JetBlue’s Boston All BluePass Is Back for a Bit

JetBlue's Boston All Pass is Back

Just two days ago I wrote an update on JetBlue’s BluePassoffer, but here’s a new fact: JetBlue’s Boston All pass, which allows unlimited flying to/from Boston to ALL airports serviced by JetBlue during the promotion period, including those in the Caribbean, is back for 48 hours! If you hesitated the first time around or new plans have come up in the meantime, now’s the time to buy one of these passes. The Boston All price is still $1,999, and allows unlimited travel from August 22nd to November 22nd, 2011.

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JetBlue’s Unlimited Travel Pass make Autumn Jet-Setting a Breeze

If you are looking at a lot of pre-Thanksgiving travel, counting all of the weddings, family reunions, and long weekends, – or would just like an excuse to take more trips this Fall – you may want to look at JetBlue’s new BluePass tickets. These passes offer unlimited travel to and from Boston and Long Beach, CA, from August 22nd to November 22nd. BluePass tickets will be on sale until the end of August, or while supplies last, and flights can be booked starting on August 15th.

There are three BluePass options: Boston All, Boston Select, and Long Beach Select. The Boston All ticket goes for $1999 plus taxes and allows unlimited travel between Boston and all airports served by JetBlue from Boston, including several cities in the West Coast and many Caribbean destinations such as San Juan and Aruba (direct) and Saint Lucia, Montego Bay, and Cancun (connecting).

The Boston Select ticket ($1499) is more tailored towards business travel, allowing unlimited travel between Boston and 13 other cities, Chicago being the furthest West. Other valuable cities for business travelers included in this ticket are Washington, DC (both Dulles and National airports), New York JFK, and Pittsburgh. But this doesn’t mean this ticket can’t be used for fun too: you can also fly to/from Jacksonville and Bermuda this Fall with the Boston Select ticket.

From the West Coast, the Long Beach Select ticket ($1299) has some great destinations as well. The ticket covers unlimited pre-Thanksgiving travel between Long Beach and Las Vegas, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Portland, Seattle, Austin, and Chicago.

To buy any of these BluePass tickets, you need to be a member of TrueBlue, JetBlue’s frequent flier program for which you can sign up for free. You will then get 12,000 TrueBlue points if you buy the Boston All ticket, 9000 for the Boston Select and 8000 for the Long Beach Select ticket. Unfortunately, these are the only miles you will get for the BluePass tickets; JetBlue is not giving points for the actual flights taken with these passes.

Nonetheless, these passes come with a lot of flexibility. Flights can be booked or canceled up to 90 minutes before the scheduled departure time, which allows for last minute changes as well as spur-of-the-moment trips. Also, a no-show fee of $100 will only be assessed if you don’t show up for your trips twice within a 7-day period. In that case, your pass will only be reinstated once you pay the fee.

This is not a mileage run deal, but we are right in the middle of wedding season, and if you are starting to resent all those events for which you have to fly, these BluePass tickets may soften the blow. Besides, if one of these BluePass tickets is already financially worthwhile given the trips you expect to take before Thanksgiving, adding more trips on will just make it better. And if you legitimately have consistent business travel to or from Boston or Long Beach, getting work to pay for a BluePass ticket could be a great perk. Once you have the ticket, let the fun begin. With unlimited travel, it’s ok to take several weekend breaks and fly to the beach just because.

For Deals on Hotels, Choose a Neighborhood and Follow the Stars

Negotiating hotel costs may be a great way to keep travel within a budget.  As people take fewer trips or look for cheaper fares and lodging in response to the recession, hotels are more and more likely to honor requests for discounts and accept lower offers.   And even if haggling is not your thing, you can still take advantage of that. 

Besides the standard hotel offers found in internet travel sites, priceline.com also has a “name your own price” option, which allows you to bid for a better deal on flights or hotels.  For flights, you can only choose the dates on which you want to fly and the price you will pay, and priceline.com commits to billing you only if it finds a flight with one stop at most.  But you do not get to pick the time of day for arrival or departure, airline, or length of the layover.

Using priceline.com for hotels is a much safer bet.  You can select the neighborhood in which you want to stay and the number of hotel stars, and, unless you really want to stay in a specific hotel (e.g., for a conference or wedding), that really is all the information you need.  The only catch is that, with both flights and hotels, you are required to give your credit card information when you make the bid, and, if priceline.com finds an airline or hotel that accepts your bid, you are billed immediately.  So this is not a website for researching trips; it is for when you are sure of where and when you want to go.

