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Analyzing WestJet’s New Member Exclusive Fares (Let’s Be Perfectly Honest)

WestJet has today introduced its revamped version of the Member Exclusive fares. You can check out my initial post for everything you need to know about the new program: the fixed Member Exclusive pricing from the previous edition will be going away, and will instead be replaced by dynamic discounts on a wider range of flights (including Premium and Business fares).

In this post, I wanted to take a deeper look at how the Member Exclusive fares will work now that they’re integrated into the main WestJet search engine, and then I’ll share with you some of my honest thoughts on the new program.

Spoiler alert: like many of you, I’m feeling very disappointed at the new Member Exclusive fares, where the value has been stripped down significantly compared to before.

New Member Exclusives: A Variable Discount on the Regular Fare

The new Member Exclusive fares will be seamlessly integrated into the WestJet flight search engine. For any eligible Econo, Premium, or Business fare (excluding Basic, EconoFlex, PremiumFlex, and BusinessFlex), the Member Exclusive counterpart to that fare will provide members with a certain discount on that fare.

The search engine will show you the amount of savings you’re getting below the regular fare. In the below example, redeeming WestJet Dollars for the Member Exclusive Economy option saves you $20.01 compared to the regular Econo fare of $470.22 – equivalent to a 4.26% discount.

Taking any combination of Member Exclusive pricing, we can apply the usual formula to figure out what value we’re getting for our WestJet Dollars:

redemption value =
(regular cash price – taxes and fees on redemption) / # of points required

Here, we have $470.22 – $113.21 = $357.01, divided by 337 WSD, giving us a redemption value of $1.06/WSD for our WestJet Dollars – certainly a far cry from the $2, $3, or $5+/WSD that we’d be able to unlock through the old Member Exclusive fares.

In the spirit of doing a fair comparison, I ran the numbers in a similar fashion on the following one-way WestJet routes: Toronto–Calgary, Edmonton–Phoenix, Vancouver–Halifax, Calgary–Maui, and Toronto–London Gatwick.

For each route, I decided to look at a date in March 2021, because there’s supposed to be a promotion of up to a 35% discount currently in place for travel until June 27, 2021. I also looked across all three classes of service (Economy, Premium, and Business), and if there was more than one variable discount on a given date, I chose the cheapest flight.

Economy

Premium

Business

Toronto (YYZ)

Calgary (YYC)

$99.67 off $354.96

28.1% discount

$1.61/WSD

$52.32 off $593.39

8.8% discount

$1.13/WSD

$100.35 off $1,073.64

9.3% discount

$1.13/WSD

Edmonton (YEG)

Phoenix (PHX)

$12.87 off $323.77

4.0% discount

$1.06/WSD

$23.83 off $543.22

4.4% discount

$1.06/WSD

Vancouver (YVR)

Halifax (YHZ)

$22.11 off $511.80

4.3% discount

$1.06/WSD

$103.64 off $1,106.10

9.4% discount

$1.12/WSD

Calgary (YYC)

Maui (OGG)

$16.35 off $406.73

4.0% discount

$1.05/WSD

$40.96 off $898.74

4.6% discount

$1.05/WSD

$43.91 off $957.74

4.6% discount

$1.05/WSD

Toronto (YYZ)

London (LGW)

$13.00 off $304.16

4.3% discount

$1.2/WSD

$35.00 off $1,027.16

3.4% discount

$1.05/WSD

$84.00 off $2,259.16

3.7% discount

$1.05/WSD

As you can see, on balance, the new Member Exclusive fares provide you a discount of roughly between 3% and 10% for most flights that you search for.

Occasionally, there’s a pocket of value that reaches towards to the “up to 35%” amount that’s being advertised under the current promotion, but many flights show discounts that are much more paltry than that. And even then, the implicit valuation of the WestJet Dollar redemption only reaches about $1.60/WSD, still paling in comparison to what was previously offered.

The numbers here certainly don’t tell a pretty story about the value that you can expect out of Member Exclusive fares… but they don’t quite tell the full story, either.

A strange phenomenon occurs when the Member Exclusive discount isn’t even significant enough to beat out the Basic Economy price. After factoring in the taxes and fees, the Member Exclusive fare is actually more expensive.

