Flying Blue’s Erratic WestJet Award Pricing

In my article on speculative transfers, one of the redemptions I briefly highlighted was using Flying Blue points for WestJet flights. This used to be a really good deal, costing a roughly flat rate 14,500 points for economy class travel anywhere in North America. Well, Flying Blue must have seen my article, because after I speculatively transferred my Brex points into their program, they massively raised award prices on most WestJet redemptions (along with the majority of other awards). The keyword is “most.” While the majority of prices are totally crazy and you’d never want to redeem your points at these award levels, there are still a few sweet spots.

When redeeming Flying Blue points for WestJet flights, Flying Blue seems to charge by the number of segments and the distance you’re flying. You’ll always pay more points for a multi-segment flight than you will for a nonstop flight, but the pricing is all over the place. For example, a flight between Vancouver and Victoria costs 10,500 points. If you connect in Calgary, however, the same flight costs 21,000 points. You might be forgiven if you think that Flying Blue is just adding up the pricing of each segment if you took them individually, but that isn’t true. For example, Vancouver to Calgary costs 10,500 points, and Calgary to Edmonton also costs 10,500 points. However, if you fly from Vancouver to Edmonton with a connection in Calgary, it costs 11,000 points. Neither price is likely to be a good deal on this heavily competitive route, though.

This doesn’t seem bad until you consider that Air Canada charges just $76 for their flight departing at the exact same time

The price goes up if you’re flying farther, and the pricing also makes less sense. Flying to Winnipeg? It’s a steep 17,500 points for a nonstop flight, or a ridiculous 22,000 points if you connect in Calgary (note that this is a $110 flight on a low cost carrier, or a $172 flight on WestJet, so this objectively isn’t a good redemption). Although connecting in Calgary creates a difference of only 8 flown miles (1,162 vs. 1,170 miles) and it doesn’t seem to cross any obvious threshold of either a mileage band or a logical break in journey (the pricing difference applies to flights with only a one hour connection), it’s a 4,500 point price difference!

Pricing gets even more wild when you look at longer flights. It costs $45 on a low cost carrier from Vancouver to Toronto. It’s $124 on Westjet. Or you can spend half of the low cost carrier fare in taxes, and a cool 27,500 Flying Blue points:

Flying Blue pricing can be at truly ridiculous levels

I mean, the sky is really the limit on Flying Blue’s crazy pricing. Check out how much Flying Blue wants for a coast-to-coast flight within Canada, which would cost $150 on a low cost carrier, or $254 on WestJet:

Not even Delta charges this much

Given all of this, it’d be reasonable to conclude that there is no value left in WestJet redemptions, just like Flying Blue has sucked the value out of most other redemptions. And you’d be mostly correct. However, WestJet serves a few airports that are spectacularly expensive destinations. If you redeem strategically, there is still incredible value.

Take Terrace, British Columbia for example. If you want to go on short notice, especially during the peak travel season, you’re looking at some really expensive fares. Here’s what a one way flight tomorrow would cost, which is roughly the same price as last weekend’s flight (which I booked) was selling for:

That’s the price each way!

However, you can book this flight with Flying Blue points, at a value that might knock your socks off:

This is less than 8,500 Amex points given the current 25% transfer bonus!

WestJet has exceptionally generous award availability, and when you redeem Flying Blue points, the pricing is fixed price. The award pricing is usually very high, but for short haul flights, it’s pretty reasonable.

What does flying to Terrace on a beautiful, clear, last weekend of summer accomplish? Well, that’s a trip report in and of itself, but here’s a preview:

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