As you have probably noticed, I haven’t written in some time as I have been incredibly busy with my day job. With that being said, something happened today that makes me so incredibly angry that I simply had to write about it.
As someone that previously joined WestJet to help it become a strong loyalty program, I have a unique perspective on what constraints the program had to work within. Even so, the decisions being made here HEAVILY call into question the competence of the people working within the program. Of the 15 or so people that worked in the department, outside of myself, there were only 3 … count em … 3 individuals that had ANY experience in a loyalty program. The VP of the group comes from a Supply Chain Management background and it shows. The decisions being made here suggest a lack of understanding of what attracts loyalty.
I can’t emphasize this enough. The WestJet Loyalty Program is an ABSOLUTE JOKE and what was a weak program, has been further run into the ground with some head-scratching decisions. Anyone that had any competence in loyalty would understand that these decisions are the beginning of the end of the WestJet Loyalty Program.
The immediate term that comes to mind is “dumpster fire”
The Member Exclusive Program
In the WestJet Member Exclusive Program there were two standard ways to earn WestJet Dollars (WSD). You could either earn them through their co-branded credit cards, the WestJet/RBC World Elite Mastercard, or the WestJet/RBC Mastercard (AKA the Basic card). The other option was to earn them by flying WestJet.
Both methods were problematic due to the slow earn associated with each. With the World Elite Mastercard, you would earn at a rate of 1.5% of your spend whereas the Basic card would net you a paltry 1%.
Earning by spending your hard earned money on flights with WestJet is an exercise that requires some math and it depends on the status you hold with WestJet. As most people fell into the Teal category, that would mean that you would earn a ridiculous 0.5% of your base fare in WSD as a “thank you” for your loyalty.
Sure, if you held Gold or Platinum status, it was a decent return but that was assuming you got any value out of redeeming WSD. Below is an example of the base fare of a few flights and their associated WSD earn based on tier.
The WSD earn as a Teal member is comically hilarious. 0.5% earn???? BAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAH. Thank you for flying across the country with us. Here are your 2 WestJet Dollars. Oh, and those 2 WSDs are only because WestJet’s system rounds … you should really have only earned 1.5 WSDs.
Imagine you’re a new business traveler about to cut your teeth in loyalty programs. You see 0.5% earn with WestJet and pull out your calculator and think to yourself … if I spend $3,000 in base fare with WestJet, I will earn 15 WSD ($3,000 * 0.5%). Wow! What a great program. I’m all in … said no one ever.
Okay, I’m going to move on from this point even though it is an egregiously horrible way to attract loyal customers. Ultimately, WestJet only shoots itself in the foot with this approach as it all but guarantees that nobody will organically grow into the program but that’s the route that they’ve decided to take. Fine. That’s not my biggest gripe.
That gripe lies in the fact that you receive ABSOLUTELY NO VALUE FOR YOUR WSD!
Member Exclusive (ME) Fares
WestJet has just launched their new Member Exclusive Fares and I have to tell you. It’s a complete and utter steaming pile. Straight up garbage.
Let’s put aside the fact that earning WestJet Dollars is notoriously difficult, now WestJet is making the redemption value of your WSD almost completely worthless.
What the ME Program Used to Be
In its previous life, the Member Exclusive Fares provided some decent value on redemption. Below is a chart of what you used to be able to redeem for on WestJet metal flights.
While most of the chart wasn’t very attractive, there was a definite sweet spot in the Long-Haul Domestic / USA redemption. 125 WSD per direction and it included transcontinental flights. Imagine going from Vancouver (YVR) to New York (JFK) for 125 WSD and a bit of tax. It was great. Even for flights between Calgary (YYC) and Toronto (YYZ), you could almost never beat the value that a Member Exclusive fare offered.
Take a look at what I paid to fly a round-trip ticket from Calgary (YYC) to Halifax (YHZ) earlier in the year (I had to cancel thanks to the Altlantic Bubble but I digress).
250 WSD and $91.16 in taxes. That was a great deal and strong use of my hard-earned WSD. It definitely felt like a reward for my loyalty to WestJet.
