Icelandair was a partner with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan several years ago, and it offered some good value. So good, perhaps, that this may have been one reason their partnership was terminated. Now Alaska and Icelandair are back together, and Icelandair just expanded its presence in North America by partnering with JetBlue TrueBlue as of May 4. This means two domestic loyalty programs now let you earn miles for travel on Icelandair. (HT to Loyalty Lobby)
If you already have travel booked on Icelandair, be sure to call the carrier and ask them to add your TrueBlue number to the reservation. You can also do this when you check in at the airport. It also appears that this partnership is retroactive, since you can claim credit for past Icelandair flights for travel completed on or after April 3, 2017.
Icelandair’s loyalty program also lets you earn Saga Club miles for travel on JetBlue. However, most Americans will probably find it more beneficial and convenient to keep their points with TrueBlue.
Icelandair is an interesting carrier from a frequent flyer’s perspective. The airline is one of the few ways to efficiently reach Iceland, which has become a hot tourist destination in recent years. Complimentary stopovers and competitive fares make it an inexpensive option for reaching Europe if you were willing to sacrifice a bit of comfort. For example, their business class cabin lacks lie-flat seats. Still, this was before the recent growth of transatlantic discount carriers like WOW that have pushed economy fares even lower.
That’s what I find most interesting, because Alaska and JetBlue waged a bitter battle over the acquisition of Virgin America. This is like being friends with two people who hate being in the same room together. Passengers who need to pick sides will probably stick with which coast they live on. Alaska is far more dominant on the West Coast, and JetBlue on the East Coast, although both are expanding into the other’s turf.
Alaska’s loyalty program has more generous earning rates for certain fares. In particular, you can earn up to 250% of the distance flown in Saga Class, whereas JetBlue awards only 125%.
JetBlue’s TrueBlue program has other limitations, too. You still can’t earn and redeem miles with every partner. While you can credit several partners’ flights to TrueBlue — including Icelandair — the only airlines on which you can redeem TrueBlue points are JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines. That kind of one-way reciprocity really limits the value of this relationship if you were hoping for more ways to reach Iceland or Europe at a discount. The ability to redeem miles through Alaska Mileage Plan, even without considering differences in earning rates, makes that relationship more valuable in my view.