Jet Blue Vs. Southwest for Families, Plus Review of Club MCO

1. Introduction: Fun and Chaos of Visiting Yellowstone and Glacier with In-laws 

2. Logistics of Visiting Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks via Miles and Points 

3. Jet Blue vs. Southwest for Families, Plus Review of Club MCO Lounge

4. Lessons from Our Flight Diversion, and How You Can Protect Yourself

I’m a big fan of Southwest and so far, have had (mostly) positive experience with the carrier. So, I was curious as to how it compares to Jet Blue, the airline I’ve never flown before until recently. The frequent flyer programs are very similar and are tied to the price of the ticket. On average, you can get around 1.4 cents in flight value per Rapid Rewards point, and the same goes for Jet Blue currency. In general, you will do better on international routes when it comes to both programs.

Otherwise, it’s probably an “apples to oranges” kind of comparison. If you live in Boston (or another major Jet Blue hub), then Southwest currency will probably  be less valuable by default. For someone like me ( a Florida resident), things aren’t quite that simple. Often, the routes overlap, so the choice of what points to use comes down to schedule and price.

In fact, in a few months my husband and I are planning to go to Costa Rica. We will be flying from Fort Lauderdale to San Jose on Southwest, and coming back via Jet Blue. The prices were similar for our dates, so the schedule determined my choices.

See Southwest map of coverage here, and Jet Blue here I was thrilled to see that Jet Blue has a non-stop evening flight from Orlando to Salt Lake City, so it was time to put my stash to good use.

It’s  important to note that Jet Blue currency is somewhat easier to obtain. Southwest only partners with Chase, so if you don’t collect Ultimate Rewards, you are out of luck. On the other hand, you can transfer to Jet Blue from Membership Rewards, Citi Thank You program as well as Chase Ultimate Rewards. Amex has a transfer ratio of 250:200, though it occasionally offers transfer bonuses.

Let me address some key differences in both programs, as well as on-board experience, based on my recent flights.

Points flexibility

The thing I love most about Southwest is the ability to cancel points booking with no penalty. I’ve used this perk when I missed my  flight to Aruba in 2016. The plane was supposed to take off in only 45 minutes when we got to the airport, so we were out of luck. I got all of my points back, plus  voucher for taxes which I used for our flight to Jamaica at a later time. If I paid with a credit card instead of a gift card, I would have gotten a full refund, no strings attached.

If my flight was on Jet Blue instead of Southwest, I would have gotten  nothing, zero, nada. And my travel insurance would not have covered my loss since it was traffic related.

In addition, if you have a Southwest co-branded credit card, you can redeem points on valuable gift cards at a fairly decent rate. If your circumstances change and you aren’t able to travel, this is a good Plan B option to consider. No such thing with Jet Blue currency.

Free perks

Southwest is the last carrier in US that offers two free checked bags. You don’t have to have an elite status or co-branded credit card in order to take advantage of this perk. To paraphrase the almighty Oprah: you get two free bags, and you get two free bags, everyone gets two free bags!!

No such perk with Jet Blue. You need an elite status or their co-branded credit card. Admittedly, their credit card (Plus version) is quite excellent. I seriously regretted cancelling it last December, though in my defense, I had no idea we would be flying on Jet Blue  just a few months later. Otherwise, I would hang on to it and you would have to pry it out of my cold dead fingers.

My in-laws wouldn’t have to pay for their plethora of bags, and I would get 10,000 points rebate on my booking, which would more than justify the annual fee. But alas, hindsight is 20/20.

There is an area where Jet Blue wins, and that is free on-board WIFI. Southwest charges $8 per device. It’s not much, but still. Also, Jet Blue planes have seat-back screens, so you don’t have to fiddle with your iPad.

Seat assignment

I seriously hate Southwest policy of free-for-all seating and wish they would do away with it. It’s not much of an issue for families with small kids and as I’ve learned on my recent trip, even those who have children as old as 8 can unofficially  go after group A. Also, if you check in exactly 24 hours before the flight, you should be fine. But boy, can this policy be a nuisance when things go wrong.

For example, our return  flight got diverted from Las Vegas  to Phoenix due to bad winds, and we were put on an early-morning Southwest flight to Orlando. We were supposed to be in group A on our Las Vegas flight, but guess what? That assignment didn’t carry over to our new flight.

