Despite some recent hitches with planned changes to its unique boarding procedure, Southwest is one major airline that has a soft spot with customers for its built-in comforts and cost-effective practices, such as not charging for the first two checked bags. This uncomplicated approach extends to the airline’s Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program, which foregoes the rather complex systems utilized by other airlines in favor of a two-tier scheme divided into A-List and A-List Preferred.
Customers who qualify for A-List (by taking 25 one-way flights or earning 35,000 tier qualifying points by spending on co-branded credit cards each year) can currently enjoy priority security lines, priority check-in, priority boarding, a 25% rewards mileage bonus on flights, and access to same-day flight changes. Travelers who take 50 one-way flights each year or earn 70,000 tier qualifying points achieve A-List Preferred membership and enjoy the same privileges, except making 100% extra miles and having access to free WiFi on flights.
However, if completing the needed flights to unlock bonuses has always seemed out of reach for you, things are about to change. This is due to Southwest’s announcement that it will be decreasing the level necessary to qualify for Rapid Rewards status, according to The Points Guy (TPG).
As on January 1, 2024, passengers will just need to take 20 one-way trips before the end of the year to attain the A-List category. The A-List Plus qualification requirement will also be reduced to 40 one-way trips annually.
While the number of tier qualifying points necessary to achieve each level will stay constant, earning them will become more straightforward. Holders of Southwest co-branded credit cards will now need to spend $5,000 to make an additional 1,500 points, a 50% reduction from the $10,000 previously required. According to TPG, the policy also states that there are no restrictions to how many additional points cardholders may receive via milestone spending.
Those seeking to remain loyal to Southwest cannot do so. In addition to what it currently gives its regular fliers, the airline is introducing some additional basic privileges.
Beginning Nov. 6, A-List Preferred travelers will get two complimentary premium drinks every trip, including alcoholic beverages, according to USA Today. The refreshments will be accessible via coupons issued to guests’ cellphones via the Southwest app.
Additionally, habitual Southwest customers may find it simpler to plan free trips. Rapid Rewards members will be able to pay for flights using a mix of points and cash starting next spring, according to a TPG representative. According to the corporation, detailed specifics and deployment dates for the feature are still being worked out.
While change is nothing new in the airline business, Jonathan Clarkson, Southwest’s vice president of marketing, said the latest adjustments reflect the new flying scenario that has emerged in the aftermath of the COVID-19 epidemic.
“There’s been a shift from business to leisure travel,” he said. “As a result, these changes are more consistent with what we’re seeing from leisure passengers.” Because our co-branded credit cards are being used more often, these improvements appeared to make sense.”
The decision also comes a month after Delta Air Lines faced customer backlash over modifications to its SkyMiles loyalty program. The competitor airline’s changed regulations would not only make achieving status substantially more difficult, but will also eliminate popular advantages like as lounge access for people who presently enjoy it.
Clarkson said that the low-cost airline tested prospective improvements before implementing them. “This is another example of Southwest deciding to zig when everybody else zags,” he said in an interview with USA Today. “We have a program we want people to use and get the benefit of.”