Southwest Offering 2,500 Points If You Have To Wait In Line At TSA Pre-Check

Filed Under: Southwest

Here’s a promotion that’s sort of cool, and at first glance sort of puzzling. As noted by Chris McGinnis at SFGateSouthwest is offering 2,500 Rapid Rewards bonus points to those who have to wait in the TSA Pre-Check line at Oakland Airport for more than 10 minutes. This is being done as a test program, and will initially be available between May 14 and June 29, 2018.

According to Southwest’s Chief Revenue Officer, passengers are eligible for this if they feel like they’ve waited in the Pre-Check line longer than 10 minutes, and no proof is required. Those who feel like they’ve waited more than 10 minutes should simply approach a Southwest supervisor and ask for a 2,500 point voucher.

Southwest Rapid Rewards points can be redeemed for ~1.3 cents each towards the cost of a ticket on Southwest, so that’s roughly ~$32 worth of airfare on Southwest.

For now this is a pilot program, and if successful, it could be expanded to other airports. Presumably success with this program will be measured based on survey results, rather than based on how many of these vouchers they do or don’t give out. It’ll be interesting to see if this impacts peoples’ impressions of the Southwest experience.

My first thought when seeing this promotion was that I was confused by their motivation here. Presumably Southwest has little control over the speed at which security lines move, and they’ve also created an honor system that seems like it could be exploited by passengers. Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to offer a 20 minute baggage guarantee like Alaska and Delta, as that’s something that’s completely within their control?

But their logic for this promotion sort of makes sense:

“After 9/11, long- and medium-haul travel came back, but short-haul travel has never fully recovered. With PreCheck, ride sharing and other advances, the pain points of business travel are not what they used to be. We want to draw attention to that by making this guarantee.”

They’re trying to emphasize that short-haul travel can be efficient. Presumably they expect that passengers will get through security in less than 10 minutes a vast majority of the time, and this guarantee is intended just to reassure people of how easy the process is.

As far as choosing Oakland Airport goes, the logic there is that Southwest is the only airline flying out of Terminal 2, so it’s easier for Southwest to control the flow of passengers when they’re the only airline. For airports where they share the terminal with other airlines, this could be trickier.

What do you make of Southwest’s promotion for 2,500 bonus points when you have to wait in line for more than 10 minutes?


  1. I don’t fly with Southwest or out of Oakland so I have no clue as to whether PreCheck lines there are lengthy. However, the the last day or so reading claims that PreCheck lines are extreme at some airports seems rather alarming. At most, I might have waited ten minutes, once or twice all in much larger airports than Oakland. I think it’s a safe bet for Southwest, as long as people don’t exploit the honor system and claim longer.

  2. I’m not sure I follow WN’s logic, either. They have no control over how (in)efficient TSA checkpoints are even in terminals where they’re the sole tenant. Further, I’ve been in multiple airports recently wherein the drug/bomb-sniffing dog has made everyone TSA-Pre eligible. When this happens, infrequent travelers end up causing more of a delay as a result of the confusion introduced into the system: “Wait…I do or don’t have to take off my shoes? What do I do with my laptop/iPad now? I don’t need to take out my toiletries?!” Add that WN seems to attract more infrequent travelers than the US3 (anecdotal evidence, of course) and you have a system that seems destined for failure. This just seems like WN is looking to throw away points/money. Though in WN’s defense, the few times I’ve been to OAK on WN the lines haven’t been terrible.

  3. I’m fairly certain that the success of this program won’t be tied to the number of vouchers given out (or not) but rather the NPS improvement when compared to a control period.

  4. The precheck line at OAK is always empty. Like you can just walk up to it, all the time. There has never been more than 1 or 2 people in front of me. OAK in general isn’t a very busy airport, but great if you fly WN, and in my opinion easier to get to than SFO.

  5. By chance, I’ve recently found myself flying out of OAK instead of SFO more often than I used to and I’ve definitely noticed the difference in the Pre-Check lanes. I’ve often had to wait 15-20 minutes in line at Pre-Check at SFO, but I’ve never had more than 2 people in front of me in the line at OAK.

    It makes sense for them to advertise the faster security at OAK. (Also, food/lounge options at OAK aren’t great, so it’s worthwhile pointing out that it’s ok to leave less of a cushion in your arrival time because you know security will be fast.)

  6. TSA could increase total staffing 10% and eliminate most lines at PreCheck. I see them shut lanes when there is no line as that is not optimal for them. Certainly they are most efficient when there is a line and they are fully utilized but customer speed is lower priority.

  7. TSA is a government agency, so they prioritize being safe (gotta work for the 20% success rate) over satisfaction because you can’t avoid TSA if you want to fly.

  8. They won’t offer this in San Diego.

    The last three times I have flown WN out of SAN, they have the PreCheck line closed so the best you can get is PreCheck Lite.

  9. This is great… I have to fly SW to Oakland in June. The last time I flew them was in October and it took 15 minutes to get through TSA PreCheck but I blamed that on the Raider fans who swarmed the airport after the game.

  10. I was just there yesterday on SW, darn it. I didn’t wait in the Pre Check line more than 10 minutes, but I waited longer than that for my colleague who was in the regular line. I also waited more than 10 minutes in the standby queue for an earlier flight when my original flight was delayed by more than an hour. Oh well.

  11. @Carson Schraer: The TSA’s mission *has never* been making air travel safer. It’s original mandate was “to reassure the flying public.” They fail as this as well — I don’t know of any frequent flyers who think the TSA has any competence at all. Perhaps the Kettles think they do something.

  12. I flew SW out of Oakland this morning before these articles went out. Usually the PreCheck line *IS* empty but it actually it was backed up today. I was torn between the Fly By lane and Pre-Check… If I’d known I would have gone PC and gotten some points. I’ll be flying SW out of Oakland again Sunday but I expect the line to be empty as per normal. However, I flew SW out of BWI 3 weeks ago and was so worried I’d miss my flight I bought a Clear membership on the spot. The Pre
    Check line was insane, at least 30 minutes.

  13. I wish American Airlines would do this at DFW airport. I would be rich in points! Every Monday morning the TSA precheck line stretches over half the terminal. A 30-40 minute wait every week. It is absolutely ridiculous. AA says they don’t have anything to do with TSA so basically tough luck.

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