Recently, Jonathan Clarkson, Director Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, chatted with milepoint members and answered questions about the past, present and future of the Rapid Rewards program. There were a few questions Jonathan was unable to answer due to the lack of time, so I’ve provided those questions and answers from Jonathan below. Thank you for your participation in the milepoint chat! Question: For a business traveler like set in my ways, used to lounges at airports, elite lines and check in, first class, heavy elite miles bonuses, the best on time statistics in North America and the opportunity to redeem miles on Singapore Airlines in business or Lufthansa in First. Why should a guy on the north shore of Chicago start flying Southwest? Jonathan: Well, we happen to think that there are more than a few things that set us apart from our competitors. In addition to offering our World Famous Customer Service, we strive to provide great frequency of ontime flights and an appealing schedule, especially out of MDW, one of our largest markets. We never charge bag fees or change fees. It’s relatively easy for a business traveler to achieve the perks of A-List such as Fly-By Lanes in security and the chance to be one of the first to board. And last but not least, our Rapid Rewards program is one of the most competitive loyalty programs out there with no blackout dates, no seat restrictions, and points don’t expire with any earning activity within 24 months. Also, as a Rapid Rewards Credit card holder, you can redeem points for international travel, cruises, hotels, cars, and gift cards. We are the largest domestic airline in terms of passengers carried, and we think that’s a testament to the service we provide our Customers. Question: Isn't there any way I can convert my credits if I only have a couple left? I don't want to buy credits. It is possible for Members to earn rewards faster in the new program, but it’s really up to each Member to evaluate how to use old credits and their new points based on their desired destination and fare type. Jonathan: Today, the only way to convert credits from the old program is to buy or earn enough points to “backwards convert” to a standard award- which, like all standard awards from the previous iteration of our program, can be used anywhere we fly but is also subject to restrictions. Question: How about an option to redeem points for Early Bird Check-In? How about a challenge for someone with status at another airline? A fast track to A-list? How about an award to redeem for free wifi on flights? Jonathan: One thing this community has no shortage of is great ideas like these, and we love hearing this kind of feedback from our Customers. I can’t promise that we’ll make them all happen, but I assure you that we are looking at every way to continue evolving our program so it’s the best for our Members. Question: I have to ask, because Southwest Rapid Rewards was always my double dip partner, why did SWA discontinue its partnership with Hilton? How about Priority Club as a hotel partner? Why is the Hilton Hhonors program discontinuing its partnership with Southwest after all these years? Jonathan: There’s a short list of reasons as to why these loyalty partnerships end, and they generally- and unfortunately - revolve around financial terms. We worked long and hard to maintain partnerships with both Priority Club and Hilton, but in the end just couldn’t come to mutually acceptable terms. You can still book rooms at both IHG and Hilton hotels on Southwest.com, and we’re truly excited to add additional ways of earning points to the Rapid Rewards Program in 2012, so stay tuned. Question: In the past, a credit from a cancelled trip could be applied to future travel for any passenger. With 2.0, credits can only be applied to the passenger from the original booking (regardless of who paid for it). Any chance of changing this to be able apply travel credit to any passenger being booked? Jonathan: In July 2010, we announced that, effective January 28, 2011, we would no longer allow unused travel funds to be applied toward travel for anyone other than the original Passenger. This decision was made as a proactive step to align our business with the general practice of the airline industry so that we can be prepared for future opportunities. Even with this decision to adhere to our Contract of Carriage, our ticketing and fare rules (including no change fees) remain among the most Customer-friendly in the industry. Due to a shift in technical priorities, we postponed this activation and our Customers were able to continue to take advantage of exceptions to our policy. However, effective April 29, 2011, unused funds may only be applied toward the purchase of future travel for the individual named on the ticket.