Rapid Rewards 2.0 – August, 03 2011

Rapid Rewards 2.0 – August, 03 2011

Just like the great state of Texas, Southwest Airlines has a reputation for being just a little bit different and bigger than life. The airline is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and as a commercial once proclaimed, it’s “come a long way, baby.” Gone are the hot pants and a few other characteristics of the airline that gave the carrier its reputation.

In its 40th year, is it the same delightful and different airline as when it started out in 1971? For one thing, the airline is no longer always the cheapest flight option. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average ticket prices on Southwest Airlines have increased 39 percent over the past five years while other airlines’ ticket prices on average have increased 10 percent. It has definitely become more mainstream when it comes time to buy a ticket. (We should point out, though, that the airline still does not charge a first or second bag fee, which can really save you money if you prefer to check your bags.)

And the ticket prices are not the only thing that has changed in recent years. The Rapid Rewards program made some radical changes a few months ago. From its inception as The Company Club in June 1987, until the launch of the new Rapid Rewards, the program stayed true to its basic premise: fly 16 flights (or eight roundtrip flights) and you’ll automatically receive a free flight in your Rapid Rewards account. With the new Rapid Rewards, that simplicity has disappeared.

In this article, we’ll look at the old and new Rapid Rewards. Frequent flyers in general do not like change, so how have Southwest’s most loyal customers taken to the new Rapid Rewards? We heard from Rapid Rewards members with statements ranging from, “I HATE the new Rapid Rewards program with a burning passion!” to

“I LUV the new program.”
We will also talk with Chris Herndon, Sr. Manager Loyalty Marketing at Southwest Airlines, to get his point of view and give you some tips to maximize your membership.

The Company Club

On June 20, 1987, Southwest Airlines introduced its frequent flyer program. Called The Company Club, it was based on total trips taken regardless of distance flown and was billed as the simplest and fastest way to receive free roundtrip tickets. It was also said to fill a void for the short-haul business traveler. Members earned one credit per flight regardless if the flight was from Lubbock
to Houston (474 flight miles) or from Houston to Los Angeles (1,390 flight miles).

Through the years, the program has featured a unique and very popular Companion Pass. Southwest customers who took 50 roundtrip flights or received 100 credits through flight and partner use within a year, were awarded a Companion Pass, allowing them to take along a companion on any flight, including award flights. This benefit could be seen as Southwest’s answer to an elite level. The airline does not offer planes with first class and cushy lounges so this was seen as the best way to reward loyalty.

Southwest’s frequent flyer program also offered some rather lucrative special offers for members through the years such as the Valentine Partner Pass Program in 1990 that offered Company Club members one free companion ticket for each roundtrip flown having a cost of $78 or more (with a minimum of $39 each way). Another stellar offer was the “Fly One Way, Get One Way Free” special for customers who flew between LAX and OAK in the spring of 1991. Customers received a free one-way ticket as they boarded the plane. “Friends Fly Free” has been another recurring offer where every full-fare customer, age 18 or older, could take along a friend of any age for free.

On April 25, 1996, Company Club was renamed Rapid Rewards. Whether Company Club or Rapid Rewards, Southwest frequent flyers seemed to appreciate the simplicity of the program and it garnered quite a few accolades over the years. Southwest won no less than 31 Freddie Awards including being the only program to ever win in the Best Award Availability category from when that category was introduced in 1998 until 2009, the last year the Freddie Awards were awarded. The program also won Program of the Year in 2001 and again in 2005.

Rapid Rewards Old vs. New

On March 1, 2011, the new Rapid Rewards went into effect–credits were out, points were in. You could say that the straightforward quality of the program also went out the door and Rapid Rewards members have had to learn new tricks to make their memberships pay off. Rapid Rewards members earn differing points per dollar spent based on the fare you pay and you spend differing point amounts based on the cost of the flight. This is about as far from the original program as it could get–members who were used to having a free flight magically show up in their account now do not know until they purchase a flight how many points they will earn or how many they will need for that flight from Houston to Newark until they are redeeming points.

Why the drastic change? The thought is that the old Rapid Rewards did not appeal to most business travelers who held elite status in other airlines and the program was not a revenue generator for Southwest (points are easier to sell to other companies than the old Southwest credits).

