WestJet launches frequent flyer loyalty program

Mon Mar 8, 2010 6:30pm EST
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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - WestJet Airlines Ltd launched its long-awaited loyalty program on Monday, hoping to win and keep more customers at a time when airline travel is starting to recover after a bruising slowdown.

Canada's No.2 airline said passengers can now earn WestJet "dollars" if they sign up for its credit card program with Royal Bank of Canada and MasterCard Inc, or through the airline's Frequent Guest program.

The dollars can be used as cash to pay for a flight on any date to any destination, WestJet said. There are no points, redemption grids, advance bookings, blackouts or seat restrictions, it said in a statement.

WestJet has been talking for some time about a new loyalty program but the launch was held up while the carrier ironed out teething problems with a new reservation system.

Frequent travelers in Western Canada, where Calgary, Alberta-based WestJet has more routes, are likely to find the loyalty scheme especially appealing, said Genuity Capital Markets analyst David Tyerman.

But the program lacks the international reach of Air Canada's Aeroplan loyalty program, Tyerman said. Air Canada passengers, especially business travelers on long-haul routes, can earn Aeroplan miles fairly quickly. Low-budget carrier WestJet flies shorter routes than its bigger rival and does not have a business class cabin section.

WestJet's stock dipped 3 Canadian cents to C$14.02 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday.

($1=$1.03 Canadian)

(Reporting by Nicole Mordant; editing by Rob Wilson)

<p>A WestJet Airlines Boeing 737-700 aircraft lands at Calgary International Airport in Alberta January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Todd Korol</p>