Southwest 'swamped' with frequent-flier complaints

Discussion in 'Southwest Airlines | Rapid Rewards (w/ AirTran)' started by AmericanGirl, Mar 12, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. AmericanGirl
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    AmericanGirl Silver Member

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    By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY
    Posted Mar 10 2011 3:37PM

    Southwest is still facing a significant number of complaints more than a week after it revamped its Rapid Rewards frequent-flier program, according to reports from Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal.

    As part of the overhaul, Southwest redesigned its Rapid Rewards portion of its website -- an effort beset with glitches that upset many of the carrier's frequent-fliers. Speaking yesterday to Bloomberg News, Southwest officials say they've been "very busy" addressing customers' concerns about the change -- the carrier's first update to its frequent-flier program since it was introduced in 1987.

    ARCHIVES: Southwest 'eerily quiet' during computer glitches (March 3, 2011)

    Bloomberg adds the "airline is fielding calls using extra employees brought in before the March 1 debut of its new frequent-flier plan, Whitney Eichinger, a spokeswoman, said (Wednesday)."

    The Wall Street Journal also picks up on the story, with The Middle Seat columnist Scott McCartney writing "complaints are piling up rapidly at Southwest Airlines over its new frequent-flier program and very long waits on the airline's phone lines."

    McCartney writes Southwest's "phone lines have been swamped because of confusion, particularily around the issue of seeing past credits show up in the new program's accounts."

    The customer discontent comes after Southwest moved away from a frequent-flier program that had perhaps been the industry's most simple. At the time of the switch to the new program, members typically earned one Rapids Rewards credit for each flight. They then would earn a free round-trip flight each time they accumulated 16 total credits within a 24-month period.

    Now, the carrier has switched to a program to one in which members earn points based on the price of their tickets. Similarly, Southwest also restructured its process for award tickets, requiring more points for more popular flights and less for flights with lower demand.

    Southwest says the changes were necessary as it continues to morph from a feisty upstart to one that's grown to a size that now rivals the big traditional airlines.

    The carrier is also increasingly targeting lucrative business travelers, and is considering adding service to far-flung destinations both domestically (Hawaii and Alaska have been mentioned) and internationally (Mexico, the Caribbean and possibly Canada).

    Those changes have started to test the elasticity of a one-size-fits-all frequent-flier program, Southwest officials say.

    Still, not all of Southwest's long-time customers have readily embraced the change. And while some of that was expected, snafus with the program switchover -- along with an unrelated glitch that snarled flights during the same period -- have put a spotlight on the reputation of a carrier typically lauded for its customer service.

    "There were some issues. It's a giant transition to new technology," Southwest's Whitney Eichinger acknowledges to the Journal's McCartney. "We're doing everything we can to answer those questions. … We know it's been a tough week."

    Still, it's been Southwest's muted response that has caught many off guard. The company -- considered a leading pioneer on the social media front and a one that's long used a well-honed public relations team to its advantage -- has been unusually silent on this topic, say a number of industry observers.

    "Right now, unfortunately, Southwest looks like it has stuck its head in the sand, put its fingers to its ears and is saying, 'La, la, la, we don't want to hear any bad news,' " Forrester Research analyst Henry Harteveldt tells Bloomberg in an interview. "Even if they said, 'We are aware of the problem, here's what you should expect,' people would at least know they are not ignoring this."
  2. aitchly
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    aitchly Silver Member

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    They are almost there! Not really, still no word on Companion Pass status in my account.
  3. cordray2643
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    cordray2643 Silver Member

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    I still haven't seen them start the PR recovery. Guys I work with got frustrated at the beginning of the month and have forgotten about WN. They are gonna need something/someone to get them to come back. Maybe WN just thinks recovery will happen over time.

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