Southwest revamps Rapid Rewards…

Admittedly this isn’t a frequent flyer program I’m all that passionate about, but I do feel like it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. While Southwest used to have a fairly simple frequent flyer program, based on the number of segments flown, their program is now revenue based, much like JetBlue and Virgin America. Unfortunately it’s not the simple, “fixed number of points per dollar” system like other programs offer, though. Instead, you earn a different number of points per dollar depending on the type of fare you book (Wanna Get Away, Anytime, or Business Select), ranging anywhere from 6-12 points per dollar. So not only do you naturally get more points for a more expensive fare because you’re spending more money, but you earn more points per dollar as well. Not the simplest of systems, in my opinion.

Redemption is equally confusing, and based on the revenue cost of a fare. However, you pay a different number of points per dollar depending on whether you’re booking a Wanna Get Away, Anytime, or Business Select fare. So yeah, there are no blackout dates, though you’ll pay an arm and a leg for the last seat.

Ultimately this is probably a positive change for those that frequently travel on expensive, Business Select fares, though a negative change for just about anyone else.

Now, there are some other options for spending your points, like international travel on other airlines, though it’s an even worse deal than the options above.

Ultimately I think Gary is spot on in his analysis, especially when he says:

In my experience the other low cost carriers view their frequent flyer programs as a tax rather than a profit center, something they’re obliged to offer because everyone else does and something they just want to keep as inexpensive to run as possible.

So true. It’s funny, because on one hand it’s great that Southwest doesn’t need a frequent flyer program to be profitable, while at the same time a couple of the legacies might have liquidated a few years back if it weren’t for their frequent flyer programs and ability to leverage miles with banks/credit cards.

And, much like Gary:

This program holds zero appeal for me.

Filed Under: Southwest
  1. While I don’t follow Gary that much, I do read Lucky on a daily basis and understand why WN has little appeal to you. When 90% of your but in seat miles are “running” it makes sense to do so on a carrier with F.

    But for someone who travels multiple times a week for work, WN holds a ton of appeal. For many of us arriving on time with our luggage (often work equipment, not clothes) is the biggest factor. While a bump is more future trips for you, it is a missed appointment or more time away from home for me.

    Also the tiered redemption makes sense. How many times have we seen complaints about star net blocking. WN now has every seat available for redemption, the last one just takes more points than the first.

  2. @Left Seater

    did you hear that WN’s December 2010 on-time arrival rate was only 50%? and in November about 60%?

    Also, UA has a standard award, -you can buy the last available seat for just twice the miles. but whether the last seat on one-way SFO-JFK Y is $500 or $1000, you only have to pay 25,000 miles. On WN the points you need to redeem will double and you will have to pay up cash. On UA, if you have MP visa if you don’t have enough miles, you can pay part of it with the miles.

  3. @saaws

    If you are talking about the Chicago Sun Times story, yes. But I will wait until the feds numbers are out to see what those say. Flight stats was way off in Oct also, FYI the last month the feds numbers are published.

    Also unless you are going coast to coast non-stop WN still beats connecting on UA or AA etc. So even if WN is delayed 15 mins I will still beat you while you are changing planes and jumping on the CRJ.

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