You might think, “Well, Basic fares don’t offer you anything besides the seat, so surely Member Exclusive fares still have an advantage.” But take a closer look: the only advantage is the ability to select seats for free – is that really worth going out of your way to pay extra, let along pay for the entire Member Exclusive base fare with your WestJet Dollars balance?

Speaking of which, the move towards a variable discount model, rather than fixed pricing, also completely distorts the requirement to pay for the entire Member Exclusive base fare using your WestJet Dollars balance.

In the past, the main appeal of WestJet’s Member Exclusive fares was that their fixed pricing may be very attractive when compared to the regular cash fare on the same ticket. Thus, you had to “earn” the reward by paying for that cheaper pricing entirely with your WestJet Dollars.

Under the current program, let’s say that a dedicated WestJet customer earned a sizeable balance after many years of dedicated flying and spending on the co-branded credit card. Will they really feel rewarded by $22 in savings on an economy fare? Or $43 in savings on a business class ticket?

In what way is a member meant to feel rewarded by redeeming their hard-earned WestJet Dollars for these paltry savings, when they could always redeem at a 1:1 ratio to cover the regular fare anyway (which, in the case of the Basic fares highlighted above, can sometimes be even cheaper)?

One of our commenters on the initial post highlighting the changes said it best: instead of a loyalty program providing outsized value for the dedicated customer, we now have a discount program akin to being able to apply a promotional code to your base fare… except you have to cover the whole thing with hard-earned WestJet Dollars but at a minimal value. The value proposition simply isn’t there.

Let’s Be Perfectly Honest Here

Here at Prince of Travel, we partner with WestJet to highlight their products and offerings, and over the last few years I’ve been very supportive of WestJet’s journey to improve on all fronts and transform from a low-cost carrier into a full-service airline (in fact, I think I’ve typed that exact sentence every time WestJet comes up around here).

After all, as Canada’s second-largest airline, WestJet is well-positioned to bring more competition to the Canadian aviation and loyalty landscape in the long run, and that’s something I would love to see happen for all of our sakes.

However, as both a personal user of WestJet’s Member Exclusive fares as well as a media partner of the airline, I must highlight my immeasurable disappointment with the new Member Exclusive fares and the sheer extent to which the original value in the program has been stripped away.

I harboured some skepticism when I first learned about the new dynamic pricing model, but remained optimistic that the search engine might price in some very tempting discounts, especially to incentivize bookings in the Premium and Business cabins which were not previously possible under Member Exclusives.

Upon delving into the search results, however, that’s clearly not the case at the moment; in fact, Premium and Business flights seem to be limited to the lower discount levels, without getting close to the “up to 35% discount” that’s being advertised.

WestJet is quick to highlight the improved user experience of booking Member Exclusive fares, the broader appeal to a wider set of WestJet members, and the greater seat availability.

The airline’s key messaging, and the thought process behind this new offering, centres around the fact that less than 1% of WestJet Rewards members booked Member Exclusive fares under the old scheme, and this new structure will make it more accessible for the remaining 99% of members.

But by and large, those 1% of members who knew how to maximize the program were readers here at Prince of Travel and the wider Miles & Points community. We may be a small percentage of overall users, but we’re also a very dedicated bunch, and will happily become fiercely loyal to any given program when it offers good value.

Make a program appealing, exciting, and fair, and we’ll happily put in the effort to participate in the program, rack up enough points (or Dollars) to book our dream business class flight, and sing the praises of the program and the airline product to the wider public.

But completely gut the value from the program and make it akin to coupon-clipping… and there’s simply no reason to bother when there are so many better alternatives on the market.

Yes, the previous Member Exclusive fares were difficult for the average member to find, book, and understand. However, it was entirely possible to improve things like the user experience, flexibility, and changeability – and yes, perhaps even raise the pricing structure in a reasonable way – while preserving some semblance of a value proposition for the program’s most enthusiastic users.

(It wouldn’t even have been very difficult, since WestJet already has the prospect of a high-value redemption on its 787 business class as a carrot to dangle in front of members!)

