Although JetBlue is broadening the reach of its loyalty program, it won't see the benefits it expects if the program becomes significantly more complicated, as some experts believe.
JetBlue Airways has finally made long overdue improvements to its loyalty program True Blue. The New York-based carrier announced on December 7 it’s expanding its elite Mosaic programs and creating a level of mileage accumulation named tiles that enables customers to obtain perks before reaching mosaic levels of flying.
However, loyalty program experts question whether JetBlue’s first updates to True Blue in 10 years have made it unnecessarily complicated, which they see as part of a trend of airline loyalty programs becoming more complex.
“With the exception of Southwest, all of these programs suffer from extreme complexity,” said Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorksCompany, which develops marketing for airline loyalty programs. “The model for the big three airlines [American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines] has been we’re going to throw an array of stuff at our members and hope that some of it will be of interest to them.”
Sorensen added that having four elite Mosaic tiers, instead of one, seems excessive. “True Blue had a very simple premise, and now it’s very complex.”
Travel columnist Joe Brancatelli seconds Sorensen’s belief about True Blue becoming more confusing. “JetBlue didn’t knock your socks off with the announcement,” he said.
But JetBlue spokesperson Philip Stewart refuted notions that the carrier made True Blue too complex. “In designing the program, we actually took many steps to try and make it simple,” Stewart said about the changes scheduled to take effect in spring 2023.
“We think creating a separately named tracking system for status [tiles] will much more easily allow customer to differentiate between that and True Blue points, rather than trying to figure out Mosaic qualifying points versus True Blue points.”
True Blue accumulation will be for total spending — not just for JetBlue flights and travel bookings. That follows the example of American Airlines, which broadened its program in March so that all credit card spending is recognized by the same methodology as flying. Airlines are increasingly making their loyalty programs receptive to non-airline spending.
“Now, our True Blue members will be able to combine the tiles they earn from card spend with the tiles they earn from flight spend,” Stewart said, adding that JetBlue will be better able to further take full advantage of its Northeast Alliance with American Airlines and acquisition of Spirit Airlines.
True Blue members will earn one tile for every $100 in spending on airline related-costs, including American Airlines spending. Members will also earn one tile for every $1,000 in spending on JetBlue credit cards. Tiles will not only determine progress toward Mosaic status, but also will enable access to selected perks, including access to security screening, an in-flight alcoholic screening and double points for booking a vacation package.
“Airlines are adapting their loyalty programs to the new realities of travel, and so are we,” Stewart said. “We’re opening up rewards to even infrequent travelers and in adding more levels of mosaic and additional ways to qualify, we’re adding more benefits and more personalization and choice.”
Although Brancatelli raised concerns about JetBlue’s loyalty program strategy regarding its merger with Spirit, noting that Spirit’s program Free Spirit is very different from True Blue, he nonetheless issued support for True Blue’s overdue updates.
“JetBlue is providing more choice at the elite level and recognizing more spending with a better integration of credit card spend into the program,” Brancatelli said. “That recognizes more spending and gives more value to the card.”
Likewise, Sorensen applauded some of the changes Jet Blue has made to its loyalty program.
“I give them high marks for innovation with tiles. It allows everyday members to enjoy more perks on their path to becoming a highly valued customer. And it allows customers to choose their perk.”
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Photo credit: JetBlue has made overdue improvements to its loyalty program Adam Fagen / Flickr