Southwest Rapid Rewards Changes
It seems like tis the season for frequent flyer changes. Although, I am not sure anyone can ToP Delta's fiasco. Competitors seem to be going the other way on things, with JetBlue making positive changes. Not wanting to be left out, Southwest Rapid Rewards changes were announced today. They made five new additions, or enhancements, in total. How good are they really though? Let's take a look at the details of the changes and then I'll share my thoughts for each as well.
RELATED: ToP Southwest Companion Pass Guide
Five Changes To The Southwest Rapid Rewards Program
Here are the five Southwest Rapid Rewards changes coming next year and my thoughts on each.
Redeem with Cash + Points.
Members will have the option to pay for their flight with a combination of cash and points, starting with as few as 1,000 points. This will start Spring of 2024.
- Cash + Points will let Rapid Rewards Members pay for a flight with a combination of cash and Rapid Rewards points. Members will be presented with up to five pre-selected options for redemptions—starting with as few as 1,000 points.
- Cash + Points bookings won't earn Rapid Rewards points, tier qualifying points for A-List or A-List Preferred status, or Companion Pass qualifying points.
- Flights paid for with Cash + Points will count toward a Member's qualifying one-way flights for A-List, A-List Preferred, or Companion Pass status when flown. Cash + Points bookings won't earn Rapid Rewards points, tier qualifying points for A-List or A-List Preferred status, or Companion Pass qualifying points.
I like this change depending on how it actually works in practice. If they give you the same value as booking the entire flight with points then it is a win. I hate having to transfer a thousand Ultimate Rewards points over when I am just a few Rapid Rewards short. If they drop the value to something like 1 cent per Rapid Rewards then this will be mostly useless. Especially since you don't earn any status or Companion Pass points like you do with Delta on their cash and points bookings. Even at the reduced rate it could unlock trapped points in some frequent flyer accounts, like your children's or parent's accounts etc.
Your credit card spend will get you to tier status 2X faster
We’re cutting the spend requirement for our tier qualifying points bonus in half! Get 1,500 tier towards A-List and A-List Preferred with every $5000 spent (previously $10,000) on your Rapid Rewards Premier, Premier Business, Priority, or Performance Business Credit Card. This starts January 1st, 2024.
While dropping the requirement of something by half seems impressive, I don't think this is super exciting. It takes 35,000 tier qualifying points for A-List status. That would still require $116,666 in spend to hit status just from credit card spend alone. It could be nice for anyone that is close to hitting status, and just needs to top off their tier credits at the end of the year. Outside of that it isn't worth doing, especially with the terrible return on Southwest credit card spend.
You would basically have enough points for a Companion Pass from that spend. When you think about that, it makes the requirement for this completely underwhelming status all the more ludicrous. All it really gets you is not having to check in right at 24 hours before your flight, or basically like flying any other non budget airline. Some people with flexible schedules may value same day changes, but it still won't bridge this Grand Canyon level gap in value differential for that spend.
Fewer flights to get A-List status
Getting to A-List status is about to get a lot easier. Starting on January 1, 2024, you'll need to fly only 20 one-way qualifying flights (or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points) in a calendar year to earn A-List status-and all the perks that come with it.
Knocking 20% of the flights requirement is nothing to sneeze at. That is only 10 round trips in a year, which is probably reachable by even leisure hub captives in our group. It isn't a status I would focus on earning, since it offers little value, but them making it easier to hit is good for anyone that was always close but not quite there.
And fewer to get to A-List Preferred
Getting A-List Preferred status is also getting easier. Starting January 1, 2024 you’ll need only 40 one-way qualifying flights (down from 50 flights, previously) or 70,000 tier qualifying points to earn A-List Preferred status. That comes with everything from priority boarding to free Inflight Internet, and lots more.
Road warriors that fly Southwest exclusively may find this useful. It is unobtainable for most though, so I don't think it is worth diving into much.
A-List Preferred Members will get two FREE premium drinks
Members with A-List Preferred status will receive up to two complimentary premium drinks per flight. This starts 11/6/2023.
A nice little spiff to their most frequent flyers. In comparison, frequent flyers at comparable level in other programs have already gotten this via upgrades into seats with free drinks (that have no limit). This fills that void a bit, but on longer flights it still comes up a bit short.
The real downside here is the move from paper coupons. It probably won't be easy to give these away or buy off of eBay at a discount anymore. I guess a screenshot may work but I wouldn't trust those from someone I didn't know.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Changes: ToP Thoughts
There is no doubt that these enhancements are all improvements. Having said that, they are an improvement in a way that they don't do a whole lot. It allows them to create some press about taking care of their customers without actually giving them anything of note. Genius on their part really.
The one that could be useful, to even the most infrequent flyer, is the cash + points bookings. This could unlock points stranded in children's rapid rewards accounts, or people that have only flown Southwest a few times. The fact that you can use the cash + points booking for anyone makes this potentially valuable in that regard. We won't know for sure until we see how it works and the value it offers for the points part of the redemption.
Don't get me wrong, Southwest has a compelling Rapid Rewards program, even if it lost a lot of its competitive advantage with other airlines' post covid changes. It also has the best perk in domestic travel, at least for hub captives, in the Companion Pass. One thing Southwest has never been great at is status. And while these changes move the needle a little bit, and are an improvement, they are not big enough to make most care about Southwest status.
Let me know your thoughts over in the ToP Facebook Group.