The new Rapid Rewards was built with the hope to remedy both of these shortcomings. The number of points earned per flight is calculated according to your fare class. Business Select flights will earn 12 points per dollar spent, Anytime fares will earn 10 points per dollar and the discounted Wanna Get Away fares will earn six points per dollar spent. When spending your points, the redemption levels are configured in a similar fashion; times 10–60 points per dollar of fare in Wanna Get Away, 100 points per dollar of Anytime fare and 120 points per dollar of fare for Business Select flights. So, taking the example of a $400 fare, a Wanna Get Away ticket would require 24,000 points to redeem, an Anytime ticket would cost 40,000 points and a Business Select ticket, 48,000 points—that’s the equivalent of spending $8,000 if you book only Wanna Get Away fares, $4,800 if you book only Anytime fares and $4,000 if you book only
Business Select fares.

Southwest is not the only airline that has taken this approach to earning and spending loyalty currency. When the people at Virgin America launched their program for the new airline, they chose a revenue-based system where the points earned and spent are tied to the monetary value of flights. JetBlue TrueBlue has a similar setup as well.

To get the perspective of a frequent Southwest flyer, we asked milepoint member, nsx, to give his take on the old vs. the new Rapid Rewards. He is a weekly commuter via Southwest. “In a nutshell, the losers under 1.0 became winners under 2.0, and vice versa. You love the change or you hate it.”

He says that earning and burning tactics have changed between the new and the old and that the new program is “much less ‘exploitable’ than the old one.” What this comes down to is that the new program’s value is more closely linked to the value that the customer provides Southwest. “The big winners under the old program have seen major devaluation. The big losers under the old program, the full-fare customers, now have a program that rewards them very well indeed.”

Courting Business Travelers

One leisure traveler we spoke to, FlyerTalk’s GVretiredguy, who is a former Southwest frequent flyer had this to say, “…we don’t like their [new] program and I honestly believe that they do not want us as passengers or members of their Rapid Rewards program.” He is referring to his belief that Southwest is only interested in having business travelers as customers. He also commented that, “The only thing good about Rapid Rewards 2.0 is that the points don’t expire. My wife and I now call ourselves Free Agents–wherever we get the best all around deal is where we spend our money.” He is not alone in his view of the new Rapid Rewards.

There are others, however, who believe that Rapid Rewards 2.0 is giving them a better return on their investment of loyalty. “I get a much better return on my $400 Anytime tickets, and my wife was able to use points to purchase a Rapid Rewards flight for Friday travel to Vegas at the Wanna Get Away rate vs. no inventory for old Rapid Rewards awards,” commented FlyerTalk member, Boraxo.

So, what it comes down to is you either love or hate the new Rapid Rewards depending on your travel patterns. If you do indeed fly Southwest for business and tend to purchase Business Select fares you are more than likely quite happy with the new program. Take, for example, the Premier Mileage Plus member we found who had been earning through flights on Star Alliance partner US Airways. After the launch of the new Southwest, he saw how quickly he could reach A-List and A-List Preferred status by purchasing Business Select fares–and the carrot of the Companion Pass was tempting. Now, he is A-List Preferred and quite happy with his decision to switch. And, as frequent flyer Drew Ramsey mentioned when relating this example, “This is the stickiness that legacy carriers enjoy at high status levels with their mature programs, and it appears that Southwest may finally be experiencing some of that.”

Business Select fares offer a guaranteed Group A boarding pass, a drink coupon valid for your day of travel, Fly By Priority Lane Access and double the points of those flying on a Wanna Get Away fare. Those points that you earn twice as fast can then be turned around and spent on a Wanna Get Away flight–this is where the program lives up to its name as there can truly be “rapid rewards” under this scenario.

And for those who are A-list Preferred members, earned with 50 one-way flights or 70,000 qualifying points, a Business Select ticket returns a hefty percentage of its price in free travel on advance purchase fares–A-List Preferred members earn an impressive 100 percent flight point bonus so if you are flying Business Select, those points can add up fast. Under the old program, a full-fare Anytime ticket earned a mere 1/16th of a roundtrip regardless of what you paid for the ticket. “Under the new Rapid Rewards, it always makes better sense to buy the expensive ticket for cash and redeem points only for advance purchase trips when fares are lowest (including Ding fares),” said nsx.

