Southwest and AirTran are in the final phases of combining their systems, and the loyalty programs will be fully combined beginning November 2, 2014.
This means AirTran’s A+ Rewards Accounts will will cease to exist on that date. Southwest Rapid Rewards will be the loyalty program of the combined carrier, so all accounts will be converted beginning on the 2nd.
To prepare for the integration, there are a few “housekeeping” things you’ll want to do:
- Make sure your account details on both your AirTran and Southwest accounts are current (and match) before October 15th
- Move Points/Credits between the two programs if needed before November 1st
How points transfer between Southwest and AirTran
For the past few years, A+ Rewards and Rapid Rewards have had a rather complicated transfer scheme.
Basically, both the old Rapid Rewards Credits and the new Rapid Rewards Points can be converted to AirTran A+ credits. AirTran A+ Credits, however, only convert to the old Rapid Rewards 1.0 Credits.
For some people, this has been a good strategy for topping off old Rapid Rewards Credits for an award. 1,200 Rapid Rewards Points are equal to one A+ Credit, so if you’re short a credit or two it could make sense to move some Points over to AirTran and then back to Southwest, with one huge caveat.
Rapid Rewards 1.0 award availability sucks
I’m not a Southwest flyer, but the general consensus is that Rapid Rewards award availability is basically terrible at this point for those trying to redeem credits.
With the move to a revenue-based program, Southwest has been moving people away from the old credit-based system to the new points-based redemptions. The old program still exists as a bit of a shadow rewards program, though credits are no longer accrued through flight activity. People who have credits are still able to convert them to awards, but by all accounts it’s really difficult to find low-level redemptions nowadays.
Given that, if you have Rapid Rewards 1.0 Credits, your best option is to convert them to A+ Rewards before November 1st.
Beginning November 2nd, any unused, active A+ Rewards Credits will automatically be converted into Rapid Rewards 2.0 Points at a ratio of 1 A+ Rewards Credit = 1,200 Rapid Rewards Points.
1,200 Points are good for ~$17 worth of Wanna Get Away fares, though keep in mind you can transfer points in from Ultimate Rewards to top off an account. So for most people that’s going to be better than getting stuck with old Rapid Rewards 1.0 credits, given how limited availability is.
Extend expiration dates
The other reason to shuffle credits between the two programs is to extend the expiration dates of any existing miles. The new Southwest Rapid Rewards Points don’t expire as long as you have flight or partner earning activity with Southwest Airlines every 24 months, but the old Credits do, as do A+ Credits.
When you move credits between programs, you can effectively extend their expiration date by a year:
- Once Southwest Rapid Rewards Points are transferred to an AirTran A+ Rewards Credit, the AirTran A+ Rewards Credit will have an expiration date of one year from the date of the transfer.
- Any credit transferred from Southwest Rapid Rewards to AirTran A+ Rewards will retain the expiration date of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit.
- Any credit transferred from AirTran A+ Rewards to Southwest Rapid Rewards will retain the expiration date of the AirTran A+ Rewards Credit.
- Any Southwest Rapid Rewards Award transferred into AirTran A+ Rewards Credits will retain the expiration date of the Rapid Rewards Award.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Awards generated by transferring any amount of AirTran A+ Rewards Credits will have an expiration date of one year from the Award issue date.
What happens to my AirTran upgrades/companion pass/elite status, etc.?
Basically, awards and upgrades in the AirTran program get converted to Rapid Rewards Points:
- One-way A+ Rewards Coach Award vouchers that haven’t expired as of November 1, 2014 will be converted to 9,600Rapid Rewards Points.
- One-way A+ Rewards Business Class Award vouchers that haven’t expired as of November 1, 2014 will be converted to 19,200Rapid Rewards Points.
- A+ Rewards Business Class upgrades that haven’t expired as of November 1, 2014 will be converted to 4,800 Rapid Rewards Points.
Similarly, elite status is matched, so if you have A+ Rewards Elite status that hasn’t expired as of November 1, 2014, you will automatically be given Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards A-List status through December 31, 2015.
If you have an existing AirTran Companion Pass, it will be converted to a Southwest Companion Pass with a December 31, 2015 expiration. If you don’t have a Companion Pass with either program, but have 100 one-way flights between the two carriers this year, you’ll also be awarded a Companion Pass.
Finally, if you have the AirTran credit card, that is going to automatically be converted to a Southwest card in the coming weeks. I’d recommend picking up a Southwest credit card to take advantage of the sign-up bonus prior to then.
Granted, I don’t fly either airline, but from an outsider’s perspective this seems to be a fairly organized systems integration. There’s certainly been plenty of notice and time for passengers to learn about the new programs, so kudos to Southwest for that.
Do you have Southwest or AirTran Credits? What are you doing to prepare for the merger?
(Tip of the hat to Avi)