This morning there was an email in my Inbox. Actually, there were about 100 emails in my Inbox.
However, there was one I was particularity interested in reading. The title: Announcing the All-New Rapid Rewards® Program! One of my favorite programs, Southwest Rapid Rewards, is changing.
The first line: “On March 1, 2011, Rapid Rewards® will introduce an all-new program with exciting enhancements”.
As I read, I had serious reservations about two of the words – exciting and enhancements. I think the changes are neither exciting, nor are they enhancements.
What is Changing with the All New Rapid Rewards Program?
To summarize: Lots. It is more like a whole new program rather than some slight changes to the old one.
Thumbs Up Changes to the Rapid Rewards Program
1. No blackout dates
2. No seat restrictions
#1 and #2 are not really big deals because Southwest already had one of the highest redemption rates available for seats. While I’ve often had trouble making bookings with other airlines, Southwest has always had a seat for me.
3. Points don’t expire (as long as you have a flight or Partner earning activity every 24 months)
This is a huge positive change. Since we’re now living overseas, we don’t fly SWA as often as we like, but when we do fly every couple of years, we spend a lot of time on Southwest flights.
Thumbs Down Changes to the Rapid Rewards Program
1. Moving to a points based system instead of a credit based system.
In the good old days, you got on a flight and you could earn 1 flight credit. Get 16 flight credits, and you’re on your way to a free flight. In fact, one of my favorite Southwest travel hacks is breaking a trip into multiple itineraries for extra credit. One time I flew from Houston to Little Rock. Round trip, that would have earned me two credits. I bought one ticket from Little Rock to Dallas and another one from Dallas to Houston. I paid $5 more for my tickets, but I got four points instead of two.
But, long gone are those days.
2. Points will now be awarded based on what you spend.
I hate airlines that use this system. I completely understand why they do it from a business standpoint. It is aimed at controlling people like us who find the cheapest possible flights when they travel – and they get rewarded the same as everyone else.
As you can see, the cheaper your flight (cheaper flight classes), the less points you’ll earn.
Last month I bought a ticket from LAX – DEN. The ticket cost just under $60. Under the old system, I would earn one credit for that flight. Under this new and less improved system, I’ll earn 360 points. Those 360 points translate to around 1/3 of a credit.
I understand SWA’s change, but I think for those of us who find the best deals this is a HUGE NEGATIVE CHANGE.
What happens to existing credit?
Existing credit will count towards the new points system. Now, you’ll need to get the appropriate number of points to get you to a free flight.
Get details here.
Final Verdict on the All New Rapid Rewards Program
Overall, I think these changes are good for SWA, good for business travelers, and bad for those of us who want to travel cheap. So, from my perspective, I give the changes two thumbs down.