and your WestJet dollars earned have a 5 year life span (they expire at the end of the 5th year after you have earned them)

You can also earn additional WestJet dollars with the WestJet RBC Mastercard and other bonus offers during the year. There is no mention yet of any other airline, hotel or car rental partners.

Earning WestJet Dollars
In general, you earn 2.5% in WestJet Dollars on WestJet flights (total base fare, excluding taxes, fees and surcharges) but these don't kick in until you hit the $1500 annual spend level. The $1500 level gives $50 in WestJet dollars ($1500 x 2.5% = $37.50 + a $12.50 bonus) and after this point you will earn 2.5% on any WestJet flights. WestJet flights booked via any method, online, WestJet Super Sales Center, Travel Agency, online booking sites etc. all count towards your annual spend and the earning of WestJet Dollars as long as you have your WestJet ID attached to your booking.

WestJet Vacations
Once you reach your first annual spend level of $1500 with WestJet you can start to earn WestJet dollars on WestJet Vacations bookings. You will receive 1% in WestJet Dollars for these WJV bookings (taxes and fees excluded).

RBC Mastercard

You can earn additional WestJet dollars with the WestJet RBC Mastercards. There are two offerings from RBC, the first is the WestJet RBC World Mastercard which offers 1.5% in WestJet dollars on everyday spending and 2% on all WestJet and WestJet Vacations bookings. The card comes with a $100 WestJet Dollar sign up bonus. The second is the WestJet RBC Mastercard offers 1.0% in WestJet dollars on everyday spending and 1.5% on all WestJet and WestJet Vacations bookings. The card comes with a $25 WestJet Dollar sign up bonus. The annual fees are $79 and $39 respectively.

Redeeming WestJet Dollars
At this point you can redeem WestJet dollars for WestJet flights or WestJet Vacations packages.
WestJet Flights:
Like we stated above, WestJet Dollars are like cash, you can use them towards any new WestJet Flight booking. It does not matter how many you have as the cash works as a discount towards the base fare of a WestJet flight regardless of the cost. The more WestJet dollars you have, the bigger the discount. Like most frequent flyer programs, WestJet Dollars cannot be used towards taxes or fees on the ticket.

WestJet Vacations
You can use WestJet Dollars towards any booking with WestJet Vacations up to a maximum of $500 per booking. Once again taxes and fees are extra.

At this time the only partners in WestJet's Frequent Guest program are WestJet Vacations and RBC Royal Bank. It is expected that some of WestJet's airline partners like Air France KLM, hotel and car rental partners will offer some form of WestJet Dollars in the near future.

Key Features
The biggest feature with the WestJet Frequent Guest Program is no black out dates. As long as seats are available (ie for sale on the website) then you will be able to redeem for them. There are no black out dates and there is no limit to number of seats per flight or per route like legacy frequent flyer programs. Although most legacy programs have introduced access to all seats at all times it requires more miles, typically double the base requirement or more whereas with WestJet the value of your rewards remains the same regardless of the ticket value.

Jet-Away bonus rewards are an interesting way to reward members without giving away tons of dollars and relatively unique to the Frequent Flyer Program industry but again they are taking a page from the credit card industry where numerous cards offer complimentary companion tickets. With these rewards however WestJet is keeping revenue in mind as you have to buy a ticket to go along with the companion ticket.

The WestJet Frequent Guest Program allows for transfers between members for a flat $20 fee, compared to most frequent flyer programs that have a base fee plus a certain amount of cents per miles transferred.

Overall what is good about programs like the WestJet program is that you don't have to have a lot of points to redeem and get some sort of reward versus the set point programs like most frequent flyer programs where you need a minimum amount of points to redeem for a flight.

The $1500 annual spend level will keep the ultra-leisure traveller away unless they get the RBC Mastercard. The spending is also per person, so if you think, by booking your family of four a trip and spending $1600 in base fares reaches the first level, think again, each person will only have $400 towards the first level.

Another downfall of this type of program is that value is lost when you have to redeem for expensive/non-seat sale flights as you have to redeem more points/dollars versus the set level programs which require a set amount of points for a flight regardless of what it is selling for (of course this is the best case scenario not taking into account black out dates, availability etc)

As well the WestJet credit card is right in the middle of the pack as the 1.5% return on the RBC World Mastercard version falls below cards like the Capital One® Miles Plus and Diners Club Mastercards, but is equal to cards like the TD Travel Visas.

The 12 month annual spend levels will make it tough for the less frequent flyer to accrue WestJet Dollars. While Aeroplan has a 12 month inactivity rule, all you have to do is earn 1 or redeem 1 mile to keep your account and balance active and growing. With WestJet if you don't hit that $1500 in the 12 month period, say you spend $1350, you won't get anything.

The 5 Year expiry on your earned dollars is about average for the industry but only for programs that have life span regulations on earned miles/dollars. Many Asian frequent flyer programs have a 3 year life span and in Canada Aeroplan has a 7 year life span while others have no life span as long as you have activity in your account.

No online capabilites for redemption, yet. That will come soon but it means calling WestJet to take care of bookings when you want to redeem WestJet dollars.

Overall I feel the program is average, the key features listed above make the program stand out from others in those areas but it will have some difficulty attracting the leisure traveller who only travels once or twice a year.The key target market for this program are the business travellers who have not become 100% loyal to one airline's frequent flyer program and would choose WestJet at least 3 or 4 times a year based on price or schedule. This sector of the market should make the program a success however it will have a tough time attracting the business travellers looking for business class upgrades, lounge access on every flight and class of service bonuses, those travellers will stick to the airline that gives them these. Will these people join the program anyways? Absolutely, as there is nothing to lose by joining WestJet's program.

I also think that WestJet and RBC are banking on people getting the credit card as that will allow Frequent Guest members to bypass the $1500 annual spending level with WestJet. For those who like to travel with WestJet, but only do so once or twice a year they will have to go with the credit card if they want to get the WestJet dollars discount.

This is the first frequent flyer program to come along and compete in Canada with Aeroplan since Canadian Airlines Plus, but, at this point I don't forsee many people jumping ship from Aeroplan to focus on WestJet's program. The people who have been disgruntled with Air Canada or Aeroplan had already made the move to WestJet prior to the launching of this program. At this time Aeroplan still offers many more partners and redemption possibilities but then again the WestJet Frequent Guest program is only in its infancy. It will take a few years for it to become a major player and at that time I may have to revisit this review. I am, just as curious as all of you, to see where this program will go.

We would like to hear your thoughts on WestJet's new program by commenting on our blog! With WestJet being a very responsive company to commentary, please ensure you do comment as WestJet does read our blog!

Related Links:
Rewards Canada Blog Post on the WestJet Frequent Guest Program
WestJet Frequent Guest Program
WestJet Vacations
RBC WestJet Mastercard
WestJet Bonus Offers Page on Rewards Canada



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