Every once in a while, an airline or hotel decides to do something that makes absolutely no financial sense. Today was JetBlue’s turn.
The Points Match
Forget a status match. Today, JetBlue announced a points match. Got points with Virgin America’s Elevate frequent flyer program? Good. JetBlue will match them. At least they were smart enough to put a cap on it. Just look at the chart above to find out how many points JetBlue will give you based on your Virgin America Elevate account. Yes, they could end up matching your Elevate points balance three-fold.
Note: You are not trading Elevate points for JetBlue points. JetBlue will give you points, simply by showing them your Virgin America Elevate statement (and taking a flight). With TrueBlue points worth about 1.5c each, they are essentially giving you up to $1,125.00 in travel on JetBlue just for having an account with a competitor.
So why on Earth are they doing this? Seems to me like something that the marketing department came up with, without actually thinking about the cost involved. Both JetBlue and Alaska Air wanted to buy Virgin America, and Alaska eventually won. So, as a consolation prize, JetBlue is giving money to the public instead of VA shareholders.
Take a screenshot of your Virgin America account and email it to JetBlue before July 4. After they send you the confirmation that you have been enrolled, book and fly one roundtrip on JetBlue by 8/31/16, and they’ll give you your bonus. Hopefully you’ll need to take a flight anyway. But even if you had no plans to do so, if you are eligible for one of the better bonuses, it makes sense to find the cheapest roundtrip out of your hometown and fly it. Yup, fly out, turn around and fly right back.
What If I Have No Virgin America Points?
No points? No problem. No Elevate account? No problem. Head over to Virgin America’s website. Open an account if you don’t already have one. They may or may not give you a 500 point sign-up bonus. But even if they don’t, you have other ways to get a few points (or more than a few points), namely by converting them from other programs. Starwood will allow you to transfer points 1-1 to Virgin America, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 you convert. American Express will transfer Membership Rewards points at a rate of two MR points per 1 Elevate point. While the former may sound like a better deal, it isn’t. One Starwood point is worth more than two membership rewards points. And those points will likely become Alaska Air points after the merger is consummated.
I just checked my Elevate account and found out that I had about 3,800 points. Only 480 of those points actually came from flying on Virgin America. The rest were freebies that they gave away. 250 points here, 500 points there. I transferred enough MR points to bring my Elevate account up to 10,005 points.
The Bottom Line
JetBlue correctly reasoned that Virgin America customers will pick Alaska as their new airline, since that’s where their points are going. They want those customers, so JetBlue incorrectly reasoned that, by matching those points, they will pick up the customers. They are wrong. Passengers pick airlines by price and convenience. Once Alaska buys Virgin, guess who’s more convenient for customers.
Don’t wait on this one. Eventually, JetBlue will begin to wonder why there are so many people who have Elevate balances with numbers like 10,005 or 50,001 and change the promotion.
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