When the news broke last week that JetBlue and Aer Lingus would be forming a "strategic partnership," the question on the minds of many was whether the relationship, scheduled to take effect on April 3, would include reciprocal frequent flyer program participation. In other words, would members of JetBlue's TrueBlue program be able to earn points when flying on Aer Lingus; and would members of Aer Lingus's Gold Circle Club be able to earn points when flying on JetBlue.
More often than not, frequent flyer program links are put in place to provide the glue that holds such tie-ups together, giving consumers a reason to view two airlines' separate services as an integrated whole. So there was reason to hope we'd see loyalty program integration in this case. However, with frequent flyer partnerships already in place with American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas, there's no pressing need for Aer Lingus to add JetBlue to their partner roster.
But JetBlue would certainly benefit from the addition of Aer Lingus to the TrueBlue program. As it stands, TrueBlue members can only earn points for JetBlue flights, and for charges to the American Express TrueBlue credit card. The ability to earn points for Aer Lingus flights, and, even more importantly, the ability to redeem points for award flights on Aer Lingus, would be a giant step forward for TrueBlue.
Alas, no such step will be taken. According to a JetBlue spokesperson, the relationship with Aer Lingus focuses exclusively on two consumer benefits: 1) delivering the lowest possible fare when travelers combine flights on the two airlines; and 2) providing seamless baggage transfer on connecting flights.
Still, wouldn't frequent flyer points help focus flyers' attention on the benefits of combining JetBlue and Aer Lingus flights? The answer is yes, but at a cost deemed unacceptable by the airlines. JetBlue and Aer Lingus are both low-cost carriers, and the investment required to integrate their programs couldn't be justified.
"Well," I pressed, "what about JetBlue's relationship with Lufthansa? Might there be a loyalty program tie-up on that front?" While Lufthansa's 19% stake in JetBlue took effect on January 22, the nature and details of that relationship are still being worked out, and the answer to the mileage program question remains "TBD," according to JetBlue.
So for the foreseeable future, TrueBlue members will be limited to earning and redeeming points for flights on a single airline: JetBlue.