What the ME Program is Now
Let’s gloss over the fact that WestJet paused the Member Exclusive Program for an incredible 4 MONTHS AND 11 DAYS (133 DAYS). Is this a joke? 4 months?!?!?!? During these 4 months, people holding WSD had absolutely no avenue to redeem their WSD outside a straight-up dollar for dollar redemption of your WSD against the base fare of a REGULAR REVENUE TICKET. What a great deal … LOL.
During this pause, you could not redeem for partner redemptions with WestJet’s Frequent Flyer Partners, Delta, Qantas, Air France, or KLM. Yet another joke.
So what do we get for waiting this long? Yet another joke.
If we value 1 WSD at 1 CAD, this represents a “savings” of $31.82 (10.2%) savings over the Basic fare and a $52.92 (15.8%) savings over the Econo fare.
Oh and by the way? You have to redeem 100% of the base fare in WSD or this “savings” isn’t available to you. And yep, you guessed it, you spent $13,466 on your WestJet World Elite Mastercard to earn enough WSD for the privilege of saving $52.92 … that’s an ROI of 0.4%.
More “Great” Enhancements
Say you’re short 20 WSD and you REALLY want to save that $52.92 from our example above. Well, you can continue to purchase your WSD through Points.com as you could before but here’s the added benefit. It now costs you $2.00 CAD for every 1 WSD you purchase. BAHHAHHAHAHHAHHAHAHA. Previously you could purchase WSD at par with a bit of an upcharge from Points.com. Now you’ll never purchase any WSD. Great thinking.
Also, were you thinking of flying to Australia on Qantas? Ya … well, keep wishing. The new Member Exclusive program doesn’t allow for redemptions on their Frequent Flyer Partners.
Loyalty 101: Have frequent flyer partners to expand your network and open the world to your members. Make your partner’s destinations the aspirational places your members want to travel.
Loyalty 202: Make your currency redeemable on your FFPs.
Guess the group at WestJet was too busy smoking cigarettes in the bathroom and tuning up their Camaros in the parking lot to sit in on the 202 class.
Wait. WestJet says that partner redemptions are being contemplated for the future? Great. Based on their track record, that means 2022, and expect “great” value like you’re seeing here.
In their release, WestJet claims that only 1% of people ever used Member Exclusive Fares and their conclusion is that people didn’t find value in them. Did you ever stop to think that the marketing awareness of your loyalty program is what’s at fault and not the value of the ME fare itself? SMH.
Yet another CLEAR indication of not understanding anything about loyalty.
If you fly WestJet, stop. If you are collecting WSD, stop. If you hold the WestJet/RBC World Elite Mastercard, cancel it as soon as your annual fee hits. If you have status with WestJet, send a note to the nice folks at Air Canada and BEGGGGGG for a status challenge.
There is absolutely no reason you should invest any time or effort into a loyalty program that provides no loyalty in return. Trust me. You’re better off collecting Air Miles (**gasp**) or those stickers on the side of McDonald’s coffee cups.
It’s an absolute shame how horrific this “loyalty” program is. I have seen MANY devaluations in programs throughout my years but never have I ever seen such shortsighted disregard for you as a customer.
I spoke to a member of Air Canada’s Aeroplan team at an event several months back and he pondered the question, “can you imagine if we just stopped partner redemptions? Can you imagine how much backlash there would be?”.
Ever wonder why there are only 23 comments on a FlyerTalk thread about the Member Exclusive Pause prior to today and why there wasn’t any uproar? It’s because NOBODY CARES ABOUT THE WESTJET LOYALTY PROGRAM.
I’m not sure if the fine people at RBC understand how detrimental this is to the co-brand and how it will destroy sign-ups for the credit card. The removal of a fixed award chart (even if it was unpublished) in favour of a discount is an absolute travesty.
When you put people that don’t have experience in running a loyalty program, this is the result … a complete and utter disaster. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend anyone collect WSD or bother with the WestJet Loyalty Program.
Most airlines use their loyalty programs to earn piles and piles and piles of money while earning loyalty from their customers. WestJet has taken this proven model and somehow found a way to destroy loyalty and significantly reduce the revenue coming from credit card sign-ups.
What a joke.
Surveillance footage of WestJet’s new Member Exclusive Launch