Instead, the pendulum has swung far too wildly in the opposite direction: more of WestJet Rewards’s casual user base will discover the Member Exclusive option, sure, but the program’s most dedicated users are now entirely left behind, and the value simply isn’t good enough for those of us who are looking to earn meaningful rewards from the program in exchange for our meaningful participation.

Between all of us in the community, we’ve seen plenty of loyalty program devaluations in the past, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a spectacular swing-and-a-miss when it comes to capturing the core essence of what drives loyalty in a loyalty program as we’re seeing here.

Ultimately, my greatest sense of regret on behalf of WestJet is due to the sheer magnitude of the opportunity that was available for the taking here – only for the ball to be dropped at this critical juncture.

The airline has been on a hot streak lately: making the first move in issuing refunds on cancelled flights, partnering with the province of Alberta to offer rapid testing as an alternative to the 14-day quarantine, and opening their brand-new Elevation Lounge in Calgary.

A competitive loyalty program offering strong value for all types of travellers would’ve been the final piece of the puzzle, especially given the timing of today’s announcement, just in advance of Air Canada’s big Aeroplan launch this weekend – making WestJet extremely well-positioned to steal their rival’s thunder.

Instead, as things stand, it’s Air Canada who will rest easy knowing that their loyalty offering won’t be threatened much by their primary challenger.

After all of the hype about becoming a full-service premium airline, and plenty of action to back it up over the past few years, WestJet’s new loyalty offering today sadly comes straight out of a budget carrier’s playbook – and that’s just a real shame.

Conclusion

WestJet has rolled out its new-and-evolved Member Exclusive fares, which are supposed to offer a discount of up to 35% on the base fare if booked by December 31, but in reality tend to offer discounts which mostly float around the 3–10% range.

Most disappointingly, that’s all there is to the new Member Exclusives – a discount – with zero intention of offering valuable redemptions as a reward for the program’s most dedicated members.

It isn’t too late for WestJet to chalk this up as a blip and turn this ship around, but they absolutely must listen to the feedback of their most dedicated user base if they wish to incentivize them to stick around in the long run.

Even as a media partner who’s invested in their success – nay, especially as someone in this role – I must encourage them to give serious consideration to member feedback and make a more concerted effort to compete on the loyalty side.

I’m far from the only WestJet member feeling this way. Many of you have already piped up in the comments earlier – and if you fly with WestJet regularly or have elite status with the airline, I’d encourage you to call in and make your voices heard, too.

Together, it’s my hope that we can convince WestJet to at least revisit the thought process behind the new Member Exclusive offerings, so that it isn’t entirely bereft of value for us going forward.

35 Comments
  1. Avatar
    CR

    Bye bye WJ

  2. Avatar
    Sarah Ramkissoon

    I dropped my westjet master card for myself and my player two band swapped them for British airways visa. Sad that westjet chose this path.

  3. Avatar
    Gagn

    I don’t see any discount. In your first screenshot:
    Econo basic: $445
    ME Fare: $450

    It costs more than basic. It’s worthless.

  4. Avatar
    Mike

    Total failure 🤦‍♂️

  5. Avatar
    Richard Harmer

    Yes, after reading my Aeroplan program update and then WJ’s, I will no longer be a “westjetter”. Maybe it’s an early April fool’s joke. Oh well, they don’t get my vote.

  6. Avatar
    Jane

    The new ME fares seem to combine the limited value of a cashback program with the limited flexibility of a points program. The worst of both worlds. Apparently Westjet’s loyalty motto is “ if it ain’t broke smash it into pieces “.

  7. Avatar
    Jeremy Brown

    Just last week I was starting to look at WestJet for reward flight and considering applying for the WJ card. Glad I didn’t go for it, there’s barely any value in these fares anymore. No reason to earn WSD vs. cashback.

  8. Avatar
    Gide

    Instead of spending hours upon hours in your meeting rooms trying to figure out how to fix this, I have a simple solution for you @Westjet.

    Either you scrap this current system and bring back the old ME fares temporarily or you change it to a fixed 50% off of regular base fares temporarily. (Whatever is easier for your IT team. It does seem like they are much more competent than your loyalty team)

    After doing this, fire your entire incompetent loyalty team who apparently prefers spending time smoking in toilets and tuning up their cars instead of actually doing work.

