Email showdown: Southwest vs. JetBlue

McKenzie Gregory

Despite the intense (and sometimes personal) competition between airlines, two of our favorites—Southwest and JetBlue—actually have quite a bit in common: They maintain sky-high customer service ratings, and even though their signature perks vary, both airlines hold world-class reputations among frequent flyers. 
But which brand provides the better experience in the inbox? Read on to see which airline takes off with the win. 


The signup process

Signing up for an airline's email list can get a bit tricky. Booking a flight will usually do the trick, but in lieu of spending several hundred dollars for the sake of this showdown, I chose to opt into a rewards program. 
This is the form you’re served if you choose to become a member of TrueBlue Rewards, JetBlue’s flagship program. 
It’s pretty involved and includes a ton of fields, but that's table stakes in this industry, and more fields are fine if you're promising sky-high rewards. Based on the context, I’m not fussed by it. 
The welcome email 
Full disclosure: Since I opted specifically into TrueBlue Rewards and not JetBlue’s general email list, this was the welcome email I received.
Solid subject line, decent email… but I already knew from my many days spent email-example-collecting that JetBlue also sends THIS fab welcome note to regular subscribers.
Not only does it do a great job introducing the brand and ask for a new subscribers' preferences (a savvy way to send relevant email from the get-go), the copy is hilarious and completely on-point. The dating metaphor adds a splash of personality that showcases the brand’s unique voice. 

The next email few emails    

Since the initial welcome, I’ve gotten several emails like this.
These campaigns feature several destinations centered around a central theme: In this case, places you can visit without a passport. The message is clear, and though the email features several calls to action, it’s easy to scan, the images help tell a story, and it’s super obvious what they want you to do. 
Plus, they get bonus points for a design that looks fantastic on mobile. 


The special occasion sends 

Full disclosure round 2: I haven’t been on JetBlue's list long enough to get any of these myself. But they’re too good not to show off, so here we are (thanks, Pinterest!). 
For instance, they send this one to disengaged subscribers. It continues the theme they set up in their welcome note (the subscriber relationship as a romantic relationship) and provides a few different solutions: Keep receiving their emails, update your preferences, or unsubscribe. 
The combination of lighthearted copy, clever icons, and a reminder of the value of joining their list makes this one of the best re-engagement examples I’ve ever seen. 
The same goes for their anniversary email, a date-based automated send. It contains quite a bit of copy, but it’s so entertaining that I don’t mind reading through the whole thing. 
They're also great at incorporating seasonal messaging into their strategy. Here, they literally rewrote “Jingle Bells” and made it pertinent to their services and holiday travel. 
Another way they keep things personal? Emails like this one, which uses customer data to give subscribers a look back at some of the high points of their year with JetBlue.
All in all, they do an amazing job nurturing subscribers and differentiating their brand from the competition with memorable campaigns. Somebody give that JetBlue copywriter a raise! 


Much like JetBlue, the easiest way to get on Southwest’s email list (aside from booking a flight with them) is to sign up for their Rapid Rewards program. The form isn’t beautiful, but it asks the questions you’d expect.
Or if you’d rather just receive generic travel deals, you can sign up pretty easily to their Click ’N Save list. Only three fields are required, making it much more frictionless than the Rapid Rewards form. 


The welcome email

Since they have so many lists, Southwest sends a welcome email that confirms which ones you’ve opted into and what you’ll get from those particular mailings. It does a great job setting up expectations early on in the subscriber journey. 

Southwest Rapid Rewards 

Most of the Rapid Rewards emails I’ve received have looked something like this: A summary of my rewards standings along with a few pieces of content and special offers. While the use of customer data is nice, the CTA is unclear: With so many unrelated paths to click through, I'm not sure what they actually want me to do.  

Click ’N Save 

Click ’N Save, on the other hand, usually revolves around one main call to action—to check out winter flights or buy a gift card, for example—and features a few smaller buckets of content at the bottom of the mailing. 

Special occasion sends

While the majority of their emails are business-as-usual messages, Southwest does send awesome “Happy Birthday” notes. Last year, they sent subscribers this email that clicked through to a personalized birthday video. 
In this year’s version, the email itself wasn’t anything too crazy, but the landing page it clicked through to was pretty impressive. (Who wouldn’t want to take a whack at a virtual piñata?) 
It's true: Southwest does solid email marketing... but in the end, nothing (aside from those birthday emails) really captures my attention. 

The final verdict? While Southwest sets up the right expectations for their many lists and follows through on those promises, there’s no competing with JetBlue’s compelling voice and creative sends. JetBlue flies away with the win. 



About the Author

McKenzie Gregory

McKenzie Gregory is a senior content manager on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

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