All New Rapid Rewards Program by Southwest | Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

This morning there was an email in my Inbox.  Actually, there were about 100 emails in my Inbox.

However, there was one I was particularity interested in reading.  The title: Announcing the All-New Rapid Rewards® Program! One of my favorite programs, Southwest Rapid Rewards, is changing.

The first line: “On March 1, 2011, Rapid Rewards® will introduce an all-new program with exciting enhancements”.

As I read, I had serious reservations about two of the words – exciting and enhancements.  I think the changes are neither exciting, nor are they enhancements.

What is Changing with the All New Rapid Rewards Program?

To summarize: Lots.  It is more like a whole new program rather than some slight changes to the old one.

Thumbs Up Changes to the Rapid Rewards Program

1.  No blackout dates

2.  No seat restrictions

#1 and #2 are not really big deals because Southwest already had one of the highest redemption rates available for seats.  While I’ve often had trouble making bookings with other airlines, Southwest has always had a seat for me.

3.  Points don’t expire (as long as you have a flight or Partner earning activity every 24 months)

This is a huge positive change.  Since we’re now living overseas, we don’t fly SWA as often as we like, but when we do fly every couple of years, we spend a lot of time on Southwest flights.

Thumbs Down Changes to the Rapid Rewards Program

1.  Moving to a points based system instead of a credit based system.

In the good old days, you got on a flight and you could earn 1 flight credit.  Get 16 flight credits, and you’re on your way to a free flight.  In fact, one of my favorite Southwest travel hacks is breaking a trip into multiple itineraries for extra credit.  One time I flew from Houston to Little Rock.  Round trip, that would have earned me two credits.  I bought one ticket from Little Rock to Dallas and another one from Dallas to Houston. I paid $5 more for my tickets, but I got four points instead of two.

But, long gone are those days.

2.  Points will now be awarded based on what you spend.

I hate airlines that use this system.  I completely understand why they do it from a business standpoint.  It is aimed at controlling people like us who find the cheapest possible flights when they travel – and they get rewarded the same as everyone else.

SWApoints

As you can see, the cheaper your flight (cheaper flight classes), the less points you’ll earn.

Last month I bought a ticket from LAX – DEN.  The ticket cost just under $60.  Under the old system, I would earn one credit for that flight.  Under this new and less improved system, I’ll earn 360 points.  Those 360 points translate to around 1/3 of a credit.

I understand SWA’s change, but I think for those of us who find the best deals this is a HUGE NEGATIVE CHANGE.

What happens to existing credit?

Existing credit will count towards the new points system.  Now, you’ll need to get the appropriate number of points to get you to a free flight.

SWAcredit

Get details here.

Final Verdict on the All New Rapid Rewards Program

Overall, I think these changes are good for SWA, good for business travelers, and bad for those of us who want to travel cheap.  So, from my perspective, I give the changes two thumbs down.

 

Comments

  1. says

    I agree, I’m not really looking to boost their profits. If I’m not going to earn a free ticket very fast, there’s no reason to keep going back to them. They’re becoming just like every other airline and that’s not a good thing.

  2. mike says

    I lost 3 round trip reward tickets due to this change because of their
    deceit and misinformation. My tickets were less than 24 months old
    reward tickets. All along I was told that you can renew them by paying
    $50 if they are more than 1 year old but less than 24 months old. All
    of a sudden with the new program, they are now saying, sorry, we
    changed our mind (more than 12 months was just a gesture on our part).
    What a joke! What a way to run business. They probably looked at the
    total number of people in this situation and made the decision that we
    can afford to piss off these people, so who cares.

    • Craig says

      Mike,
      Can you tell me more about this?
      You’re the first person I’ve heard about having this problem. Were they reward tickets or refund tickets? The shouldn’t have expired. I do know that due to a chance in the webpage you points won’t show until after you first flight under the new system, but they should still be there.

      • Mike Karim says

        They were reward tickets. I talked to the customer relations people and even wrote to Jim Ruppel who is the Vice President of customer relations. All I got was a generic “Tough Luck” response. I was very careful in keeping track of dates and would have never let it expire, but they never gave me a clue. In fact their people always told me to use the new ones first because they were “trying to help me” by having to avoid paying the $50.
        Any suggestions?, I am seriously considering taking them to court, as soon as I get my ducks in order.
        Mike

  3. Billy says

    I also lost 2 round trip reward tickets and was given the same line as Mike. Customer Service claims they sent emails three different times to inform us of the change. We still have all our emails on the dates indicated, and they are not there. The one email we do have clearly states that any earned awards will still be good under the old plan. The first we knew we had lost the free flights was when we went online to pay the fifty dollar renewal fees, and they were no longer listed on our account.

    • Craig says

      Billy,
      You’ve called customer service and they said that all miles you’ve earned before the change would be lost?

      I’m going to look into this if that is the case.

  4. Billy says

    Craig,

    The two award roundtrip tickets that were lost were over 12 months old, but not over 24 months old. Both were eligible to be renewed by paying a $50 fee each as long as it was paid within 24 months of the original expiration date. Like Mike, last November we were also advised by SW agents to use current awards when booking free flights to put off paying the $50 fees on the expired coupons since we still had until March & April of this year to pay the fees. It seemed like a nice gesture on SW’s part at the time. Had we not taken the advice and paid the fees in November, we would not have lost anything on March 1. I have received the same responses as Mike by phone and by email. Our next step was to mail all of our documentation to SW Customer Service, but it sounds like Mike received no results with that avenue. Thank you for your efforts, and hope you can help us out.

    Billy

  5. Pauline Wojtowicz says

    I am quite upset with Southwest Airlines and the new point system…I would like to alert the public not to book group travel as you DO NOT get points. We are a group of 10 flying from SEA to BDL, were not told at the time of booking this is the
    new point system…I never would have booked as a group, non-refundable, non-changeable, no points!!

    • Pauline Wojtowicz says

      I am waiting for a reply to my comment. A BIG thumbs down making Southwest Airlines no longer the favorite…it was great, again, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”
      No points for group travel?? A group of 10 with flight from SEA to BDL and no points…they do not tell you this when you book group.

    • Craig says

      Pauline,
      Sorry I didn’t reply sooner. I’ve been in airports all day. Guess what airline I flew? Southwest.

      I didn’t know that about group rates. I guess if the group rates are cheap enough to offset the points then they make sense. At the very least it is good to have the information when making a booking. Thanks for the comment.

      Like I said in the post I think for most folks the changes won’t be beneficial for the customer.

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