    Then go ahead and hire a new loyalty team who will actually bring the true definition of loyalty back into your program.

    Have them come up with a brand new program and take as long as they need, 6 months, 1 year, but please don’t put the ME program on pause “again” as you would lose all your loyal customers to Air Canada in that time.

    There you go Westjet, You have 2 days to start the change! New Aeroplan launches on Nov 8th.

    Btw if you don’t have the money to hire experienced loyalty execs, you can hire travel blog writers or customers like me who have experienced loyalty from many programs.

    Consider this my application for the job :))).

    1. Avatar
      George

      PLEASE,do not ever use Let’s be honest here.This is intended for the author of the article.Such annoying,filler cliche.Are you dishonest at all other times??

      1. Ricky
        Ricky

        Does “If X, then Y” imply “If Not X, then Not Y”? No, it doesn’t.

        Let’s be honest here – and have some difficult conversations about the reality of what was a much-anticipated new program and the urgency with which it needs to be remedied.

  9. Avatar
    Philip

    I will be planning to stop getting new Westjet dollars because of theses changes. The program was great for North American flights for myself and friend. I even convinced about dozen or so friends/family to get the RBC Westjet cards over the last 2 years but going to advise them to cancel them going forward.

  10. Avatar
    Todd

    Great write-up and analysis. It makes me wonder if WestJet did the same analysis and came to the same dismal conclusion? One would assume so, which makes this change even worse.

    I think I’ll dump my WJ card, shift my spend to my Alaska card (since both have a companion ticket) and re-apply for the US Delta Amex so I can accrue points for redemption.

    Sad day.

  11. Avatar
    Yycguy

    Here’s the part that makes me scratch my head the most: those 4 seats in economy are STILL there – you just can’t access them from WestJet’s own program. You’re better off joining SkyMiles…. and redeeming for WestJet!

  12. Avatar
    Max

    To be honest, as a business WestJet did the right thing to cater to the 99%..all the point nerds are mad sure, but companies shouldn’t care about the 1%.. they shouldn’t care about maximizers who abused their systems to squeeze rewards. If all the point abusers leave WestJet it wouldn’t matter they are such a small fraction lets get over it.

    1. Avatar
      George

      PLEASE,do not ever use Let’s be honest here.This is intended for the author of the article.Such annoying,filler cliche.Are you dishonest at all other times??

    2. Avatar
      Danny

      Ouch. It hurts but you’re absolutely right.

      1. Avatar
        YYCguy

        That’s true if you are not looking for premium travellers or folks who are high spend. If you want to be a budget airline. Most airlines monetize their loyalty programs and make money selling points via credit cards. WestJet doesn’t seem to understand this. This move says “budget carrier” not full-service.

  13. Avatar
    Josh

    Literally all they had to do was market the program: make ME fares searchable alongside revenue fares, and publish an award chart. In that case, a modest devaluation would have been palatable to existing ME users, and unnoticed or even seen as added value by others. Instead, this reeks of some executive who saw that only 1% used ME fares, and decided the best way to pump that number and get a hard-earned pat on the back was to move the goalposts by slapping the ME label on ubiquitous yet laughably small discounts. Transparency builds loyalty, and we have seen through you!

    Why would I earn WSD when I can easily earn cashback at a similar rate? Cash is king! Without outsized rewards from WS, I have no reason to collect a points currency less flexible than cash. I’d rather fly with AC and pocket cash for hotels and other travel or life expenses.

  14. Avatar
    Ron Sigal

    How can we convey our opinions on this to Westjet? Can you point us to an email address or a web portal?

  15. Avatar
    Greg

    @Andrew, I think Ricky, did sugar coat the changes. This is a drastic devaluation. It is basically a 400% devaluation. Not only did awards double in price ($125 – $250 YVR-YYZ) but then the cost of buying points doubled in price.

    Time for everyone to dump your WestJet credit card.

    This is ugly, just ugly!

  16. Avatar
    Frank

    In Chinese ff community, we call delta’s skymiles ‘joss paper in the air’, now it seems Westjet just can’t wait to take the crown.

