Southwest Airlines has announced some major changes to its Rapid Rewards elite program, and I’d say this has some really interesting implications.
In this post:
Southwest Rapid Rewards A-List changes 2024
Southwest Airlines has revealed some positive changes to its A-List elite status program (this is separate from Companion Pass, which is Southwest’s awesome program that lets you take a companion with you by just paying taxes and fees).
The most significant change is that status will be easier to earn, but on top of that we’re also seeing some new perks added. Here’s how Southwest’s VP of Marketing, Jonathan Clarkson, describes these changes:
“We’re making our award-winning Rapid Rewards program even stronger, by adding new enhancements to our loyalty program, making it even easier for Members to earn and enjoy their benefits. By lowering the tier requirements and making credit card spend count double toward tier requirements, we’re able to deepen engagement with our brand and cobranded credit cards, while maintaining the core program values that our Customers know and love—including unlimited reward seats, no blackout dates, and points that don’t expire.”
Let’s go over the details…
Southwest lowers A-List elite requirements
Starting January 1, 2024, Southwest Rapid Rewards will lower the segment requirements to earn both A-List and A-List Preferred:
- A-List will require 20 one-way flights or 35,000 elite qualifying points; previously it required 25 one-way flights
- A-List Preferred will require 40 one-way flights or 70,000 tier qualifying points; previously it required 50 one-way flights
Lowering elite requirements by 20% — at least for those earning status based on segments flown — is pretty significant.
Southwest A-List easier to earn with credit cards
Starting January 1, 2024, Rapid Rewards members will earn tier qualifying points at a faster pace for credit card spending. Specifically, eligible cardmembers will earn tier qualifying points at double the pace — you’ll earn 1,500 tier qualifying points per $5,000 spent on an eligible card, compared to the $10,000 required right now.
Note that only spending on the following cards counts toward tier qualifying points:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card (review)
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Card (review)
- Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card (review)
- Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card (review)
Complimentary premium drinks for A-List Preferred
As of November 6, 2023, Southwest A-List Preferred members will receive up to two complimentary premium drinks per flight, added directly to their mobile boarding pass. That’s an awesome new perk that many elite flyers will appreciate.
Southwest Cash + Points awards coming soon
While details remain limited as of now, starting in the spring of 2024, Rapid Rewards members will have the option to pay for flights with a combination of cash and points, starting with as few as 1,000 points.
It remains to be seen what exactly the value proposition of that will be like. Will you be able to redeem Rapid Rewards points partially toward the cost of a ticket at the same rate as if you were redeeming for it entirely, or…?
My take on these Southwest Rapid Rewards changes
These changes are wholly positive — Southwest Airlines is making A-List elite status significantly easier to earn, whether you qualify based on the number of segments you fly, or the amount you spend on credit cards. On top of that, A-List Preferred members are getting a new perk of two free drinks per flight.
Bigger picture, I can’t help but wonder if this might be the start of a trend. I recently wrote about how in the United States, ultra low cost carriers are in trouble. Admittedly Southwest isn’t at all an ultra low cost carrier (quite the opposite, actually), but the airline is facing similar challenges.
As we get out of the peak summer season, Southwest is dealing with decreasing leisure demand, business travel that hasn’t recovered to pre-pandemic levels, rising labor costs, and an industry offering a lot of domestic capacity.
For the past few years, it seems like airlines have been able to get away with just about anything, no matter how customer unfriendly the change was. The tides finally seem to be turning…
Southwest Airlines is making positive changes to its A-List elite status as of 2024. The airline is reducing requirements to earn either status tier — the number of segments required is being reduced by 20%, while credit card spending will count toward status at twice the pace. On top of that, Southwest is adding two free drinks for A-List Preferred status.
This definitely reflects how consumers are once again more in the driver’s seat, and I’m curious to see if this could be the start of a similar trend at other airlines, as they deal with reduced leisure and business demand.
What do you make of these Southwest A-List changes?