Understanding WestJet's Member Exclusive Fares

I’ve recently partnered up with WestJet and RBC to offer the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard exclusively to Prince of Travel readers. If you’re interested in picking up an extra 250 WestJet Dollars, consider supporting the website by applying for the card through my affiliate link!


WestJet Rewards is the loyalty program of Canada’s second-largest airline. Its primary currency is known as WestJet Dollars (WSD), which are typically redeemable at a 1:1 ratio towards the cost of WestJet flights. 

This fixed 1:1 redemption rate means that the WestJet Rewards program doesn’t get much attention among loyalty enthusiasts such as ourselves, when there are other programs out there which offer more outsized value for your miles. 

However, I’ve recently come across WestJet’s Member Exclusive fares, which represent a better way to use WestJet Rewards that could offer a much higher rate of return on your WestJet Dollars. By taking advantage of Member Exclusive fares, you don’t have to be content with redeeming your WestJet Dollars towards WestJet flights at a mere 1:1 ratio, and can unlock a much higher value for your WSD.


What Are Member Exclusive Fares?

The most common way to redeem WestJet Dollars is to essentially offset against the base fare of a cash ticket. If you find a WestJet ticket between Toronto and Vancouver with a base fare of $400, you can redeem 400 WSD to purchase that ticket, and you’d only have to pay the government-imposed taxes and airport improvement fees (usually another $100 or so). 

As long as there’s a seat available on a WestJet flight, you can redeem WestJet Dollars for that seat in this fashion. Moreover, you don’t have to pay for the whole thing using WSD either, only a minimum of 50 WSD at once. 

So if you only have 100 WSD in your account, you can use that to cover $100 of the base fare and pay for the remaining portion of the base fare, plus the taxes and fees, out-of-pocket.

Member Exclusive fares, on the other hand, are more akin to a traditional award chart that requires a certain amount of WSD for a ticket to a certain geographic region. Member Exclusive fares are available on WestJet flights as well their partner airlines: Delta, Air France, KLM, and Qantas.

Strangely enough, the award chart isn’t published anywhere, but I’ve put together the below unofficial chart that reflects the Member Exclusive fare pricing. Note that I’ve pieced together this chart from repeatedly trawling through the WestJet search engine, but let me know in the comments below if you have any corrections to suggest.

Award WSD required
 one-way, economy class, excludes taxes and fees 
Short-haul domestic / USA 99 WSD
Long-haul domestic / USA 125 WSD
Canada to Hawaii 249 WSD
Canada to Europe 299 WSD
Canada to South America / North Africa 329 WSD
Canada to Rest of Africa / Middle East 429 WSD
Canada to Asia 549 WSD
Canada to Australia 629 WSD

As you’ve probably guessed by now, the fixed pricing based on geographic region allows you to extract some pretty great value out of your WestJet Dollars, as we’ll see below. 

Unlike regular WSD redemptions, Member Exclusive fares follow the traditional model of award availability – you can’t just redeem a Member Exclusive fare on any available seat; instead, it must be a seat that the airline has made available for an award redemption. 

When you do find availability, though, they can provide spectacular value for your WSD, as well as allow you to redeem your WSD for travel to a much broader range of destinations through the airline partners than simply by redeeming on WestJet flights. 

Unlike redeeming WSD on WestJet flights the regular way, Member Exclusive fares must be paid for entirely using WSD. So in order to book a 329 WSD redemption from Canada to Europe, you need to have 329 WSD in your account – you can’t redeem 100 WSD and top-up the rest with cash. 

Lastly, before you luxury-inclined travellers get too excited, Member Exclusive fares are available only for economy class trips at the moment. Therefore, they aren’t usable for WestJet’s fancy business class on their new Dreamliners, nor for partner products like Delta One or Air France La Première.


How Do You Book Member Exclusive Fares?

The only way to search for Member Exclusive fare availability is via WestJet’s website. You’ll want to head to the “Book” page, input your origin and destination in the search engine, and tick the “Member Exclusive fare” box. 

