In Part 1 of Understanding WestJet Rewards, we covered off the status levels of the program and in Part 2, we talked about WestJet Dollars (WSD) and how to earn and redeem them. Today, in Part 3, we are talking about WestJet’s Partner Airlines and redemptions on those partners.
In the grand scheme of things, WestJet is a relatively new player in comparison to their rivals, Air Canada. That being said, the route network within Canada and the US is very strong but internationally is where Air Canada truly dominates, at least for the time being. In order to compete globally, most airlines are left with but two choices:
- Expand their networks internationally
- Partner with other airlines to expand their reach
WestJet has decided to do both by soon bringing on the first of their ten 787s in early 2019 with their sights set on China, Japan, and Europe. Additionally, WestJet has partnered with Delta (US), Quantas (Australia), Air France (France), and KLM (Netherlands). WestJet also partners with American Airlines (US) but that partnership is due to expire on July 31, 2018.
Okay, so we know that WestJet partners with Delta, Qantas, Air France, and KLM, but what does that really mean? It means that these airlines can codeshare with each other.
What is a codeshare you ask? Well, a codeshare is basically when airlines “share” a flight. You may have run into this at the airport before when you expect to be getting on a WestJet flight but find that you are actually getting on a Delta flight (or vice versa).
Here’s an example of how Air France codeshares with WestJet on a Winnipeg to Paris flight:
Here, we see that it looks like it will be an Air France plane from Winnipeg to Toronto to Paris but in fact, if you look a little closer, you can see that the flight from Winnipeg to Toronto is actually a WestJet flight.
Codeshares allow airlines that are partnered together to sell the flight as if it is their own. For consumers, it simply means that their ability to go more places grows exponentially with every partnership.
While this is pure speculation, I would expect that as WestJet grows into an international airline with their 787 fleet, more partnerships will present themselves going forward.
Other Partnership Benefits
One of the other major benefits of a partnership is the ability to earn and burn loyalty currencies amongst partners. This means that you will be able to earn WestJet Dollars (WSD) when you fly with Delta, Qantas, Air France, or KLM. It also means that you will have access to award inventory for partner redemptions. Currently, the redemption of WSD for partner awards is through something WestJet calls Member Exclusive Fares.
We’ll examine both the earning and burning side of the equation but we’ll first tackle earning.
Earning WSD with Partners
When you fly a partner airline of WestJet’s, you have the ability to earn WSD and while I wish there was an easy way to figure out how much you earn, I’m afraid it’s like my relationship with cheescake, slightly complicated.
What you will need to know is the distance of your flight as well as the fare class/fare bucket of your ticket. If you are unsure of what a fare class or fare bucket is, you’re not alone.
The simple version is that your class of service (Economy, Premium Economy, Business, or First Class) has further subdivisions within it that allow airlines to set different prices for tickets. Each airline is different but your official ticket should show you the fare class you have paid for.
Once you know both your Distance Flown, Class of Service, and Fare Class, it’s a simple cross-reference to find out how many WSD you would earn.
With WestJet’s partners, you will also earn more WSDs if you are a Silver or Gold Member. Luckily the math here is consistent and simple.
If you are a Silver Member, you will earn 50% more WSD than what is listed in the tables below and 100% more if you are a Gold Member.
Let’s take a look at each partner.
As you can see, each airline is slightly different in how they award WSD for flights on their planes. Distance and class of service are largely the determining factors. In order to determine the distance of your flights, I would recommend using GCMap.com.
In my previous example of Winnipeg (YWG) to Toronto (YYZ) to Paris (CDG), the total distance flown would be 4,688 miles on a one-way trip. As we are flying with Air France, we would use that distance and cross-reference the chart to see that we would earn:
- 1o WSD if flying in Economy Class
- 1o WSD if flying in Premium Economy Class
- 15 WSD if flying in Business Class
- 15 WSD if flying in First Class
If you are a Silver Member, you would earn 50% more WSD and if you are Gold, 100% more WSD.
Redeeming WSD on Partner Airlines
Redemptions of WSDs on WestJet flights offer you the option to do partial redemptions as long as your redemption amount is more than 15 WSD. Unfortunately, redemptions of WSD for award flights on partners require you to have 100% of the WSDs available to redeem.
In order to redeem WSD for partner awards, you need to look for something called Member Exclusive Fares and it’s currently a bit difficult to navigate but I’ll be your guide.
Member Exclusive Fares
In order to find Member Exclusive Fares, you need to go to the main page of WestJet.com and look for the search box. When you see it, you need to click the somewhat hidden link that says “Member Exclusive fares, all options”
From there, you will be taken to another page that has a similar looking search box. When you find that search box, enter your origin and destination but make sure you check off the Member Exclusive check box.
When you click on Get flights, you will be taken to a calendar view that shows you the available dates for the award and the pricing.
Unfortunately, there is currently no functionality to search another month without going back to the previous page but at least you see a full calendar month of availability, which is much more functionality than you would find on something like Aeroplan’s search.
Once you choose your flight, you are taken to a page that provides further flight details. At this point, you will need to sign into your WestJet Rewards Account as WestJet needs to verify your WSD balance.
Remember, you need to have 100% of the WSD in order to book the Member Exclusive Fare, in this case, 629 WSD.
As I do not have enough WSD to book this flight, all options to continue are grayed out but you can see that the award would take me from Winnipeg to Calgary to Los Angeles to Sydney. While this may not sound like an ideal route, you have to understand that there are no airlines that fly directly from Winnipeg to Los Angeles, so every award would require an additional connection. If you started in WestJet’s hub of Calgary, you would likely be offered a Calgary to Los Angeles to Sydney flight.
Great Deals to be Had
The question that comes to a lot of people’s minds in Travel Hacking circles, is “is this a good deal?”.
The answer is that Member Exclusive Fares can offer amazing deals.
In the above example of Winnipeg to Sydney on a one-way flight, you would need to pay 629 WSD and $117.17 in taxes. If you value 1 WSD to 1 CAD (as you should), the total outlay would be $746.17. That sounds like a good deal but what would the retail cost be?
A lot more.
The retail cost of the ticket is over twice as expensive as the Member Exclusive Fare so you stand to save a LOT of money.
Short of WSD?
Here’s where things get cray-cray. Did you know that you can purchase WSD from Points.com? While there is a slight premium on the purchase, it’s not very much and certainly still represents a HUGE saving in comparison to retail.
One slight caveat. You are only allowed to purchase 3,000 WSD in a calendar year but that should be more than enough for most people.
One unfortunate thing is that you are only able to purchase WSD in round numbers, meaning it’s impossible to purchase 639 WSD. Rather, you are forced to choose between 600 WSD and 700 WSD. Assuming you have 39 WSD in your account, an additional 600 WSD would cost you $630.00 + tax. Taxes are determined by your billing address.
If you take the cost of purchasing WSD and add it to the taxes you would pay for the redemption, you are still much further ahead than paying retail for the ticket.
In my example, I would pay $630 + 8% tax in Manitoba = $680.40 + $117.17 (airport taxes and fees) = $797.57. If you compare that to the retail cost of $1,563.06 you would save $765.49!!!
Assuming that the schedule works for your needs, Member Exclusive Fares can offer you an amazing saving on your flights.
Today we learned about earning WestJet Dollars when flying with WestJet Partner Airlines and we also did a bit of a deep dive on redeeming for partner awards (Member Exclusive Fares). Like any program, it takes a bit of effort to learn but once you do, you can quickly see how it can unlock some very significant value for your award redemptions.