Change To Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Program Makes Scoring Some Free Flights Harder

Members of Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards Program might want to read the recent email announcement closely, because it means travelers will have to rack up more points than before in order to score free flights in the airline’s cheapest pricing tier. Basically, the rewards won’t be reaped quite as rapidly.

Southwest informed customers of upcoming changes to the program, which only affect its Wanna Get Away reward flights, and not those pricier Anytime and Business Select options.

Starting with flight bookings made on or after March 31, customers will spend 70 points per dollar, an increase from 60 points per dollar under the current requirements.

So for example, That’s up from 60 points per $1 now. For example, if the base fare of a ticket plus tax for a round-trip ticket is $250, it costs 15,000 points. That will go up to 17,500 points with the change.

The way you earn points will remain the same, and rewards can be redeemed for all seats available without blackout dates, with no expiration date.

“We hope you understand that in order to continue providing these benefits, we must make changes to the Rapid Rewards Program from time to time,” wrote marketing officer Ryan Green in the email.

A spokesman for Southwest told Consumerist: “We’re giving our Members (more than) six-months’ notice of a modification we’re making in our Rapid Rewards loyalty program to adapt to changes in market conditions while allowing us to maintain the most flexible and most rewarding frequent flyer program among all major airlines.”

This is a far cry from its original rewards program, wherein customers who bought eight-round trip tickets within two years earned a free trip, easy as that. The point system debuted in 2011, mostly to the benefit of travelers who buy higher-priced tickets, allowing them to rack up more points and rapidly.

It appears this is another move in that direction, as it requires customers who usually buy lower fares to buy more of them in order to reap the benefits of the program, while bigger spenders at least stay on the same earning schedule as before.