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Southwest Airlines’ New Frequent Flier Program Aimed at Business Travelers

Southwest, making the first change in its loyalty program in 23 years, went all out,

spending close to $100 million on the project which aims to win new customers and

deepen ties to existing business travelers, who, as we know, generally pay higher prices.

The old program was based on credits. One flight = one credit. When you got 16 credits

you got a free flight but - you couldn’t collect credits beyond 16 and there was no difference in the reward between short flights and long flights. Awards were for Southwest flights only.

The new program is based on points, which in turn are based on ticket price and fare category. These can be accumulated for larger awards and have no expiration. That is, there is no expiration date as long as the account remains active in a 24-month period. There are no blackout dates for redemption and no limit on awards redeemed per flight, according to Ryan Green, Southwest senior director for loyalty.

Points can also be redeemed through a third-party provider for international and Hawaii flights as well as hotels and rental cars, even though Southwest flies only in the continental U.S. Points can also be purchased under the new program, to speed up getting an award. Watch for Southwest to add a second elite-flier category with additional benefits for those who travel most often.

The carrier unveiled a website to explain the changes, which go into effect on March 1st.

See you on the road!

Road Reporter Deborah Harter Williams

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