WestJet Rewards has announced that it will officially follow in the footsteps of virtually every other major loyalty program and extend the current status of their Platinum, Gold, and Silver members until December 31, 2021.
Simultaneously, WestJet is making a few key improvements to the elite status program, while also offering members a Double Qualifying Spend offer for bookings made before September 30, 2020 for travel by December 15, 2020.
WestJet Status Extension Through 2021
You might be wondering: “Hold on a second, how is WestJet only now offering elite status extensions through to 2021? Haven’t all the other loyalty programs already done that, way back in March?”
The answer lies in WestJet’s unique – and many would say, unnecessarily complex – rolling 12-month status period, which is different for each member and depends on when they had originally signed up for the program.
Until now, WestJet has been taking a segmented approach, focusing on extending status for members who were approaching the end of their annual qualifying cycle, and they’ve now decided to take action for all status members.
If you currently hold Platinum, Gold, or Silver status, you will keep your current status tier and benefits until December 31, 2021 (or until a higher tier is reached), and this change will be reflected in your WestJet Rewards account by September 30, 2020.
D’Arcy Monaghan, WestJet Vice-President Loyalty Programs, had the following to say about the status extension:
WestJet is grateful to our loyal guests for participating in the program. While we remain focused on health and safety throughout the travel journey, we know not everyone is ready to fly. We want to ensure that your status is there for you when you are ready to go.
Qualifying Year Extension Through 2021
In a move that sets them apart from the competition, WestJet Rewards will also be extending the status qualifying period through to the end of 2021 as well. Members will retain any qualifying spend they’ve earned during their current 12-month qualifying cycle, and will then have until December 31, 2020 to qualify accrue additional spend to retain their current tier, or achieve a higher one, beyond December 2021.
Most other loyalty programs out there had simply extended members’ 2020 status through to 2021, but I’d be very surprised if they offered any leeway on the 2021 status qualifying year. My expectation is that we’ll have to re-qualify for status as normal next year (perhaps with a few favourable adjustments to the status requirements, at best).
In contrast, WestJet is essentially merging the current 12-month qualifying cycle (which is unique to each member) with the entirety of the 2021 calendar year; not only does this give members a longer timeframe than usual to qualify for status, but it’s also a sound business move to simplify the status program, as we’ll discuss further below.
As a reminder, the current qualification criteria for WestJet Platinum, Gold, or Silver status are as follows (members simply need to meet these spend requirements to achieve status; there are no additional segment or mileage requirements to meet):
The status benefits can be found on the WestJet website. Silver members get free first and second checked bags, priority check-in, and airport lounge vouchers, Gold members get unlimited lounge access, and Platinum members get the highest priority for upgrades. All status members receive a boost to the WestJet Dollars earning rate when flying with WestJet, with Platinum members topping out at an 8% earn rate.
Double Qualifying Spend Offer
To further help members achieve their goals, WestJet is offering a promotion for Double Qualifying Spend on travel this fall. You’ll have to register for the promotion on this page.
Normally, 100% of the base fare on any WestJet flights you purchase is counted as qualifying spend towards your WestJet status. For travel booked by September 30, 2020 and completed by December 15, 2020, you’ll earn 200% of the base fare to help you get closer to status during the combined 2020–2021 qualifying year.
The promotion excludes Basic fares or any travel whose base fare is booked using WestJet Dollars (including Member Exclusive fares). The promotion includes fares booked in the Business cabin onboard WestJet’s new 787 business class, but specifically excludes transatlantic Business fares.
However, the $119 base fare of the annual companion voucher from the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard should qualify, and remember that you can also pick up that card for a free first checked bag and free onboard wifi on WestJet flights, as well as a welcome bonus of 350 WestJet Dollars until October 31, 2020.
I don’t imagine there will be too many frequent travellers flying around this fall, although anyone who takes the odd trip or two should keep this promotion in mind, especially if WestJet is a convenient option for them (such as being based in Calgary or other points in Western Canada) and qualifying for WestJet status seems more realistic than Air Canada’s Aeroplan Elite Status.
Remember, the lowest tier of Aeroplan Elite Status, Aeroplan 25K, requires $4,000 in qualifying spend all on its own. Under WestJet’s Double Qualifying Spend offer, $4,000 will get you top-tier Platinum status, without any mileage or segment requirements to worry about either!
WestJet Status Moving to Calendar Year Model
Finally, the above changes are designed to support a broader plan to transition to a standard calendar year for all WestJet Rewards members, instead of the current 12-month qualifying cycle that’s unique to each member.
On December 31, 2021, the qualifying period for all current and new members will come to a close. Then, on January 1, 2022, a new qualifying year will commence uniformly for all WestJet Rewards members, making it simpler track your progress and plan your qualifying activity through the typical January to December status qualifying cycle.
To be honest, it really didn’t make any sense for the qualifying cycle to be dependent on the very arbitrary factor of which month you signed up for your WestJet account. A calendar-year system aligns much better with how most travellers think about their annual flying and loyalty activity.
Therefore, this is a very welcome change and a much-needed move to simplify the program, and hopefully it’s the first of many improvements to WestJet’s elite program as they build it out to compete more closely with Air Canada.
WestJet Rewards is offering an elite status extension through 2021, accompanied by an extension and simplification of the qualifying year as well, along with a Double Qualifying Spend offer for travel this fall to boost members’ status qualifying activity even further.
It’s the latest step in WestJet’s continued efforts to improve their loyalty offering, although much work remains to be done to place WestJet more firmly “in the conversation” for Canadian travellers looking to choose the best loyalty program to fit their needs.
I’d love to see the WestJet elite program deliver more meaningful benefits in the future. One is already in the pipeline: the impending opening of WestJet’s flagship lounge in Calgary (which was slated to open this summer, but has understandably been delayed until the end of 2020) – but other elite perks such as upgrade currencies or redemption discount vouchers would go a long way towards strengthening the program as well.
And on the redemption side, WestJet has promised a strong competitive response to Air Canada’s new Aeroplan, and I suspect it won’t be long until we learn the details of what they have in store.
(featured image by OneMoreWeekToGo)