[ 60 Seconds ] With Debra Benton, Director of Loyalty and Partnership Marketing, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards

Question: Will Southwest ever issue elite status?

Debra Benton: We do have our Companion Pass status, which is probably the most lucrative level of any other programs. As for other types of elite statuses, I have learned at WN to never say never. I can, however, say that it is doubtful since we strongly hold to our core values and believe that all our members are equally high status. Thanks for the question though.

Q: Do you ever make exceptions on blackout dates on award tickets? It seems the list has expanded.

DB: The list has been fairly consistent for the past few years at about 12 days. We really analyze this each year and try to keep it relatively low while still maintaining our ability to offer award tickets without any seat restrictions on the other 353 days.

Q: Being our nations profitable airline, will Southwest Airlines venture into frequent flyer agreements with other airlines?

DB: I don’t see that being in our future. One of the ways that we have maintained our ability to stay profitable is to do what we are best at and to keep control over our costs. And one of the ways that we can keep Rapid Rewards profitable to the company is keep expanding ways for people to be loyal to Southwest Airlines itself.

Q: Could SW make obtaining a ticket to be used by a Companion Pass passenger a bit less cumbersome, perhaps by Internet use, rather than standing in so many lines (curbside, ticket counter, security, gate)?

DB: I am so glad that you asked that question. We are currently working on some new technology and processes that will hopefully make everyone’s airport experience better. Another thing that can help specifically Companion Pass and award ticket travelers is to pay their security fee over the telephone when they book the flight. This gives you an itinerary so you can avoid the baggage lines if you don’t have bags to check.

Q: How does Southwest account for the liability of outstanding Rapid Rewards credits? Does the one year expiration mean that you simply don’t carry them on the books year-to-year?

DB: Credits are good for 12 months from the time of receiving them. So as long as you get the next 15 before that credit expires, you will get an award ticket. However, each credit is on its own 12-month calendar. Any expired credits are not held “on the books.” While many folks ask about changing expirations, we find that they would prefer to have the credits expire to us having to start restricting seats like the other guys.

Q: When will the credits for taking statements by email and checking online begin to post?

DB: Actually, we are running that program soon and it should post by the end of the month (April) for 1st quarter. I will also tell you some news that we have regarding statements. After Sept. 11th, we did not mail statements in October or January as usual. Based on the response and the cost savings, we have decided not to mail statements. So many people are getting them online or can call the VRU for individual statements that we preferred to use that cost to do additional programs that will more benefit the members. However, anyone that chose to get statements online will still get their credits for choosing that.

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