We were stuck in group C and Southwest agent wanted us to pay extra for Early Bird  check-in even though the diversion wasn’t our fault. I thought it was a little obnoxious, though I guess it wasn’t Southwest’s fault either. Still, surely they can make an exception in cases like ours. Since I was allowed to board after group A, I simply saved seats for my in-laws. Don’t judge me! I’m a “clever bird” even when I’m not an early bird.

With Jet Blue you get assigned seating, though I imagine that in the case of a flight diversion, you may also have difficulty finding seats together. Still, I will take Jet Blue system any day. I don’t want to stalk Southwest website in order to check in at exactly 24 hours before the flight, and I don’t like the idea of paying an Early Bird fee. I’m cheap that way.

Legroom

No contest, Jet Blue is the winner here. The first comment my husband made was how generous  leg room is on a Jet Blue plane. It’s not really an issue for short folks, but for someone like him ( 6 feet 4 inches) it certainly makes a difference in comfort, especially on flights that last longer than 3 hours.

The shortest airport lounge review in the history of internets

Club MCO (Terminal A) is a lounge you can access with your Priority Pass membership, which comes complimentary with certain credit cards. Kids under 12 get in free, when accompanied by adults. It’s only accessible from Gates 1-29, otherwise you have to pass through security.

I used my Amex Hilton Ascend Card that has 10 complimentary entries per year. So, I got all seven of us in it for free, and only used 5 passes. We did have to wait  10 minutes or so due to crowding issues. And boy, is that place crowded! Still, it’s free food, coffee and booze. What more do you need to know?

My father-in-law certainly approved:

We got our “dinner” and alcohol (I did tip), and went on our merry way. The lounge attendant was very friendly, and didn’t bat an eye when I brought my tribe with me. So, thumbs up. I will be back for my free food/booze when I’m flying from Orlando.

Conclusion

I believe Southwest  Rapid Rewards is a more family-friendly program. The ability to cancel an award booking with no penalty is unmatched in the industry. Free checked bags benefit will also be a big deal for some, though these days I try to travel with carry-ons only. On the other hand, Jet Blue provides a better on-board experience, especially for tall travelers.

But let’s be real, economy is economy, and lounge is a lounge. If I get alive to my destination and get some free grub along the way, I’m a happy camper.

Readers, which carrier do you prefer?

Click here to view various credit cards and available sign-up bonuses

 

 

 

 

Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

It's only fair to share...Share on Facebook
Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Pin on Pinterest
Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin

7 thoughts on “Jet Blue Vs. Southwest for Families, Plus Review of Club MCO

  1. My two favorite airlines, but SW is always my first option. I always get early bird, and I’m always in the A boarding group and the system automatically checks me in. I pay for early bird and use my $200 credit with my AmEx Platinum, or my $250 credit with Citi Prestige.

    • “Early bird” is a great way to use up the Amex annual travel Credit! I know right now there is some uncertainty with airline gift cards, so this is a good plan B. Southwest is my first choice as well. The ability to cancel an award booking and get a refund is awesome.

  2. JetBlue! I had their plus card and recently got another 60k points for their business card. Much prefer over SW. Comfy seats, great snacks, better IFE..no complaints.
    SW is just ok and is struggling based on the MAX airplane grounding. Lots of cancellations and flight changes recently. Besides all of the headaches due to them not being able to fly the Boeing Max, SW is NOT cheaper than legacy airlines.

    • @Natasha I tried applying for business version of Jet Blue card, and no dice. Congrats on snagging it!
      You make some excellent points. I definitely agree that Jet Blue offers a better economy experience compared to Southwest. I forgot to mention how delighted I was when Jet Blue attendant offered Terra veggie chips for snacks, which is my fAvorite brand. Not a huge thing, but a nice touch nonetheless.
      As far as Southwest prices go, I agree that they often match or exceed legacy carriers. It does depend, though. I paid 4,500 Southwest points +tax per person for my flight from Fort Lauderdale to Costa Rica. It was the best deal, by far, and I can cancel it without penalty. We also paid 10,000 points per person for flight from Spokane,WA to Orlando, a very good price. But you are right that it’s not always the case, and on some routes Southwest rates are astronomical. The Max plane crisis is also affecting schedule changes, for sure.

  3. Pingback: Review of Dreamcatcher Tipi Hotel, Plus Other Lodging Options in Yellowstone Area - Miles For Family

  4. Pingback: Upgrade Offers: the New "Holy Grail" of Travel Hacking? - Miles For Family

  5. Pingback: Should You Go Out of Your Way to Fly 787 Dreamliner Aircraft? - Miles For Family

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.