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The Limits of JetBlue’s ‘Unlimited Travel’ Pass

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JetBlue’s new unlimited travel pass is actually anything but.

The low-cost carrier announced today that it would offer three months of travel for fliers who purchase a promotional BluePass. For $1,299 to $1,999, depending on the package, pass-holders can travel as many times as they like from either Boston or Long Beach, Calif., to select cities on the carrier’s routes. Fliers can book flights starting Aug. 15 for travel between Aug. 22 and Nov. 22.

The business-traveler-targeted offer is a markedly different from the All You Can Jet passes of 2009 and 2010, which gave fliers nationwide the ability to book coach seats on any JetBlue route as often as they wanted during the month-long promotion. (2010 price: $499 to $699.) Those passes sold out in a matter of hours, but this year’s could prove a tougher sell, says Rick Seaney, chief executive of pricing site FareCompare.com. A JetBlue spokesman says the offer is a response to customer feedback from its previous unlimited passes, and focuses on cities where it has seen growth in business travel.

Buying the pass is almost certainly a good deal for business travelers in Boston or Long Beach, but those in other cities will need to weigh the additional time and money costs of making a stop in either of those hubs en route somewhere else, Seaney says. Passes require round-trip bookings between the same two-city pairing, too, so there’s no say, flying from Boston to Tampa, driving to Orlando and then flying back from Orlando. And while the All You Can Jet passes had included taxes, BluePass does not, adding a potential $22 round-trip to your tab, he says.

Pass policies are extremely lenient, however, which may counterbalance some of the hub and route limitations. Travelers can book as little as 90 minutes before a flight leaves, and there’s no fee to change or cancel a flight. (Regularly, you’d pay $100, and the all you Can Jet passes had a $50 fee for cancelling within three days of the flight.) Fail to show for two flights in a seven-day period, however, and your reservations will be suspended until you pay a $100 fine.

Leisure travelers are likely to find the offer too expensive. “You’re talking about four times the money, here, of last year’s All You Can Jet pass,” Seaney says. “Just saying the word ‘thousand’ for a traveler gives them the heebie-jeebies.” Leisure travel slows in the fall as the school year begins, which means plenty of fare sales for those more occasional fliers. Buying a pass just doesn’t make sense if you’d struggle to travel enough to justify its price, he says. (JetBlue says that based on its average fares, a leisure traveler would be better off with the pass if he makes five or more round-trip flights.)

The one possible leisure traveler exception: consumers looking to spend a few weekends in the Caribbean this fall. JetBlue’s $1,999 BluePass from Boston includes several Caribbean routes, where a round-trip ticket routinely goes for $400 to $600. Yes, it’s hurricane season, but that’s where the pass leniency on last-minute booking and cancellations comes in handy, Seaney says: “You can do a little hurricane dodging.”

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    • Buyer Beware
      I booked my first JetBlue flight for the last leg of a cross country trip last week (JB is not in my city). My earlier connections from another airline were delayed by weather and then FAA regulations about crew rest, with the domino effect of missing my JetBlue flight and JB penalized me $100.00.
      Part of their explanation is that they do not have a business relationship with my starting point airline.
      My question is why am I penalized for what I cannot control – storms, FAA regulations about crew rest, and JetBlue’s business partnerships and airport locations?
      Bad experience, buyer beware.

    • Also, it does not appear that one-way tickets are prohibited, making the BOS-TPA//MCO-BOS open-jaw just fine, so long as you book it correctly.

    • Yes, this one costs 3-4x the price of AYCJ last year, but it also includes 3 months of travel, not just 30 days.

      If I lived in Boston it would be a no-brainer; I’d have purchased it 5 hours ago when I saw the initial release. Needing to commute up from NYC to take advantage does limit the value a bit, but there are still plenty of opportunities for folks willing to work the quirks of the game.

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