On a related note, a business traveler we spoke to pointed out that the generous points granted to premium passengers could have a negative effect for Southwest. They could, for example, take a few expensive trips on Southwest in the first month or two of a year to achieve top status, then shift all their other flying to other carriers for a year or more to build status there. He continued, “For example, someone who is A+ already can quit flying SWA until Jan 2012, fly Business Select a few times to rack up 70,000 points in several weeks or so to gain A+ through Dec 2013, then not fly SWA again for nearly two years, take a few more flights in Dec 2013, and renew status through Dec 2014. (Going forward the customer would not be able to stay away that long without losing status, but an annual short focus on SWA would suffice.) This is not the sort of behavior one would normally expect a loyalty program to encourage, yet Rapid Rewards 2.0 does at least leave the door wide open for it.” But then again, the “sticky” factor mentioned earlier might keep the members happily in the Southwest fold.

Capacity, Companions & Expiration

“What I like most about the new Rapid Rewards (also the only thing I like about the new Rapid Rewards) is that it steps back towards the original Rapid Rewards in that any seat has the potential to be a rewards seat,” said Janet Cole, a frequent Southwest flyer. The new Rapid Rewards features “unlimited award seats”–if you have the points and there is an unsold seat, you can have it.

But frequent SWA flyer, nsx, mentioned that there’s a good and bad side to the current no capacity controls. Yes, you can fly when you want with the new program, but there is no more opportunity to score an expensive award trip on the cheap. With the old program, customers were known to load up on cheap short-haul trips to earn credits and spend those credits for more expensive long-haul flight awards.

Gone also is the ability to book last-minute travel for cheap–if you wait, the cost of the flights will go up as will the cost in points. “Southwest was the best airline for last-minute domestic award travel, but its customers must now rely on other airlines’ frequent flyer programs for those trips. People who would have never given a thought to using legacy airline miles for domestic travel will be glad they kept those miles alive,” said nsx.

A real thorn in the side of some of the members we spoke to is what happens to a Rapid Rewards member who is on an award trip, and then decides he must change his return flight. Under this scenario, he will have to pay the difference in points if the cost has gone up–similar to if you changed your flight after paying with cash. But because you are then redeeming your points for a last-minute ticket, you will also have to redeem for an Anytime or Business Select ticket, which means even more points per dollar of the fare. Southwest will not meet you halfway here, you will either have to pay the difference or make other travel arrangements.

Another change that has meant an adjustment for frequent Southwest flyers is the change in the Companion Pass. In Rapid Rewards 1.0, members could, for example, earn a Companion Pass when flying 80 flights (regardless of the cost of the flights) and could use the credit card to make up the missing 20 credits to reach the 100 credits necessary to get the Companion Pass. Now, members must either fly the 100 flights (50 roundtrips) or they must earn 110,000 points through flights and through earning points with partners. They can no longer, for example, take 80 cheap flights plus add in the extra 20 credits with partner transactions to reach the required 100 credits. If a member takes 80 cheap flights now, they will be quite a long way from getting the required 110,000 points.

Not all the changes with the new Rapid Rewards are bad news. The old Rapid Rewards credits expired within 24 months, regardless of account activity. Before that policy, for many years, members had only one year in which to build up enough credits for a free award flight. With the new Rapid Rewards, members can keep their points active by posting a flight or partner earning activity every 24 months–so you can keep your points valid indefinitely with account activity. This is a big change and a plus for the infrequent flyer and anyone who likes to earn free flights mostly through credit card and partner use. This, along with the merger with AirTran Airways, which will open up some international flights for redemption and the new option for credit cardholders to spend points on flights worldwide, makes the program more attractive to a great many new members.

Southwest Plastic

These days for most frequent flyer programs, the co-branded credit card is money in the bank for the airline and a trusted way to bank more miles/points for the member, and as such, is an integral part of the program. In the case of Southwest, a new credit card was launched when the new Rapid Rewards was launched. The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card offers two points per dollar spent for Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases along with a host of other benefits such as 3,000 bonus points every year upon your cardmember anniversary.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier cardholders earn 1,500 tier qualifying points per $10,000 spent on the card, up to 15,000 tier qualifying points annually as well as 6,000 bonus points upon your anniversary.

And co-branded credit card holders are the only members who can take advantage of a new award option of spending your points for international awards with most major airlines (an award option similar to Southwest’s merger partner, AirTran Airways A+ Rewards award where members can spend 100 credits for a coach award flight anywhere in the world).

