It’s no secret that your experience with an airline may substantially influence how frequently you fly with them. Several airlines go to tremendous pains to improve traditionally challenging aspects of air travel, such as boarding, to ensure your business. On the other hand, others recognize the potential to regain repeat customers by investing in loyalty programs offering benefits and prizes.
Southwest is the latest airline to announce significant changes to its frequent flyer program. Continue reading to learn how the new system may affect your vacation plans.
Despite some recent hitches with planned changes to its unique boarding process, Southwest is one major airline that has a soft spot with customers for its built-in comforts and cost-effective practices, such as not charging for the first two checked bags. This uncomplicated approach extends to the airline’s Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program, which foregoes the rather complex systems utilized by other airlines in favor of a two-tier scheme divided into A-List and A-List Preferred.
Customers who qualify for A-List (by taking 25 one-way flights or earning 35,000 tier qualifying points by spending on co-branded credit cards each year) can currently enjoy priority security lines, priority check-in, priority boarding, a 25% rewards mileage bonus on flights, and access to same-day flight changes.
Travelers who take 50 one-way flights each year or earn 70,000 tier qualifying points achieve A-List Preferred membership and enjoy the same privileges, except making 100% extra miles and having access to free WiFi on flights.
However, if completing the needed number of flights to unlock bonuses has always seemed out of reach for you, things are about to change. This is due to Southwest’s announcement that it will be decreasing the level necessary to qualify for Rapid Rewards status, according to The Points Guy (TPG).
As of January 1, 2024, to attain the A-List category, travelers will need to take 20 one-way trips before the end of the year. The A-List Plus qualification requirement will also be reduced to 40 one-way trips per year.
While the amount of tier qualifying points necessary to achieve each level will stay constant, earning them will become substantially more straightforward. Holders of Southwest co-branded credit cards will now need to spend $5,000 to make an extra 1,500 points, a 50% reduction from the $10,000 previously required. According to TPG, the policy also states that there are no restrictions to how many extra points cardholders may receive through milestone spending.
Those seeking to remain loyal to Southwest will not be able to do so. In addition to what it currently gives its regular fliers, the airline is introducing some additional base privileges.
Starting November 6, A-List Preferred customers will receive two complimentary premium drinks every trip, including alcoholic beverages. The refreshments will be made available through coupons issued to guests’ smartphones via the Southwest app.
Additionally, habitual Southwest customers may find it simpler to plan free trips. Rapid Rewards members will be able to pay for airfare using a combination of points and cash starting next spring, according to a TPG representative. According to the corporation, detailed specifics and deployment dates for the feature are still being worked out.
While change is nothing new in the airline business, Jonathan Clarkson, Southwest’s vice president of marketing, said the latest adjustments reflect the new flying scenario that has emerged in the aftermath of the COVID-19 epidemic.
“There’s been a shift from business to leisure travel,” he said. “As a result, these changes are more consistent with what we’re seeing from leisure passengers.” These improvements made sense because our co-branded credit cards are being used more often.
The decision also comes a month after Delta Air Lines faced a backlash from customers over modifications to its SkyMiles loyalty program. The competitor airline’s changed regulations would make achieving status substantially more complex and eliminate popular advantages such as lounge access for people who presently enjoy it.
Clarkson stated that the low-cost airline tested prospective improvements before implementing them. “This is another example of Southwest deciding to zig when everybody else zags,” he said. “We have a program we want people to use and get the benefit of.”