 
 

You’ll be presented with a calendar view of Member Exclusive fare availability, and you can select your desired date from this view. This is a rather useful feature, although there’s no easy way to switch the view to the previous or next month besides going back to the Search page and starting over.

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The next screen will give you a list of booking options, including, if applicable, a side-by-side comparison between redeeming your WSD on regular fares or on Member Exclusive fares. And as we’ll see, the latter is most often the better deal…


Sweet Spots for Domestic Travel

Let’s look at the unofficial award chart that I’ve put together above and see if we can tease out some sweet spots. First off, domestic one-way trips within Canada are priced at 125 WSD plus taxes, meaning that a round-trip would be 250 WSD plus taxes.

The potential to get outsized value here should be immediately apparent. Domestic airfare within Canada can get crazy expensive sometimes, especially if you’re travelling from coast to coast or on a last-minute basis, so booking a Member Exclusive fare for 250 WSD round-trip can deliver immense value. 

For example, let’s say you wanted to book a round-trip from Halifax to Victoria for two passengers in late January. The cash price is $1,451 for two people…

 
 

…but with Member Exclusive fares, you’d only pay 500 WSD plus $213 in taxes and fees.

 
 

Remember that the value of your points is usually calculated using the following formula:

(cash price – taxes and fees) / points redeemed

So in this example, you’d be getting a value of (1,451 – 213) / 500 = 2.48cpp for your WestJet Dollars. That’s far better than the 1cpp fixed return that you get when redeeming WSD the regular way!

The value here can be captured for pretty much any domestic city pair. Let’s take another example: Toronto to… Yellowknife.

 
 

Don’t feel like paying $316 one-way for the trip up to the territories? Why not pay 125 WSD + $53 in taxes, and capture a value of (316 – 53) / 125 = 2.1cpp, instead?

 
 

In effect, by taking advantage of Member Exclusive fares, 250 WSD can be redeemed for virtually any round-trip domestic WestJet flight rather than merely $250 off the price of a WestJet ticket. Essentially, you’re earning a free domestic round-trip just by getting the signup bonus on the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard

Of course, you won’t find Member Exclusive fare availability on every single day, but WestJet is actually extremely generous about making this space available on their own flights.

Indeed, it seems like there’s four seats available for Member Exclusive fares on the vast majority of WestJet flights, as evidenced by the following calendar view when I search for four passengers on a simple Toronto–Vancouver flight a few months from now:

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Sweet Spots for International Travel

Looking beyond WestJet’s own flights, you can redeem Member Exclusive fares for travel on Delta, Air France, KLM, and Qantas as well. Taken together, these four airlines unlock destinations around the world, so the possibilities of redeeming Member Exclusive fares are pretty limitless.

Air France and KLM provide excellent coverage of Europe and North Africa. For example, here’s the calendar for two passengers from Vancouver to Casablanca a few months from now. WestJet’s partners aren’t quite as generous with availability as WestJet itself, but you can see that Member Exclusive fares are still available on a good handful of dates.

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If we take the Casablanca example and look at the equivalent cash fare, we’d see that you’d otherwise pay $981 to travel on this date. Instead, with WestJet Member Exclusive fares, you can travel for just 329 WSD + $92 in taxes and fees. That gives us a value of (981 – 92) / 329 = 2.7cpp! 

 
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Planning a trip to Asia? Delta will likely be your best option. Below is the calendar for two passengers from Winnipeg to Seoul. As you can see, there’s a good handful of availability for Member Exclusive fares at the 549 WSD level.

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Australia is another great use of Member Exclusive fares, since you’re able to use Qantas’s flights to Vancouver and the US West Coast to get down undah’. Here’s a calendar view for two passengers from Ottawa to Brisbane – as you can see, availability at the 629 WSD level is quite plentiful: 

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For the Asia and Australia examples, given that the cheapest one-way fares are in the range of $1,000, the value you get from the respective Member Exclusive fares of 549 WSD and 629 WSD isn’t quite as high as the 2.7cpp quoted above. However, it still provides you with significant savings and a higher value than the standard 1:1 redemption rate nonetheless.

