WestJet Reward Program

February 14th, 2008 by Potato

Westjet says in a Globe & Mail article that it’s considering moving away from Air Miles and starting its own reward program. This seems to me to be a pretty rough move from the customer’s point of view. Air Miles is handy because it can be collected from so many places and redeemed for so many things. Air Canada’s Aeroplan has sucked monkey balls for years, and while recently it’s become possible to collect Aeroplan points in other stores (such as Futureshop, some gas stations, etc), there’s no reason to think that WestJet’s own plan would do the same, so it might be a very inconvenient, useless plan indeed, unless you fly a lot. If they were to go it alone, I think I’d prefer instead that they just cut the price a bit, since airline reward systems are generally just quagmires waiting to happen.

Borrowing a page from Shoppers’ playbook, Mr. Durfy said WestJet envisages stimulating travel demand by issuing bonus points to passengers who fly on slower days, notably Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

“There’s some neat stuff that you can do if you have control of your own loyalty program. The sky’s the limit,” he said.

Ok, that is not a reason to leave Air Miles. You can already offer double Air Miles or bonus 100 Air Miles for features — other retailers such as A&P do all the time. Buy 4 pineapples, get 3 Air Miles; buy a carton of milk and a box of cereal, get 10 Air Miles; Sunday double bonus Air Miles day!

And finally, a quick comparison of Air Miles vs. Aeroplan:

Air Miles are worth approx 14 cents each (based on getting a $20 gift certificate to A&P). Aeroplan miles are worth approx 0.74 cents each (based on redeeming for a $100 gift card). For a direct flight to Victoria for a conference this summer, both Air Canada and West Jet are having a seat sale so it’s $264 each way, total of $528. Air Canada will give me 176 Aeroplan Miles, or a kickback of $1.30 (it’s actually better to take their offer to knock $3 off the price of the flight and not collect any!). West Jet will give 26 Air Miles, or a loyalty value of $3.64. That’s about a 0.7% loyalty kickback, which is pretty typical for many loyalty programs (Shoppers Optimum, RBC Rewards, etc). When it’s Air Miles they’re giving me, that can add up and I can use it somewhere. If they switch to their own flight rewards system, then it’s likely I won’t be able to redeem for anything until I’ve collected hundreds of dollars worth of points, which even flying a few times per year would never happen within my lifetime.

I generally do like taking advantage of loyalty points programs — who doesn’t like getting something for nearly nothing — however, I start getting really pissed off and uninterested when each and every individual store has their own, separate points game. At that point, unless it’s somewhere I shop a lot, I’d just rather they just cut the prices or improved the product/service and stuff their loyalty programs. West Jet certainly fits here: West Jet has slightly better service than Air Canada, as long as the prices are close, I’m going to pick West Jet. The few dollars worth of points in Air Miles are not swaying my choice, and a more restrictive West Jet exclusive program would have no influence.

3 Responses to “WestJet Reward Program”

  1. Ben Says:

    You should write them a short letter or send them a quick email just telling them that as a customer you think it would be wise that they stuck with their current rewards scheme. Tell them how AC’s Aeroplan miles suck monkeyballs and you’re satisfied with what WestJet is offering now.

  2. Potato Says:

    I did :) I also told them that eventually every rewards program seems to either devalue their points (as both Air Miles and Aeroplan have done in recent years), or start cancelling old outstanding points from “inactive” members, and that neither of those moves can be good for building loyalty.

  3. Potato Says:

    Westjet has gotten back to me. Granted, it’s a fairly typical say-nothing don’t-get-in-more-trouble type response, but at least they took the time to write me back (I really didn’t expect any more than that):

    Thank you for taking the time to contact WestJet regarding our AIR MILES program. Hearing from you is important to us and I apologize for the delay of our response.

    At the moment, no changes have been made to the WestJet Mosaik MasterCard program; guests can still collect AIR MILES rewards points when they book online and AIR MILES seats are still available on WestJet flights.

    As a publicly traded company, WestJet constantly endeavors to make responsible decisions that benefit both our guests and our shareholders. Hearing your thoughts regarding AIR MILES helps us to know what our guests would like to see from us while we do just that and I would like to thank you for letting us know how you feel.

    Should any changes come into effect, please be assured that it will be shared and explained at the time. We thank you for being a part of WestJet’s growing process and hope to offer you excellent service in the future.

    Kind Regards,

    Specialist – Guest Relations

    So my one letter probably meant nothing, but if they got a few dozen more from people who don’t want to see another mileage program like Aeroplan, then they might reconsider. Here was the text of the letter I originally sent them:

    I just read the Globe & Mail article indicating that West Jet plans to drop Air Miles and develop its own frequent flyer program. I have to say that this sounds like a bad idea for a number of reasons. First off, Air Miles is a useful program to belong to because as customers we can collect points from multiple sources, and there are a variety of low-point requirement rewards, so they are actually useful. A West Jet only program would probably require dozens of flights before any kind of reward could be had, in which case I think I would prefer that West Jet not bother, and simply rely on their excellent service and competitive prices to encourage loyalty.

    Furthermore, one of the reasons stated by Mr. Durfy in the G&M article for moving away from Air Miles was that: “WestJet envisages stimulating travel demand by issuing bonus points to passengers who fly on slower days, notably Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.”

    There is absolutely no reason that a program like this can’t be done within the Air Miles framework. Retailers like A&P, Pharma Plus, and Shell already have offers like this, whether it’s double Air Miles for shopping on Sundays, or bonus Air Miles for buying certain products, or certain combinations of products.

    If Air Miles isn’t working for West Jet, then by all means, get rid of it. I know that for me, it doesn’t affect my choice to use West Jet. But please: the last thing the world needs is another airline-specific loyalty program that is nigh useless for anything less than inhuman amounts of travel. They tend to be margnial at best, and annoying and at worst. Think of the damage that can be done to consumer relations if/when the West Jet frequent flyer program decides to cancel unused points on people who haven’t taken a flight in the last year, or devalue existing points (as both Aeroplan and Air Miles have done in recent years).

    I had written two more sentences about the potential benefits of having a rewards program at arms length, and then a courtesy one about how I generally like WestJet and would probably continue to use them no matter what silly thing they did with their rewards program — but that it was still something to consider. I had to cut them out due to space limitations in their feedback form…