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New loyalty program from ExpressJet offers nothing new

Frequent flyer programs are a fact of today's travel life. So it's to be expected that any new airline will have a program ready for launch from the first day of flight operations, if not before.

Such was the case with ExpressJet, which began flying under its own name earlier this week to Austin, Boise, Kansas City, Omaha, Ontario (CA), San Antonio, Spokane, and Tucson. (It previously operated as a feeder carrier for a number of major airlines, in which capacity no loyalty program was needed since marketing was the responsibility of the larger carriers.)

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Not surprisingly, ExpressJet's program looks very much like the program that established the template for most discount carriers, Southwest's Rapid Rewards.

Like Rapid Rewards, ExpressJet's JetSet program awards points rather than miles: members receive one point for each one-way flight. And also following Southwest's lead, a free roundtrip ticket is issued after the member earns 16 points, equivalent to eight roundtrip flights.

ExpressJet also copied Southwest's points-expiration policy: points must be used within 24 months, or they disappear—an especially harsh requirement for a program with only one way to earn points.

And also like Southwest, award seats are capacity-controlled. It's too soon to have any anecdotal evidence as to ExpressJet's generosity in making awards available. But in the early days, with lighter passenger loads and few program members with enough points for awards, members shouldn't have much trouble redeeming their points.

JetSet begins life as a bare bones program, but, the company claims, "The JetSet Program is currently in discussion with many partners to join the fun. Future partners may include credit cards, hotels and car rental agencies to name a few." Once again, following in the footsteps of Southwest.

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