Tuesday, June 23, 2020

More details on the pause and future evolution of WestJet Rewards Member Exclusive Fares

Last Friday we brought you the news that WestJet will be pausing their Member Exclusive Fares as of June 25. At the time there were questions on whether it is a pause or if that redemption feature of the program was going to go by the wayside. I can tell you the good news that it is strictly a pause. WestJet has committed that a solution will be in place by the end of 2020 with a better member reward offering and will continue to add more features after that. If you are unfamiliar with WestJet's Member Exclusive Fares they are basically WestJet's fixed grid redemption option. If you are familiar with Aeroplan's Classic Flight rewards chart, Amex's Fixed Points for Travel chart, the RBC Avion chart and so on that is what Member Exclusive Fares are. 

The primary reason for wanting to update member exclusives is exactly what is stated on WestJet's site - to improve the process. Right now the booking process for Member Exclusive Fares doesn't follow their typical booking flow as if you were buying a revenue ticket or even just wanting to redeem WestJet dollars towards a revenue ticket.

Improving the process for booking Member Exclusive Fares will make it easier for WestJet to promote them. The uptake on the program was lower than expected and up until now it has been a secondary method of redemption that members mostly learned of via sites like ours. They aren't front and centre on WestJet's site (yes there is a check box right on the home page to show the fares during the process but many people aren't aware of what it means) For the most part the WestJet Rewards program has really focused on the ability to redeem WestJet dollars dollar for dollar. However the future Member Exclusive Fares will be much more integrated into the booking process and in my mind should make WestJet Rewards even more competitive with other frequent flyer programs as these type of reward options can provide outsized value. For example in our post from last Friday the flights between Toronto and Calgary were $347.22 using Member Exclusive Fares versus $459.01 to buy outright. 

WestJet's 787 Business Class should become part of Member Exclusive
Fares in the future

The other step with the new Member Exclusive Fares that will make WestJet Rewards that much more competitive is that WestJet wants to make sure they will have set rates for Premium and Business Class redemptions on WestJet flights. 

What is an unknown right now is what the pricing will be for reincarnated Member Exclusive Fares. Will they still be a fixed price and be the same as they are now? Will they move to dynamic pricing like Air Canada is planning for North American redemptions? We don't have any details yet from WestJet but I feel like they will keep a very close eye on what Aeroplan will do and adjust accordingly. What I can say is that they will need to be competitive - for example if the sign up bonus for the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard is 250 WestJet dollars they'll want the standard North America redemption rates to be around 200 to 250 (100 to 125 WJD each way) to stay in the league of what we see from other airline co-brand credit card offers seeing that those others hover around the short haul redemption to long haul redemption region. In my mind if WestJet keeps a fixed rate redemption in place they can't raise the current prices we are used to by more than 10%. If they did WestJet could be putting the nail in the coffin in terms of competing with Aeroplan and having Member Exclusive Fares becoming the competitive tool they want it to be.

All in all the impression I get from WestJet is that they don't want to mess with the actual premise and value of Member Exclusive Fares. They really do want it to become a major part of the WestJet Rewards program, they want it front and centre and they want it to help them grow the program and the airline. 

To close out this post let me say this isn't the only news from WestJet that you can expect over the next few weeks. So stay tuned right here on the Rewards Canada blog as we'll bring you all the details as the news (and offers) get released!

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