But if you’ve already settled on your destination and travel dates and are hesitant to make a bid, worrying whether your offer might be too high (overpaying for a hotel) or too low (being rejected and having to wait 24 hours to re-bid), check out BetterBidding.   This is an online forum where people discuss bidding tactics for hotels on priceline.com and guessing which hotels are featured in the site’s closest competitor, hotwire.com.  Importantly, users list the bids they made on priceline.com and whether these were accepted or rejected, enabling other users to make informed offers themselves.  Take advantage of that.  You may think that $120 per night on a hotel that is offered in other travel sites for $180/night is a great deal – but wouldn’t it help to know that someone else snagged a stay in that hotel for the same dates for $100/night?

So if you are planning a vacation and have already settled on your destination and travel dates priceline.com may be a good way to get a deal.  And knowing what other travelers have bid may help you make that into a great deal.

Guard Your Miles

A while back, I received a piece of mail from US Airways regarding my Dividend Miles.  It looked official enough, complete with a message from the Director of Marketing Programs, and warned that my Dividend Miles will expire in a month, lest I redeem them for some magazine subscriptions!  It immediately aroused my suspicions – I have to redeem my miles but my only options are magazine subscriptions?  I called US Airways, where the representative on the phone assured me that my miles are in no danger of expiring for another 17 months and that the letter must be a mistake.

Mistake or a scam?  Know the truth and the truth shall set you free.  Both oneworld and Star Alliance only require activity (i.e., earning or redeeming your miles) every 18 months in order for your miles to remain active; SkyTeam 12 months.  In any event, remember that you are an educated college grad, not some average Joe,  and I would hate to know that you could be fooled by something like this.

Discouraged by student loan payments? Rent’s too high? How about taking a trip to the Caribbean?

There is no reason for not having a frequent flier account and accumulating miles for practically every trip you take.  Frequent flier accounts cost absolutely nothing and may eventually earn you a free trip, even if it takes you a few years.

Airlines offer frequent flier programs with the idea that they can keep you loyal – if you have an American Airlines account, when you have to travel you will choose to fly with AA or one of its partners to accumulate miles, regardless of whether there are cheaper options out there (or at least if the difference in price between the cheapest alternative and your AA flight isn’t that big).  I challenge that concept.  Rather, loyalty programs should not factor into your decision of flight which to take, because you should have frequent flier accounts with more than one airline, making sure every flight you take will be covered by at least one of your accounts.

To set this up, here are some facts you should know:

  1. You can accumulate miles by flying with the airlines with which you have a frequent flier account, with their airline partners, as well as with their other partners including hotels, car rentals, and online retail sites.
  2. You can redeem miles for flights with the airlines with which you have a frequent flier account and with their partners, as well as for other things such as magazine subscriptions.  Redeeming for international flights tends to the best deal. 
  3. There are three main airline groups that share mileage accumulation benefits and redemption options (US-based airlines in group): oneworld (American Airlines), SkyTeam (Continental, Delta, and Northwest), and Star Alliance (United and US Airways).  [A full list of the member airlines can be found in the respective group websites.]

You only need to open a frequent flier account with one airline in each of the three groups, since having an account with any airline in a group lets you earn and redeem flights within the entire group.  In fact, having more than one account within each group would only spread your miles thin, since miles from different programs within the group cannot be easily combined.

For SkyTeam and Star Alliance, you should generally choose to be a frequent flier with the airline that you fly the most, because several of them offer bonuses for online check-in and other activities to their members only (not partners’ members). 

If you fly internationally enough, you may want to consider having a frequent flier account with a non-US-based airline from one of those groups.  The main problem I have found with some of those programs, however, is that the miles tend to expire more easily, so be careful and read the fine print before you decide to go that route.  For example, I used to have an account with Japan Airlines, but the miles expired 2-3 years after they were accumulated, regardless of activity.  In contrast to most US-based airline programs, where miles do not expire as long as there has been any activity (accumulation or redemption) in the account in the last 18 months.

Regardless of your home airport and the frequency of your travel, this post should have given you a basic understanding of how frequent flier programs work.  Next week I will post some tips for accumulating miles and getting that trip to Aruba faster – and a week should be enough time for you to sign up for your frequent flier accounts.