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JetBlue frequent flyer points get legs

I've been a vocal critic of JetBlue's TrueBlue loyalty program since its launch more than four years ago.

With no partners, members' earning opportunities were limited to flying JetBlue. And on the award side, the same: fly JetBlue. Compounding the program's miserly ways, points expired after just 12 months. Altogether a nasty piece of work, a parody of what a loyalty program should be.

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Until Thursday last week, the program has managed only a single baby step in the right direction: the addition of a co-branded credit card, the JetBlue card from American Express, allowing TrueBlue members to earn points for purchases charged to the card.

On August 17, TrueBlue's prospects brightened slightly with the announcement that, effective immediately, program members can extend the life of their points an additional 12 months every time they charge $200 or more, or a JetBlue ticket, to the card.

And, according to an American Express official quoted in the company's news release, "As a thank you for being loyal customers, we've also automatically extended the expiration date of every single JetBlue Cardmembers' TrueBlue points through August 16, 2007."

The industry standard among full-featured programs is to automatically extend the life of all miles in a member's account for 36 months whenever the member either earns or redeems miles, on any program partner.

Does this catapult TrueBlue into the ranks of the best available airline programs? Not even close. While the new policy is an improvement on the previous draconian use-'em-or-lose-'em approach, program members must pay the $40 annual fee for the card in order to secure the privilege of extending the life of their points. And the program is still woefully short on earning and redemption options.

JetBlue partisans still don't have the program they deserve. But they do have, well, less to be blue about.

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