JetBlue’s bad math: awards to Canada are cheaper than they appear


a wall with a picture of a plane and a jet blue sign

JetBlue began flying to Vancouver, Canada last year. Unless something changed very recently, I’m going to guess that they sell fewer award tickets on their two Vancouver routes (from New York-JFK and Boston’s Logan airport to Vancouver, Canada) than on other routes . . .

Let me run a math problem by you (spoiler alert: this one stumped the JetBlue website programmers, so don’t feel bad if you get it wrong). If a ticket costs 36,600 TrueBlue points per passenger, how much should it cost for two passengers?

a screenshot of a computer

If you answered 73,200 points, and especially if you would have transferred points from Amex or Chase or Capital One expecting to pay 73,200 points, you have my sympathy. You have a logical answer, but there’s something amiss in the logic behind the scenes on JetBlue’s initial display. During checkout, after you select that flight and “next” past another screen that very clearly says the price is 36.6K per passenger, those seats drop in price to just 27,300 points each — so the correct answer is 54,600 points for two passengers.

a screenshot of a phone

Initially, I wondered whether JetBlue was pricing a child ticket at less than the cost of an adult ticket. However, the price breakdown clearly showed 27,300 points per passenger. Then, when I ran this by Greg, he realized that it happens with one passenger as well.

At first, it shows 36,600 points. And it continues to show that price when you select that you want a “Blue” fare.

a screenshot of a flight ticket

And then it pops up yet another dialogue box that prompts you to decide whether you want to pay 36.6K per passenger or 39K per passenger.

a screenshot of a phone

It’s only after that point, when you move forward in the checkout process from there, that the price drops to 27,300 points one-way — and you need to have some points in your account to get to this part of the process.

a screenshot of a computer

So that’s obviously weird because the price of this award dropped by around 30% during the checkout process.

While it’s always a nice surprise to pay less, it might have felt less nice if I had transferred points from a transferable currency to JetBlue based on the initial 36,600-point pricing (which is what I was trying to do moments before discovering this!). I was in a hurry to get a flight to Vancouver booked with my AA number on it before the clock struck midnight last night (yesterday was the last day to assign your AA frequent flyer number to a JetBlue booking, or vice versa, to ensure reciprocal elite benefits). I was trying to transfer enough points to JetBlue to top off my account for four award tickets at 36,600 points each and couldn’t find the card I needed to verify to confirm the transfer, so I settled for quickly booking two passengers with the JetBlue points I already had on hand, intending to find the card and transfer the rest after booking the first two passengers. In other words, the fact that I advanced far enough in the checkout process to see the actual (reduced price) award cost before transferring from a credit card program was pure luck.

So what’s up with the inconsistent award pricing?

I don’t know for sure, but I have a theory about which I am pretty confident: This booking was on one of JetBlue’s two routes to Canada (they only fly to Vancouver from New York and Boston). Generally speaking, we know that the number of JetBlue TrueBlue points required to book an award ticket are correlated with the cash cost of a ticket. It seems that JetBlue’s initial award search is figuring the points required for an award based on the cash price of the ticket in Canadian Dollars, but the final checkout calculates points required based on the US Dollars price.

Here’s where that theory originates:

  • The award that showed up at 36,600 points was for a ticket that would have cost $427.70 US Dollars.
  • Based on the current exchange rate, $427.70 USD = $565.27 CAD
  • $565.27 / 36,600 = 1.5431 Canadian cents per point
  • At checkout, the award price drops to 27,300 points
  • $427.70 / 27,300 = 1.566 US cents per point

That’s a difference of about two hundredths of a penny per point, so my guess is that the formula is designed to price tickets for this cabin / fare class (on a “Blue” ticket) at 1.54c per point, rounded to the nearest 100 points. For some reason, the initial search engine is pulling the price in Canadian dollars even though the flight where I stumbled on this originates in the US. By the time it gets to the final checkout screen, the system recognizes that the price is in US Dollars and adjusts the award price accordingly.

So, again, to be clear, the initial 36,600 price is because the computer thinks the flight costs $565.27 (the Canadian-dollars price), but it later recognizes that the price is really $427.70 in US Dollars and it adjusts the award price accordingly.

Interestingly, this problem did not exist on test searches to Mexico, so it doesn’t seem that this is a universal foreign currency problem. Perhaps this problem only exists on the Vancouver route.

At the end of the day, the system does charge the right price during the checkout process. But ordinarily, I wouldn’t have gotten that far before transferring points (not that I transfer to JetBlue frequently — I never have until this booking, but I needed to in this case).

Ultimately, these flights cost me more than I would like to pay for transcontinental economy class, but less than what I thought was the initial sticker price. In hindsight through, I wish I had known about this sooner. A few days prior, when I first considered the flight I ultimately booked, the search results had said 30K points per ticket. That seemed high to me, so I continued to shop around for days hoping for a better option. Knowing what I know now, I imagine that when the initial search display showed 30K points, it really would have meant something like 22K points — and at that price, I would have booked it days sooner and not held out hoping for better.

I imagine that this would probably be a simple fix for JetBlue. Frankly, I’m surprised that they haven’t realized that these awards weren’t pricing correctly — I had certainly noticed the fact that they appeared to be yielding very low value per point. Hopefully they can get this fixed up because it would be a shame if I had done something like transfer Membership Rewards points for 4 tickets, I’d have ended up less than thrilled. Amex points transfer to JetBlue at a rate of 250:200, so at 36.6K points per passenger, I would have needed 146,400 JetBlue TrueBlue points, which would have required transferring 183K Amex points to JetBlue (and paying Amex’s excise “tax”). Instead, I’d have really only needed to transfer 136,500 Amex points to JetBlue assuming I had zero JetBlue points to start — so I’d have locked up nearly 50K Amex points in JetBlue that I wouldn’t have needed thanks to this error.

At the end of the day, make sure you advance through to the final checkout screen to double-check the price of your international JetBlue award before transferring over all of the points you think you might need.

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It would only cost 27,800 miles if you booked with amex travel (provided you have a biz plat set to jetblue) And you wouldn’t pay any taxes and you would earn miles.


I can’t believe how long that post was to detail the situation you encountered. Lol


He’s great but his posts are very long winded


When this route first came out last year and I tried to book using points, I also found something was not quite right. I think when booking separate one ways the pricing could be entirely different than a roundtrip. Anyways, JetBlue has really horrible IT system overall. I suspect that was more an IT issue than a math issue.


Hmmm…I wonder what the real price is for Blue Extra?


Hahaha. Yes indeed.


Did you check the reverse route (Vancouver-JFK/Boston)? I wonder how that prices


Mention this and JetBlue will increase the price as well as cancel the tickets of others, citing a computer pricing error.