Cardholders can also spend their points for hotel stays, car rentals, gift cards and more. Southwest is following the industry trend of offering exclusive credit card perks in hopes that all members will see the card as a necessary accessory–Southwest can’t offer free bags like other FFP credit cards because everyone who flies Southwest already gets to check their bags for free–so, additional award options it is. The annual fee for the card is similar to other co-branded cards that award miles or points, at $69 for the Plus and $99 for the Premier card. The Plus card comes with a 20,000-point bonus after first purchase and the Premier card offers 30,000 points for first purchase, with the occasional limited-time offers of more sign-up points.

Members Speak Out

It’s true that frequent flyer members in general do not like change. Rapid Rewards, like Southwest Airlines, has had very faithful fans for very many years and most were fanatical about the simplicity of the program. So, when we asked Southwest frequent flyers for their thoughts on Rapid Rewards 2.0, overwhelmingly they mentioned that they do not like the complexity of the new program. “… 1.0 was simple, 1=1=1. Now I have to do advanced math to figure out the system,” said FlyerTalk’s FlyingTigers. In a similar vein, there was this, from FlyerTalk’s sdsearch, “I miss the comparative simplicity of previous versions of Rapid Rewards, and the ease of making last-minute changes to the flight time without raising the award cost.”

Members also lament the ‘old’ Southwest, “Southwest used to be the underdog scrappy airline run by a management staff with aviation fuel in their blood. Now, Southwest appears to be a clumsy aging company run by managers with dollar signs in their eyes, not long term dollar signs, just quarter-to-quarter time horizons,” said FlyerTalk’s dlaue. And FlyerTalk’s vsmith said, “I grew up in Houston and was always a Southwest fan, but I can honestly say this is the first time I’m not feeling the LUV.”

Another flyer laments, “My wife and I don’t have kids and we used to talk on Thursday nights–what do you want to do this weekend? This led to some last-minute trips to fun weekend destinations using our Southwest credits–this is gone.”

At least some members took the changes in stride with a sense of humor, such as FlyerTalk’s gogreyhound who said, “I like puzzles … in that context, Rapid Rewards was waaaay too simple. Vapid Rewards, with its different multipliers and varying point totals for earning and awards, adds an element of adventure. I’m never quite sure what a flight will earn or how much an award will cost. A couple weeks ago, I got a credit card offer with 50,000 bonus points. Time to get out the calculator to see what that is worth.”

As we have mentioned, not everyone is unhappy. “I LUV the new program. I do book last-minute business travel and it has been very rewarding,” said FlyerTalk’s ronbo83.

Another traveler said that Rapid Rewards 2.0 is definitely better. “I’m a frequent last-minute short-haul flyer, so the $400 to $500 roundtrip RDU-BNA typically got me, well, nothing much … I would typically earn two to four credits per roundtrip (depending on SW Visa use and whether I was on Business Select fares). Now as an A+ member, I’m earning 24 x 500 or about 12,000 points per roundtrip. I usually plan weekend trips in advance so am booking Wanna Get Away … that works out to a few hundred dollars a month in future free airfare. Which is even more valuable as a Companion Pass holder. Personally, I’m extremely satisfied with the new system.”

Southwest’s Point of View

We recently spoke with Chris Herndon, Senior Manager Loyalty Marketing at Southwest Airlines. Our conversation is below.

When you were looking at designing the new Rapid Rewards, what were some of your criteria? In other words, what did you want to change about the old program and why did you decide to make the changes you made?

Chris Herndon
There are obviously a lot of things that play into that decision, but research and talking to our members was a big part of that. And I’m not sure if you know this, but we found out that a lot of our members in the old program weren’t reaching an award. So we had a lot of folks who participated in the program but did not get the benefit of it–that was a key driver and you can see that come through in one of the key attributes of the new program with non-expiring points, as long as you have activity within 24 months.

And our company as a whole and how we’ve evolved since the program was introduced in 1987… if you think about it … our business back then was primarily short haul and that was a big driver for the frequent flyer program. We went from about 75 percent short haul to today where that percentage is much smaller than that. So long haul is making up a much bigger percentage and we felt that if people are flying us much further, and in effect, paying us more for that fare, it was in essence more fair to reward them with more.

Those are a couple of examples of the reasons why we changed the program–really to fit with where we are today as a company and to give back more to the membership–something that works for the greater number of members.

What type of research did Southwest do when creating the program? Which other frequent flyer programs did you look at for inspiration?

I wasn’t here for the entire portion of that, but I can tell you that we did an enormous number of focus groups, we did in-depth studies with surveys and all sorts of research tactics as well as mining our own database on our memberships’ behavior and flight patterns, that sort of thing.

