The most appealing thing about Southwest’s old Rapid Rewards program was how easy it was to understand. You flew eight round-trips and you earned a Rapid Rewards voucher good for a seat on any flight, subject to seat limitations and blackout dates. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
Now, Southwest is migrating towards a new mileage system where you earn points based on the fare, not on the flight itself. This will reward long haul flyers who pay higher fares and “punish” regular flyers who don’t select Business Select (or even Anytime).
Earning, Redeeming Points
In the new system, you’ll earn points based on dollars spent in each fare class:
- Business Select – 12 points per dollar spent
- Anytime – 10 points per dollar spent
- Wanna Get Away – 6 points per dollar spent
Fortunately they kept redemptions easy, it’s basically ten times the rate at which you earn them:
- Business Select – 120 points per fare dollar
- Anytime – 100 points per fare dollar
- Wanna Get Away – 60 points per fare dollar
Summary of Changes
With all things being equal, this basically makes the Rapid Rewards voucher equal to ten round-trips, versus the eight round trips before. What I used to do was fly home from BWI to ISP every few months to visit my parents. After eight flights, I’d acquire a Rapid Rewards voucher and use it to fly to somewhere on the west coast. It was fantastic because eight flights at $150 a piece earned me a nice $300-500 flight. Now I won’t benefit quite as much since I’ll have to use more points to get the $300-500 flight.
Another change was the removal of blackout dates and seat limitation. In the past there were only a handful of seats available for Rapid Rewards and you couldn’t use it on flights around the holidays. Now it’s all fair game.
A-List, A-List Preferred
There were always preferred flying classes with Southwest but here is a summary of the programs now. With A-List, which you get with 25 one ways or 35,000 flown points, you get priority boarding/checkin, a 25% earning bonus, priority standby and a special phone line. With A-List Preferred, earned at 50 one-ways or 70,000 flown points, you get all the above plus free on-board wifi.
All this will take place March 1st, with existing award tickets still following the old system. Any credits you have will remain credits and you will have to convert new credits into old credits to redeem them (1,200 points to a reward credit).
Overall I’m a bummed out about the changes because the reward program hurts my particular situation. I think it probably benefits business travelers, who can accrue business travel at a high rate and redeem it for personal travel at a lower rate, and that’s something Southwest seems to be catering towards these last few years.