In general, you’ll get the most value out of using Member Exclusive fares on a one-way basis than a round-trip. That’s because one-way international airfare tends to be disproportionately expensive if booked with cash, so by using the fixed rate of Member Exclusive fares to book them, you’re scoring a big discount.

Meanwhile, round-trip airfare in economy class is getting more and more affordable by the day, meaning that the value you’ll extract from Member Exclusive fares will be a little less (though still better than the standard 1:1). 

You could therefore get great value out of this feature by, say, booking a one-way Member Exclusive fare in economy class to your destination before redeeming miles for business class on the way back, or vice versa.

Economy class on the WestJet 787, currently in service from Calgary to Europe

Economy class on the WestJet 787, currently in service from Calgary to Europe

In terms of availability on partner airlines, I get the impression that the partner availability should match up with what you see on ExpertFlyer or any other search engine (such as a SkyTeam airline search engine for Delta, Air France, or KLM, or the Avios search engine for Qantas). 

Unfortunately, the WestJet booking engine isn’t very transparent when it comes to the routing rules. For example, we know you can fly Qantas from Canada to Australia for 629 WSD, but could you fly Qantas from Canada to Australia to Asia for 549 WSD?

And if you find the availability yourself, could you call WestJet and piece together the Member Exclusive fare yourself, similar to a complex Aeroplan redemption?

We simply don’t know, and I’ll have to dive into this rabbit hole in a future post. 

In any case, the above examples demonstrate that whenever you’re looking for cheap airfare to any corner of the globe (whether domestic or international), it’s worth checking to see if you can use WestJet’s Member Exclusive fares, since they can offer you spectacular savings if they’re available.

However, remember that you must pay for your entire fare using WestJet Dollars – you can’t pay partially with WSD and top-up with cash. And so we arrive at the question of…


How Do You Earn WestJet Dollars?

By far the best way to rack up WestJet Dollars is through the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard. For an annual fee of $119, you’ll earn 250 WSD, plus you’ll enjoy free checked bags on WestJet flights and an annual WestJet companion voucher. 

You can read my full coverage of the WestJet RBC MasterCard for more details. Unfortunately, the companion voucher is not redeemable in conjunction with a Member Exclusive fare – that would be too generous!

If you’re interested in applying for the card and essentially earning an instant round-trip domestic ticket for $119 plus taxes and fees courtesy of Member Exclusive fares, I’d be grateful if you considered applying through my affiliate link in order to support the website. 

 
 

Once you’ve nabbed the 250 WSD as a signup bonus, how do you earn additional WestJet Dollars? Well, for one, you could put your daily spending on the credit card and earn 2% back in WSD per dollar spent on WestJet flights and 1.5% back in WSD per dollar spent on all other purchases.

If you do travel frequently with WestJet, whether for business or pleasure, you can also take advantage of WestJet Rewards’s loyalty tiers – they’ve recently introduced Platinum status, which awards you an incredible 8% earn rate on WestJet flights. 

You can also transfer RBC Avion points to WestJet Rewards, and there are frequent transfer bonuses (usually between 10% and 20%) to sweeten the deal even further.

Lastly, it turns out you can purchase WestJet Dollars via Points.com, and the purchase rate is not bad at all. You can purchase up to a maximum of 3,000 WSD per year at a rate that’s close to par. 

When you consider the fact that WestJet’s Member Exclusive fares can bring you significant savings on airfare that you’d otherwise purchase outright, you can see why purchasing WSD via Points.com could be an exceptionally good deal!


Conclusion

WestJet’s Member Exclusive fares can help you score big savings on airfare whether you’re travelling domestically with WestJet or internationally with Delta, Air France, KLM, or Qantas, and it’s one of the few bright spots in a loyalty program that is otherwise limited to a 1:1 redemption ratio.

I get the sense that WestJet Rewards has really invested strongly in their marketing angle of “redeem for any seat, anytime”… except that the 1:1 redemption ratio was never going to generate much excitement among its members. With WestJet making the step up to a major full-service airline, I’d love to see them build upon Member Exclusive fares to make it the program even more compelling – for example by adding more partner airlines, allowing stopovers, and of course actually publishing the award chart on its website!