I think it’s fair to say that there was an audit of the overall frequent flyer space and loyalty space in general to try and figure out what programs are doing well and where there is opportunity for improvement.

What is one thing you know now that you wish you could have known when you first started building the new Rapid Rewards?

That’s a good question–I would say, don’t underestimate the challenges with change. We knew that folks would have to learn a new program and learn a new way of doing things, and it’s all about communication and determining the right way to communicate effectively.

We’ve noticed some Rapid Reward program partners dropping out such as InterContinental Hotels Group Priority Club Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. Can you speak to that? Why the change?

I don’t know if I would necessarily tie those directly to the new program, those are independent business decisions that really didn’t factor into the roll out of the new program. It was just more of the direction we wanted to go with the partnerships of the program.

Does that mean that you’re going to be looking at new partners?

Partnerships are definitely an opportunity for us–we have some great partnerships but I think we definitely have room for more and I think you’re going to see some new additions from us later this year and ongoing. One nice thing about the new program and the change to points is it’s going to make it easier for us to strike up new partnerships. Our currency is more divisible and it will be easy for us to work with partners in categories that we haven’t had before.

Do you believe that other airlines will adopt FFP models similar to Rapid Rewards?

That’s hard to say. I think a lot of people might have a challenge in making a change this large. But what I can say is that a lot of frequent flyer program managers have said that if they could move away from a mileage-based currency they would like the opportunity to do so. But the reality is that there is a lot involved in time and effort and resources in making a change, so I can understand that might be a deterrent.

There were some well-documented cases of Southwest’s website having some difficulty when the new program was launched. Can you tell us what is being done to make the website better?

I have to acknowledge that there were some hiccups and glitches with the rollout from the technology side–this is an enormous project–obviously the goal is to have no problems. Our goal was to have it go smoothly and we didn’t quite achieve that. We did have a command center that was set up with a cross functional team, and a big part of that was technology, that was set up and staffed 24 hours a day leading up to and for several weeks following the rollout of the program. So, as soon as we were aware of the problems we had teams working 24 hours a day to address them. But obviously, this program is huge, it’s difficult to rollout, but I feel like we had a good cross-functional team that was able to tackle it and most of the things were fixed very quickly. We continue to have folks who monitor it and as soon as we learn about issues we have a team standing by to jump on any problems that arise.

We’re also working on something that I think will help as well. We’re going to be rolling out educational and learning initiatives to help explain some of the changes that we made to the website and we’re looking to highlight areas that might cause confusion to help folks get accustomed to the layout of the new site and hopefully get the most out of their program participation.

What do you plan to do as an incentive to get people to watch the videos?

We don’t have any plans to incent folks, but hope that the content and the ability to answer questions will be incentive enough.

Companions who fly with A-List members are not able to join the A-List member for benefits such as priority screening and priority standby. Why is this–is it a technology issue or business decision? And are you looking into allowing companions of A-List members to receive the same flight benefits when they are on the same flight like some other airlines do with their elite programs?

There are a couple of things at play. I know a lot of other carriers might allow the companion to be included in boarding benefits, but with us, we don’t have assigned seats, so really, your place in boarding determines your potential to pick the seats that you would like, so if we allowed people who didn’t earn the benefit to board with an A-List member, it might deteriorate the experience for others who are behind them in the boarding process.

So, it sounds like you’re not considering granting companions the ability to board with A-List members?

That’s not something that we are actively looking at–it’s sort of a fairness situation–if you’re traveling for business by yourself, that’s one thing, but then if you’re bringing along your companion or your family, that potentially takes places away from people boarding behind you.

Now that members have been living with the new program for a few months, can you tell us anything about the rate of members redeeming for award flights–has it increased or decreased from the old Rapid Rewards (we know it’s early yet)?

We’re not seeing a tremendous amount of point redemptions yet because people are building up their point balances, but we are seeing a good number of folks who are earning points and then converting those points into the remaining credits they need for their awards, so that seems to be going well.

Also, enrollments are tracking very well and ahead of our forecasts. The fares that members are choosing seem to indicate that folks are going with fares that award them with more points for their purchase–all of those seem to be positive indicators.

That was our next question: Have Business Select bookings increased since the program launched?

From all measures, our historical and our forecasted measures for the program, it’s fair to say we’re doing at or better than our forecast for the new Rapid Rewards so we’re pleased at this point.

