I have flown Southwest Airlines for years and had always liked the Rapid Rewards program, and thought it was one of the best. Now, they have changed the awards so that the tickets are much more limited in value. The seats are now limited. Before, as long as there was a seat, you could use your ticket. I was not able to book flights on a trip I wanted to take because my kind of ticket was not acceptable. I talked to co-workers who had a similar experience. I greatly question their selection as the best frequent flyer program in the face of the declining value of the Rapid Rewards tickets. I think there should be much more publicity regarding this situation than what I have seen thus far. Perhaps your magazine has done stories on it, but I wasn’t aware of your publication until just recently, so I wouldn’t have known if there was an article. I am very disgusted by the changes at Southwest in general, and think that they are rapidly becoming just like every other airline. It is a shame that they have sold out.
Editor’s Note: They seem to have rightfully been acknowledged as one of the better frequent flyer programs based on what you stated earlier in your comments, and have long won praise for the simplicity of that program. I think you might be referring to their Freddie Award win for the year 2005, when they did not have restrictions on award redemption, other than some blackout dates and when flights were full. The changes occurred here in 2006 and it will be interesting to see if the public’s overall view of Rapid Rewards changes when the Freddie Awards balloting starts next January.
We did cover the changes to that program and are monitoring the impact of the changes by including Rapid Rewards in our monthly research on award redemption. To date, the changes don’t seem to have made a drastic change.
You mentioned in your May issue that “The world’s first frequent flyer program was created by American Airlines in 1981.” Not True. Hughes Airwest had a loyalty program that predates AAdvantage.
Editor’s Note: Actually, Western Airlines had the first that pre-dated AAdvantage, and there were others including the Hughes Airwest program, but none were mileage-based programs, which is the common denominator today. I’m fully aware of the other types of programs, but again, we measure the first based on “earning miles.” Thanks for the note. In a technical sense, other legacy carriers had variations of loyalty and recognition programs dating back to the 60s.