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JetBlue adds frequent flyer rewards for incremental spending

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JetBlue Airways plane seen at Cancun International Airport. On Wednesday, 23 March 2022, in Cancun International Airport, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Artur Widak | Nurphoto | Getty Images

JetBlue Airways has unveiled new perks for less-frequent flyers who are striving for elite status, the latest carrier to rethink its loyalty program to reflect shifting travel habits.

The new system establishes more incremental steps to earn perks, including the choice of early boarding (barring basic economy ticket holders), priority security screening, an alcoholic drink on board, or bonus frequent flyer points, every time a customer earns 10 so-called “tiles.”

A customer earns one of those tiles for every $100 they spend on JetBlue and its travel-booking platforms, or on flights operated by its partner in the Northeast U.S., American Airlines. Customers can also earn a tile by spending $1,000 on a JetBlue credit card.

The changes are part of JetBlue’s larger overhaul of its TrueBlue program, which the carrier announced Wednesday.

Other changes include:

  • JetBlue breaking up its elite Mosaic status into four levels, with benefits corresponding to each. To earn level 1 of that program travelers will need 50 tiles, and that comes with benefits like access to seats with extra legroom at check-in and same-day flight changes.
  • At the top level, after earning 250 tiles, travelers can upgrade, if available, to the Mint business-class cabin. They can also score four helicopter transfers on Blade between Manhattan and John F. Kennedy International Airport or Newark Liberty International Airport.
  • JetBlue is also offering perks when a customer moves up a level of elite status like pet-fee waivers or a $99 credit card statement credit.

The new plan comes as airlines adjust their lucrative frequent flyer programs to be tied more to customer spend, including on rewards credit cards. Many carriers have been raising the bar to reach status. They are also catering to changing travel habits, such as an increased dominance of leisure travelers since traditional corporate travel hasn’t recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

American Airlines late last year, for example, raised the spending threshold required for customers to earn elite status. It also introduced interim benefits for frequent flyer program members who rack up loyalty points but not enough for elite status, with perks like earlier boarding and coupons for “preferred location seats,” which are closer to the front of the plane but don’t have extra legroom.

And Delta Air Lines said in January that it would start offering free Wi-Fi on board its planes for travelers who are enrolled in its SkyMiles frequent flyer program.

“We’re at a point where the dollar is pretty much the almighty if you want to earn status,” said Kyle Potter, executive editor of Thrifty Traveler, a travel and flight deal website. “There’s not a whole lot of incentive to stay loyal to that airline…unless you’re a classic road warrior.

“JetBlue and other airlines are smart to offer these mid-points, to put something in reach, some reason to keep flying that airline even if reaching that big step of status doesn’t seem possible,” he said.

JetBlue is in the middle of trying to acquire budget carrier Spirit Airlines, but the Justice Department sued to block the deal earlier this year. If JetBlue prevails, the carrier plans to do away with Spirit’s ultra-low-cost model and retrofit its planes in JetBlue’s style.

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