What new options can Rapid Rewards members look forward to when it comes time to spend their points in the next few months or years? Will there be direct redemption, especially for international destinations, (not just for credit card holders) with other carriers?

There’s not a lot I can say at this point, but obviously, our merger with AirTran will open up new opportunities. As of now, it’s business as usual, but there are some exciting things to come. As you mentioned, we do have the More Rewards redemption option for Chase cardmembers and that basically will allow you to use points for international travel, hotel rooms, rental cars and a lot of things that you were not able to do with Rapid Rewards in the past.

Will you offer inflight WiFi or beverages for points?

I don’t have any news on that at this point, but it’s something that we feel we can look at.

Do you think Southwest will join a global alliance?

I don’t know if I could speculate on that at this point so it’s hard for me to answer.

Why does Rapid Reward charge more points per dollar for Anytime and Business Select flights? This can be especially problematic if a customer has to change his return on an award ticket.

In the new program, the points currency spends like cash. So, if someone redeems for a Wanna Get Away fare and needs to make a change in their return ticket and all that was available was a Business Select fare–the member would have to make up the difference in points for a Business Select fare. If there is a difference in the number of points required for a new fare the member would be responsible for that, it’s not unlike if there was a difference in the fare in dollars.

I would liken it back to points correlating like cash, just as you have that situation, you also have the benefit if you’re able to plan ahead and be flexible, you might be able to spend a lot fewer points on a Wanna Get Away fare that might get you there.

Just as when you earn, you earn six points for Wanna Get Away, 10 points per dollar spent for Anytime and 12 points per dollar for Business Select. When you redeem, you just basically take that times 10. The way I would look at it is that you can choose to earn at a lot faster rate with the Business Select and then potentially redeem for Wanna Get Away fares–we’ve even heard of instances where with as little as one flight someone has been able to redeem for a Wanna Get Away flight. So you do have some flexibility and control that can work to your advantage.

How does Southwest look at the Social Media space?

We all use it as a listening tool. There are a lot of great conversations out there and there are a lot of people who have a lot of experience with our program so it’s a great opportunity for us to learn a lot from them and to understand members’ perceptions and feedback. We are getting more active in Social Media channels like Facebook. Right now, we’re conducting a promotion fan drive and there’s more to come. Definitely it’s important–a great listening and communication tool.

Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about Rapid Rewards?

We hope that folks like the program. We think we’ve got some good accolades out of the gate that help reinforce the value of the new program like the Ideaworks award availability survey that rated our program as having the best domestic award availability of all the carriers surveyed, things like the best frequent flyer program from CNN Money and the best new frequent flyer development from Smarter Travel. So, we feel good about the new program. We know that there were some hiccups with the rollout at launch with the technology but we’ve worked through those issues and will continue to monitor that and continue to communicate with our members to help them get the most out of the program.

There seem to be people who are quite happy with the new program, especially if they are Business Select flyers and then there are those who are quite miserable–frequent flyers in general don’t like change.

We totally understand that change is challenging. It’s a big change for our membership, it’s a big change for our company and our employees, but ultimately, it seems like it’s the right thing to do to align the company and the airline that we have evolved into.

In Conclusion and Final Tips

Whether you love it or hate it, according to Southwest, the new Rapid Rewards is a better fit for the airline today. Most of the shock has faded for members and they are on their way to learning how to best use the new program. To fully maximize the program, it’s best to fly on Anytime or Business Select fares and redeem for Wanna Get Away (and don’t make changes to your return flight once you’ve started your trip). Consider spending points when you see fare sales and if you’re redeeming for several family members, don’t redeem points for your A-List member–spend the cash for that member’s flight to keep the points coming in at the higher A-List rate.

Use partnerships to your advantage. For example, car rentals earn 600 points per rental–that’s the same as spending $100 on Wanna Get Away airfare–so a few one-day cheap rentals will help pad your account. And with the new points system in place, we expect to see more partners for Southwest.

Spending with the credit card will help with Companion Pass attainment and allow members to spend their points for international flights. Members can also now consider mileage runs (or “segment runs”) to get in segments toward A-List preferred–especially when Southwest is running one of its fare sales.

As a final note, yes, some of the LUV has faded for those who remember the humble beginnings of this low-cost superstar but all things must change. The bottom line is that the airline is striving to continue to make a profit just like any business. And like it or not, the new Rapid Rewards is a part of that process.

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