Before the holidays, one major U.S. airline made a change to its loyalty program that had an unfortunate effect on passengers.
The airline’s program for earning points, Rapid Rewards, allows members to use points they earn by traveling with the airline and by spending with its partners.
The points can be used for flights, hotels, car rentals and for merchandise such as gift cards.
But in November, Southwest announced that it was devaluing those points at the beginning of 2024 by raising points per dollar by about 4%.
That meant, for example, that a $140 flight would cost 10,400 points as opposed to 10,000 points before the change.
A Southwest Airlines plane is seen at an airport terminal.
Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Southwest is now offering a double points promotion
Beginning Jan. 12, Southwest has decided to put in place a double points deal for Rapid Rewards members who book flights by Jan. 14 and travel by May 22.
“This is potentially a generous promotion, especially given that many people can probably rebook travel to take advantage of this,” wrote Ben Schlappig of One Mile At a Time. “Personally I value this offer at an incremental 6-14% return.”
The Southwest promotion looks to be a rewarding one for travelers that move quickly on it. Schlappig offered four examples:
“Rapid Rewards members ordinarily earn 12x points on Business Select fares, so will now earn 24x points.””Rapid Rewards members ordinarily earn 10x points on Anytime fares, so will now earn 20x points.””Rapid Rewards members ordinarily earn 8x points on Wanna Get Away Plus fares, so will now earn 16x points.””Rapid Rewards members ordinarily earn 5x points on Wanna Get Away fares, so will now earn 10x points.”
The promotion does not include credit card rewards that can be earned by using them for airfare, which could add up to even more savings.
“Southwest Rapid Rewards is a revenue based frequent flyer program, and personally I value these points at ~1.2 cents each,” Schlappig wrote. “So by my valuation, you’re getting an incremental 6-14% return on your spending with this promotion. That’s a pretty substantial bonus.”
Some history behind Southwest’s points offerings
This positive development comes after a few years of Rapid Rewards changes that are important for context.
In 2021, Southwest had devalued points during the pandemic after it allowed its customers to convert travel credits to points.
The airline also gave points to passengers after its operational meltdown during the 2022 holiday season.
The airline had been forced to cancel a large number of its flights during the historically busy weeks for travel because of the system failure that caused massive disruptions for travelers.
The meltdown was blamed on outdated computer systems that had a difficult time handling an increase in bookings.
The cancelations had a cascading effect and passengers were stranded at airports across the country. Many lost their luggage and had a difficult time recovering it.
Since then, Southwest Airlines has implemented steps to prevent repeating the fiasco.
The 2023 holiday season, while not without a few unfortunate incidents, was very much improved by comparison.
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