Yesterday, I saw that JetBlue is planning to sell seats on JetSuiteX flights. JetSuiteX is a semi-private carrier with a number of routes along the west coast. That headline made it sound as though JetBlue would be offering these flights in the future, but it goes on to note that JetBlue is already selling these seats online. Naturally, my next question was: Can you use points to fly in a semi-private jet? The answer is maybe, but not as easily as I’d hoped.
Brief overview of JetSuiteX
Much digital ink has been spilled about JetSuiteX in recent years. Essentially, it’s a company that runs small charter flights. You generally get to fly out of a small terminal and skip out on things like waiting for TSA lines, giving you the feel of flying private while being able to buy an individual ticket.
Of course, it’s not really private. The aircraft, while small, aren’t outfitted luxuriously from what I can tell. Stil, with only 30 seats on their flights, I’m sure that boarding must be a breeze.
Of course, the flip side is that you’re traveling with other passengers who haven’t been screened via the normal TSA process, which is a tradeoff some are happy to make and others wouldn’t consider.
In my family, this wouldn’t even be a discussion: my better half would never get on a plane this small, so I won’t be flying JetSuiteX any time soon. Their route network is also in the wrong part of the country to be useful for me, but I’m sure that west coasters might find their routes convenient (and aviation enthusiasts may just enjoy the chance to fly in a different style).
On the plus side, fares are pretty reasonable considering what you might expect to pay for charter service otherwise. And now, you can book them on JetBlue.com.
Flights listed on JetBlue.com
After reading about JetSuiteX, I went to JetBlue.com and it was easy to find cash fares on JetSuiteX flights:
However, if you select “TrueBlue points” instead of cash fares, it gives you an immediate error message:
Of course, that error message indicates that TrueBlue points can not be used to search for flights operated by partner airlines, but we know that you can now use TrueBlue points to book award flights with Hawaiian. So I took to Twitter to ask if there are any plans to expand partner booking to JetSuiteX.
Bummer — no using your TueBlue points for now. It’d be cool if JetBlue did allow that, but I don’t imagine that’s a higher priority than working out partner bookings with larger partners.
Can you book JetSuiteX through the Chase Travel Portal?
Unfortunately, when searching through the Chase portal, you’ll come up totally empty — JetSuiteX flights aren’t listed. Furthermore, I called Chase Ultimate Rewards to inquire as to whether or not there would be a way to book a JetBlue flight that is not listed in the Chase Travel Portal using my Ultimate Rewards points. I was told that if the flight didn’t show up in their system, it couldn’t be booked with Ultimate Rewards points. The agent did search the main system and then offered to search a “second system”, but no dice.
Of course, you could just pay for a flight and then statement credit yourself at 1cpp, but that’s less fun than getting full value for your points.
Can you book JetSuiteX with a Business Platinum and get 35% back?
One of the benefits of the Business Platinum card from American Express is that you can get 35% back when paying for a flight with Membership Rewards points on your chosen airline only. You can choose your airline each year in order to receive both $200 in incidental fee credits and this pay-with-points rebate.
I first searched AmexTravel.com and came up empty just as I had with Chase.
However, I know that even though Amex Travel does not show Southwest flights, it is still possible to call and book Southwest over the phone with an agent (which is also true with Chase). I thought that perhaps agents had the capability to do the same for JetBlue.
Of course, JetBlue is not my chosen airline for this year, so I would have to speak in theoretical terms with an Amex agent. It’s certainly possible that the theoretical nature of the discussion influenced the accuracy of what I was told. However, I called three times and spoke with three different agents. Each agent essentially told me the same thing: If JetBlue were my chosen airline, I could book directly through JetBlue and pay with my Business Platinum card and then call Amex at least 48 hours later and they would apply my points and give me the 35% rebate. This sounded an awful lot like The Amex Business Platinum awesome 1 time exception that Greg wrote about last year. Interestingly, the first agent with whom I spoke seemed to be reading through information looking for the answer to my question when she clearly found something explaining that I could book through the airline’s website (JetBlue.com in this case) and call in 48 hours after booking to apply the points and get the rebate. It was a bit of an “ah-ha” moment that I could hear when she found it, so it didn’t sound like something she was making up nor something she had done before, but rather something she found instructions about in her system. The second agent explained the same thing in a more convoluted way (you can’t use your points to book it, but you can book it and pay with your Platinum card and still enjoy the benefit…which eventually boiled down to the same thing as Agent #1 with enough questions). The third agent sounded more matter-of-fact about it.
I still feel somewhat skeptical about whether or not this would work properly, but it seems that the Membership Rewards team (key note: not the Amex Travel team) might be able to make it happen. If it does indeed work, the round trip pictured above ($276) would come down to a net cost of 17,940 Membership Rewards points round trip after the 35% rebate. That sure doesn’t seem bad for a charter jet experience between Burbank and Oakland.
Other types of points that would work
Of course, there are even easier points currencies to use for JetSuiteX flights. It would be simple to use Capital One Venture points or Barclays Arrival Plus points if you have them as those points can easily apply to travel-related purchases. In fact, in those cases, I imagine you could buy directly from the JetSuiteX website rather than having to go through JetBlue.com and simply apply your points after the fact.
Another option would be US Bank’s Real Time Mobile Rewards, which enables you to use your phone to redeem points for certain travel charges via text message.
Greg has written a couple of posts about his experiences with real time mobile rewards:
- US Bank makes Real-Time Mobile Rewards awesome. Are you listening Chase? Amex? Citi?
- My bumbling experiments with US Bank’s Real-Time Mobile Rewards
Since JetBlue is listed as a participating airline, I assume it should be a very straight-forward experience redeeming US Bank points for JetSuiteX flights booked through JetBlue.com. If you have a US Bank Altitude Reserve card or US Bank FlexPerks card, you can get 1.5 cents per point in value, meaning that the $276 flight shown above would cost 18,400 points.
Annual travel credits
If you’re not looking to use points, another option for booking these flights would be the annual travel credits that come with the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($300 credit) or the Citi Prestige card ($250 credit). I imagine those fees would credit automatically whether booking through JetBlue.com or JetSuiteX.com. If you are buying a cheap enough airfare (perhaps a one-way?) and JetBlue is your chosen airline, you may even be able to use your airline fee credits from Amex cards (See: Amex Airline Fee Reimbursements. What still works? for more).
While those credits are certainly general methods that could apply to a wide range of purchases, I’ve never considered using them for a semi-private flight experience, and I imagine some people may find the novelty of using those credits for a different flight experience to be of interest.
You can’t quite use points as easily as I may have liked to book these JetSuiteX flights. That said, I’ll be keeping my eye on Google Flights to see if these get listed on OTAs as JetBlue flights in the future. If they do, I think it might become easier to use currencies like Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards. That said, according to the reps with whom I spoke, it could already be possible to use your Membership Rewards with good value towards these flights. Alternatively, US Bank Real Time Mobile Rewards should be breeze. If you’re looking for a semi-private / charter flight experience, it is indeed possible to get it on points, though hopefully it’ll get even easier now that JetSuiteX flights are listed with JetBlue.