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January 06, 2011

Reaction to Southwest's revamped frequent flyer program is mixed

Some love having "no blackouts," others hate losing their credits.

Reaction to Southwest Airlines' revamped Rapid Rewards program has been mixed.

@AustinKVS tweeted @Sky_Talk saying that having no blackouts for points redemption put Southwest's loyalty program above its competitors. "It's one of the most frustrating things about the legacy carrier programs - booking the dates you want. SWA is easy," she tweeted.

On FlyerTalk, a popular frequent flyer forum, its moderator NSX, who got a sneak peek at the program as did the rest of the media on Wednesday, pointed out that the Rapid Rewards 2.0 is "less exploitable" than the previous credit-based system. (NSX's cohort, @curbcrusher predicted a negative reaction to Southwest's program when I talked to him on Wednesday, simply because people don't like change.)

"It provides value that is much more closely linked to the value that you, the customer, provide to Southwest. Like it or not, you must agree that this is more fair," NSX wrote in his initial post about the announcement.

But that didn't stop some FlyerTalk members from grumbling about how they were losing credits and that the new program did not benefit frequent short-haul fliers. "This is a slap in the face to loyal Southwest customers to take regular short hauls," one person posted on FlyerTalk.

Brett Snyder, of CrankyFlier.com, was mostly impressed with the new program, but was irritated by a few things in Rapid Rewards 2.0

"Overall, I like what they’ve done here. The earning and redeeming is very simple and sensible. The increased tiering of the program bugs me as someone who has been flying Southwest since Rapid Rewards was the Company Club, but I understand why they’re doing it. It’s all about catering to the top travelers, even though that’s historically a very un-Southwesty thing to do. The only thing I don’t like is the credit card requirement for non-Southwest redemption, but overall, they’ve done a really good job here," he wrote on his blog on Thursday.

And at BoardingArea.com, the new program is not a good change from the old one, according to blogger Wandering Aramean.

"For the folks (like me) who travel on the cheapest available fares the changes are pretty horrible. The earning rates are limited and the redemption rates are magnified. At worst (earning only on WGA fares and redeeming on BS fares) the value hits about 5%. If you only every pay for BS fares and manage to redeem on WGA fares then those numbers switch around, making the value something like 20% which is rather respectable. And if you’re flying enough to hit A-List Plus (about $5,800 in spend on BS fares) you’ll be earning at a 2x rate due to the 100% bonus. That can drive the value up to 40% if you’re still able to redeem on the WGA fares. Most folks will never realize that high a rate and odds are it will be somewhere around the nominal 10% rate for most customers. Not horrible but not great. And, more to the point, much harder to game," he wrote.

-Andrea Ahles



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M Potter

Welcome to a much more complicated way to move about the country! "Rapid Rewards 2.0: More choices. More Difficult. More Expensive. Less Rewarding."


One must remember in order not to be eaten by the bear, one needn't win the race - one simply needs to be faster than the one in the rear.

Southwest only needs to have a better product than it's nearest competition in order to stand out and not lose the race.

Savvy Traveler

There's no doubt in my mind this is a devaluation. I was hoping for a more substantive revamp that would include true international partnerships, and instead we get a worse version of the current program that punishes short-haul fliers. Not a great update.


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