  17. Avatar
    Alvin

    Hope Westjet sees this comment, the changes to the loyalty program is disappointing to say the least and it’s in bad taste to severely devalue the program with zero warning and cancelling the ability to redeem hard-earned WJD for 4 months. Will be cancelling my RBC Westjet Mastercard and not flying Westjet. Thankfully we still have Air Canada and Aeroplan in Canada.

  18. Avatar
    Paul

    I have absolutely no intent to renew my WestJet credit card and I plan on telling every single one of my friends and family members that have one to cancel theirs. I am utterly disgusted with this move.

  19. Avatar
    Paul

    Mark Nasr, you’re now the points god in Canada. Congrats

  20. Avatar
    Manu

    Good write up Ricky.
    I just hope that the whoever head westjet reads this. And for whomsoever from Onex group – I hope you guys pay & get someone (who has atleast some elementary knowledge about airline loyalty programs) onboard to correct the big snafu your westjet execs have done.
    If you folks don’t have $ to onboard a veteran loyalty exec, just hire some reader of airline / loyalty blogs – they can design a better program than your current “revamped ME fare”.
    It’s just plain STUPID.

  21. Avatar
    莎莎

    I don’t except WS will revert it and bring the old back

  22. Avatar
    Oz

    Haha the funniest line was about West Jet being the coupon clipping airline. I agree with Jayce: McDonald’s stickers are better value. West Jet is making the AC brunette look like an Ethihad blonde from those Sam Chui videos… Right?

  23. Avatar
    Andrew

    I appreciate the honesty Ricky, especially as a media partner! No sugar coating the changes and offering clear, honest feedback.

    While I don’t necessarily need the “good ‘ole days” of $125 fixed pricing (similar to how the WS MC voucher costs went up), something that wasn’t so variable would be nice. If I really wanted “fixed” costs, I can book through Delta. Delta has fairly variable award pricing, but I have no clue why I find this new program and search results so confusing – it’s like a math problem to determine if it’s worth it.

    I think a quick fix would be to ramp up the discount percentage – perhaps 25% off base fares as a minimum across the board, going up to 50%, especially in premium cabins where base fares are significantly higher. That would definitely incentivize WS flyers to save up their WSDs to get value on premium cabins.

    I’m wondering if part of the issue may be due to the money printing effect of issuing WestJet Vacation refunds in WestJet Dollars. Or preserving premium cabins since demand seems to be higher given the current travel situation. In any case, something needs to be done since the $15 WSD redemptions seem pretty good in comparison to the current program.

    1. Avatar
      Sam

      The problem is WJD dont expire. RBC WJ keeps printing them. Airline balance sheets hurt their borrowing costs. Delta had the same problem and lost in court.

  24. Avatar
    Joseph Molony

    I just applied for the RBC Westjet card. Is it too late to cancel it?

  25. Avatar
    Muhammad

    100%!!! Bring back the old ME rates @Westjet

    1. Avatar
      Leigh Morrant

      Well I will be cancelling my West Jet credit card.

      1. Avatar
        Canadian traveller

        This is unfortunate.. as a platinum member I have dedicated the last 6 years to WJ.and when the announcement came out they they were bought I was excited for the change.. I was hoping they would put more value on thousands that travel for business EVERY WEEK! maybe some free internet as we still need to work on our journey across the country.. maybe allowing those of us that have committed hours, days and weeks in the air with WJ without family or friends to use multiple companion vouchers on one trip… like really how many trips can one person take when they are flying all over the country for business.. I think I’m done holding on to WJ and my loyalty is no longer.. even though I hate AC and the ignorance of their staff.. at least they care about those that are loyal to them!

        1. Avatar
          Don

          This change is Total garbage.
          I used the option to purchase Westjet dollars upfront in past, so they had guaranteed upfront cash in exchange for potential future discounted bookings, pretty good idea for a business. Ah well other than ME fares and RBC card, no reason for me to choose Westjet for many flights. Will actually be nice to ditch the otherwise fairly useless RBC card and focus on more Aeroplan miles/cards with their newly-improved program.

          Thanks Prince of Travel for not sugarcoating this nonsense!

Ricky

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