When I transferred my SPG points to Virgin to take advantage of the JetBlue Points Match with Virgin, I had already committed to flying JetBlue before August 31st, 2016. By flying a roundtrip with JetBlue by the end of August, I would have 75,000 TrueBlue Points deposited into my newly minted account … for FREE! With that being said, as a Calgarian, I had many issues to consider.
How Much are JetBlue’s TrueBlue Points Worth?
To properly determine how much I should spend in order to achieve the TrueBlue Points, I first needed to know how much value I could get from the 75,000 points. Based on One Mile at a Time’s creator, lucky, they are worth about 1.4¢/point:
So my mileage run would result in 75,000 points at 1.4¢/point for a total of $1,050 worth of flight value on JetBlue. Keep in mind that this $1,050 is on a US carrier for predominantly US routes so the value is logically considered in USD.
What is the Most Logical Route to Fly to Fulfil Your Roundtrip on JetBlue Requirement?
Here’s where things get a little complicated. First off, JetBlue is truly a hub and spoke airline, meaning that unless you are flying to a hub, you are almost assuredly going to connect. For example, if you wanted to fly from Seattle (SEA) to San Francisco (SFO), you would fly past SFO and go all the way to Southern California and connect in Long Beach (LGB), one of JetBlue’s hubs before you could get to your destination, SFO. Personally I hate illogical routes like this … seems so wasteful to me.
Based on the knowledge that LGB was JetBlue’s Western Hub, I knew that there was a high likelihood that it would be my destination. The closest city to Calgary that is serviced by JetBlue is SEA so now I had the JetBlue route that I would fly (SEA-LGB). Knowing that, I now needed to find a way to SEA.
The YYC-SEA flight PLUS the JetBlue’s flight had to be substantially cheaper than the value of the points ($1,050 USD). Knowing that JetBlue’s flights between SEA and LGB are usually pretty reasonable, I focused on the YYC-SEA-YYC leg.
What Are Your Options from YYC to SEA?
There are a few options available to Calgarians to get to Seattle. They are as follows:
- Air Canada via Aeroplan
- Alaskan Airlines via Avios
- Flights with Cash
Let’s explore each option.
1. Air Canada via Aeroplan
The problem with Option 1 is that the taxes and fees are exorbitant. In fact, I find that these extra charges are why many Canadians feel that Aeroplan is a complete rip off. If I didn’t understand the intricacies associated with Aeroplan and how you can extract value from the miles, I would wholeheartedly agree.
If you take a very simple valuation of Aeroplan points at 1.5¢/point, you would essentially be paying $421.96 (15,000 Aeroplan x 0.015 + $196.96). Well at $421.96, you could very easily find a revenue flight and not beholden to Air Canada and the flight times that they select as available for award. This again begs the question of why do we even bother collecting points?
The answer to that question is that we only book flights that provide us with more than 1.5¢/point. My rule of thumb is to extract at least 2-4¢/mile for economy class seats.
2. Alaskan Airlines via Avios
It is not very well known but you can book Alaskan Airlines flight using British Airways Avios … though BA doesn’t make it easy. First off, they often do not show availability for Alaskan Airlines reward flights on the Executive Club (Avios) website, so you have to use alternative methods like searching on American Airline’s website. The rule of thumb is that if you can find a Economy MileSAAver availability, you can book the Alaskan Airlines flight through Avios.
Now Avios is a distance based award so ignore the 15K because it doesn’t apply (that’s only if you booked using American Airlines Miles). To find out the number of Avios required, we turn to The Wandering Aramean’s website and his Avios Calculator.
We see here that to fly from YYC-SEA in Economy would cost 7,500 Avios per direction, so 15,000 Avios for the round trip. Exactly the same as Aeroplan points-wise but what are the taxes and fees? Unfortunately you can’t calculate that on your own, so you must call British Airway’s Executive Club to inquire. I did so and was told that the taxes and fees would equal $74.25 CAD. Not bad but not great either.
If we value Avios at 1.5¢/mile, the total cost would be $299.25 CAD.
So far, it’s my best option. But we have one more option to explore.
3. Flights with Cash
Now this is the option that is my nuclear option because I absolutely hate laying out cash for things that can otherwise be purchased with points but to be quite honest, if I can’t extract at least 2.5¢ of value per point/mile, I will almost always turn to a revenue ticket.
In this particular situation, I found that the flights were very reasonable based on my search of airfares on my chosen date of travel.
I was only interested in non-stop flights so I simply looked at both the fares available as well as whether or not they worked with my expected JetBlue itinerary (as seen below):
Based on these criteria, I was able to find an Alaskan Airlines flight that would allow me to make my connections to my JetBlue Flights:
Using today’s FX exchange rate, the cost of my flight with cash was $263.40 CAD
Let’s compare that to our other options:
- Air Canada via Aeroplan = $421.96 CAD
- Alaskan Airlines via Avios = $299.25 CAD
- Flights with Cash = $263.40 CAD
Clearly the winner in this case is #3 but not by much in comparison to Option #2. There are some that believe that we earn miles to burn them and would choose #2 and while I am firmly in that camp, I am also planning a spectacular 40th birthday celebration that will require me to preserve my Avios balance.
So What is the Total Cost for this Trip?
Well it’s pretty simple. All we need to do is take the cost of the YYC-SEA-YYC flights and add them to the cost of the JetBlue flights from SEA-LGB-SEA. We already know the cost of the YYC-SEA-YYC leg is $202.79 USD from the picture above. So how much is the JetBlue flight? Well, it’s a very reasonable $156.60 USD
The total cost for the trip in USD is $359.39 for a flight that spans 2,835 miles.
So for the total of $359.39 USD , I am able to garner $1,050 worth of JetBlue points. Not taking into account the opportunity cost of taking a day off work, I will profit $690 USD worth of value and have a chance to check out the lounges in the SEATAC airport including the new Centurion Studio.
My only worry is the 50 minute connection in SEA on my first leg. Otherwise I should have no problems making all my connections.