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Unlimited traveling?
Date: 2009/08/13 22:54 By: iluvgossip Status: User  
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“Unlimited travel” — sounds great, right? JetBlue Airways is making a big splash with its “All You Can Jet” promotion that offers just that, for a month, for $599 — and if you fly domestically, taxes are included.

So is this air travel buffet really worth it?

The airline is offering travelers a pass good for unlimited travel to any JetBlue destination — domestic or international — between Sept. 8 and Oct. 8. Passes are on sale until Aug. 21, or while supplies last. For now, there are a “limited” number of passes available —> JetBlue won’t say how many — while the airline assesses customer demand. To purchase the pass, a flier must join the airline’s TrueBlue loyalty program, book all travel at least three days in advance, and fly in coach. As long as the flight you’re looking for isn’t sold out, there are no blackout dates or restrictions on the time you’ll have to fly, the airline says. “Any seat that’s available for sale, you can have,” says Bryan Baldwin, a JetBlue spokesman. The program’s rules and restrictions are online here.

The promotion makes more sense for the airline than it might appear. “This is a slow period for airlines,” says George Hobica, the founder of fare-tracking site AirFareWatchdog.com, because relatively few people take vacations between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. But Hobica isn’t convinced the promotion is good enough to draw in many of those balky leisure travelers, especially given that many fares are already discounted. “There are some scenarios where possibly it would work, but I’m not sure you’d be saving huge amounts of money,” Hobica says.

For instance, say you’re tempted to buy an “All You Can Jet” pass to book a getaway to the Dominican Republic. Round-trip flights from Washington, D.C., to Santo Domingo could cost you around $445 with tax if you booked a weeklong trip now. Using the pass, you could also take a weekend trip to Houston that might otherwise cost about $348 on JetBlue. You’d still pay taxes on the international flight — so you’d spend about $746 on travel that would have cost you $793. Depending on where you’re flying from, you might need to take three trips within that month to really make the pass an attractive bargain.

Business travelers may be a better target market for the promotion. “It can be an excellent value for business travelers, but business travelers obviously need to do a little homework before they plunk down their money,” says Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Forrester Research.

Traveling from New York City, the pass could start to pay for itself after round-trip weekday flights to Boston, Chicago and Denver — a total cost of around $668 if booked on JetBlue’s web site now without the pass.

“Let’s say you’ve cut back your travel budget, but you have clients all over,” says Hobica. “Now here’s your chance to actually see them in person.”

If your company often uses JetBlue, another way to use the pass could be to piggyback a personal vacation on top of some business travel, Harteveldt points out. For example, say you had already booked a $390 trip from Boston to Seattle for work. Then, for the $209 it would cost you to upgrade the pass, you could also fly round-trip to a vacation in California or the Caribbean, potentially saving around $100 or $200 on that trip.

The “All You Can Jet” pass does have some unique restrictions — for example, travelers must buy the pass and book their travel on the phone, a restriction that’s unusual “for an airline that’s so web-focused,” says Harteveldt. The pass also carries particularly heavy penalties for failing to make a flight: A no-show who doesn’t call to change or cancel a flight could see their remaining “All You Can Jet” flights canceled.

The bottom line: You’ll need to do your homework on the rules and restrictions, and do the math to compare the pass to fares on JetBlue.com and other sites. But if you’ve got a couple of trips you’ve been wanting to take and you’re willing to squeeze them all into one month, this could be a good way to save.
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