Everything You Wanted to Know About Southwest's Revamped Rapid Rewards Program

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How the program now works, from Southwest's new Rapid Rewards website
Southwest officials hopped on conference calls with aviation-biz writers yesterday to lay out the details of its long-in-the-works Rapid Rewards do-over, which Ryan Green, the Love Field-based carrier's Senior Director of Customer Loyalty and Partnerships, calls "the single biggest new product launch in our Company's history" over on the SWA blog. FlyerTalk, the frequent-flier forum, was among those listening in on the phone call, and late last night posted this lengthy summary of the overhaul of the program, which is now based on how much you spend on a ticket rather than how often you fly.

As in: The more you pay for a ticket, the more points you get -- with a bonus given to those who pay full fare. Writes Green, "The new program is designed to give you, our Customers, more control and flexibility over how and when you earn and redeem your points. When you buy certain fare products, you earn more points." There are myriad other benefits involved in the new program -- from no blackout dates to the fact the points are now redeemable for international flights. And there are further details buried beneath the headline involving so-called A-Listers, who will receive 25 percent earning bonuses on flights.

Throughout the wee small hours of this morning, the FlyerTalk forum's been filling up with Q's and A's for those who depend upon Rapid Rewards -- the revamp of which, says CEO Gary Kelly, is intended to pick up "several hundred million" dollars previously left on the table. There are now several pages' worth of discussion, including some pop-ins from SWA execs, with most frequent fliers in favor of the change: As one FlyerTalk-er writes, "I'm thinking that at first glance I'm okay with this. It was nice to get an easy point on HOU-AUS on a $39 WGA [Wanna Get Away] but on the other end it irked me to only get one point on more expensive fares." The new program goes into effect March 1.
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8 comments
Jilted LUVer
Jilted LUVer

This is a major downgrade to Rapid Rewards for frequent short-haul travelers, who probably represent most of Southwest's frequent fliers.

Until now, you could spend less than $1000 for 8 cheap ("Wanna Get Away") short-distance round-trips within 2 years (I've flown several such flights recently for round-trip fares ranging from $80 to $140), and then you would get a free round trip *anywhere*. Many destinations cost $400-500 per round-trip even with the cheapest web-only fares. So you could easily spend around $1000 (potentially as little as $650) and then get a $400 trip free.

Now (assuming you don't have lots of money to waste on expensive "Anytime" or Business fares), if you spend $1000, you'll get a free trip worth exactly $100.

Of course, Southwest trumpets all the improvements and most reporters parrot them. I've read many news items about this, and only one, in a little Baltimore paper (http://bit.ly/fDw14q), described what I've pointed out here, which is probably the most typical actual effect of the changes. Boo Southwest. Boo reporters!

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Its great that they are removing black out dates, but how does he come up with the number that they will pick up "severl hundred million" If he assuming that people will pay the higher fares to amass more points, then thats a flawed thought. We all know people will book the cheapest fare possible that is available. Its all about the here and now. People wont worry about that free flight until its time to use it.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

The vast majority of my flying are business trips to Austin and Houston. I always get the cheapest fare, and book as early as I can, to save the client costs.

I always used SWA because of the convenience, and this doesn't change that. I've always been able to get to the courthouse in Houston and back in my office by early afternoon.

The occasional free flight was a bonus, but the date restrictions really limited their value. I do like the fact these don't expire and there are no black out dates. In the long run, it'll be better I suppose. I checked the fine print and it looks like you still earn points for using the Chase Visa card.

Montemalone
Montemalone

That several hundred million is not hard to see.Cheap flights used to earn freebies just as fast as expensive (relatively) flights.Now, they don't. Just look at the math in the chart. $220 on cheap flights get less than half the points of full fare. Now, extrapolate.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

yes I understand that it now takes more lower fare flights to get a free flight, but most people use the free flight bc they had it, it wasnt necessarily a trip they had to take. So if they dont earn a free flight as quickly, you are assuming they are going to buy more low fares to get that free flight

Nom de Plump
Nom de Plump

extrapolate->

You mean I get a bigger prize and I get to butt in line in front of everyone else while they watch? This is just like first grade when I won the lunch patrol duty badge for a week. I could spend the extra money a violin lesson for my kid but I need to feel good about myself right now.

http://www.credit.com/blog/201...

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

so are you saying you are going to pay $120 more per leg to get more points? If so, are you booking business trips for which you will be reimbursed or personal trips? If you pay more for the personal trip then you are in the minority

Montemalone
Montemalone

No.I'm not paying anything to go anywhere.Southwest is making more money by giving away fewer freebies.Do you have comprehension difficulties?

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