Southwest Giveth and Taketh Away

Southwest Giveth and Taketh Away

First, the good news. Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards award tickets as you know them are disappearing. Beginning last month, the airline introduced both ticketless award travel and ticketless Companion Travel for members of its Rapid Rewards program.

The current paper award tickets in circulation will still be valid for use until their expiration dates. Southwest reminds everyone that customers must remember to bring their paper tickets to the airport. (Perhaps a hint as to why they’ve shifted to ticketless awards?)

Until now, members who earned a free roundtrip ticket by flying or receiving credits using a preferred partner would receive an award ticket automatically in the mail once it was earned. Now, as soon as a flyer receives the required 16 credits, an electronic award will automatically appear in the member’s account.

While an award notification letter will be sent, the ticketless award is available for immediate use. Reservations can be made either by calling reservations at (800) 435-9792 or by going to to book travel using the electronic award as a form of payment.

Southwest’s Companion Pass, which allows members with 50 or more roundtrips a year to designate a companion to fly free with them for a year, also goes ticketless and online. Once a companion is designated, the member can book travel for that person online using his/her member number. The designated companion automatically is pulled up in the reservation.

Now, the not-so-good news.

It’s been a fun seven-year ride, but the award-winning Southwest double credit for booking online bonus is finally ending.

Southwest announced on Oct. 20 that the promotion, which was designed to draw customers to, has served its purpose, and will end on Dec. 31. Today, the airline derives more than half its annual revenue from online booking.

While we’re sure there will be disappointed members out there, we would remind them that a promotional bonus is just that — promotional. It was never intended to last forever, and seven years is a remarkable lifespan.

Southwest will instead offer one bonus credit for each roundtrip booked online and flown by June 30 (A half-credit will be awarded for one-way travel).

It was great fun while it lasted.

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