Southwest Extends Statuses, Companion Passes & More


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Southwest has followed in the footsteps of Delta, United, and American Airlines by announcing status extensions for its frequent flyers as well as announcing companion pass extensions and new measures to help Rapid Rewards members improve their status this year.

Southwest Elite Status Extensions

The Facts

Southwest has announced that it is extending the status of all A-List and A-List Preferred members for an additional year. Statuses will no longer expire at the end of 2020 and, instead, will be valid through 31 December 2021.

Note: For flyers who have status courtesy of a promotion, this is what Southwest has announced:

“For Members enrolled in a promotion granting promotional A-List status or challenging a Member to extend promotional A-List status such as Status Match, Tier Challenge, Tier Experience, or a Corporate Status Challenge and who met the flight requirements by the promotion end date, we are extending your current promotional status through December 31, 2021.”

Thoughts

Southwest is a little late to the party here but better late than never. The airline didn’t really have any option but to extend frequent flyer statuses considering that’s what most other major US airlines have already announced.

Southwest A-List & A-List Preferred Boosts

The Facts

In an effort to keep flyers engaged and aiming to earn (or improve on) Southwest status, the airline has announced that it will be adding 15,000 tier qualifying points and 10 flight credits to all Rapid Rewards accounts.

  • A-List Status requires 25 one-way flights or 35,000 tier qualifying points
  • A-List Preferred Status requires 50 one-way flights or 70,000 tier qualifying points

Essentially Southwest is crediting accounts with 40% – 43% of the credits need to earn A-List status and 20% – 21.5% of the credits needed to earn A-List Preferred status.

Thoughts

This is a sensible move by Southwest. The airline doesn’t offer rollover elite credits as Delta does so by adding bonus flight credits and tier points to member accounts it’s helping to make sure that any flying that its customers have done so far this year isn’t for nothing, and it’s helping to ensure that flyers still feel that they can earn status or improve on their current status this year despite the current crisis.

Engaged flyers = money for Southwest and that’s the whole point of the Rapid Rewards program.

Southwest Companion Pass Extensions

The Facts

Southwest is extending the validity of all Companion Passes that were due to expire at the end of this year by 6 months. Any Companion Passes with a 31 December 2020 expiry date will now be valid through 30 June 2021.

Thoughts

This seems fair. Southwest has to balance the need to show a bit of charity to its customers with the need to keep some incentives in place so that travelers continue to choose to fly with them when travel restarts (hopefully) later this year.

Had Southwest simply extended all companion passes for a further 12 months there would be less incentive for flyers to try to earn another companion pass this year.

Southwest Companion Pass Boost

The Facts

It takes 125,000 Companion Pass qualifying points or 100 one-way qualifying flights to earn a Southwest companion pass and the airline has just made earning one in 2020 a little more manageable.

All Rapid Rewards members will see 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 flight credits towards a Companion Pass added to their accounts.

Thoughts

This is another sensible move by Southwest as, once again, it’s a move that keeps flyers engaged.

With every month of potential flying that’s lost thanks to the current crisis, it looks more and more likely that there will be a lot fewer people in a position to earn the regular number of points/flight credits needed for a Companion Pass….so it makes sense to make things a little easier.

Even travelers who haven’t had a chance to do much traveling with Southwest in the first two months of the year will now automatically be 20% of the way to earning a Companion Pass for 2021 and if they are in a position to open a Southwest co-branded credit card at some point this year (the points that come with the welcome offers and the points earned from credit card spending count towards Companion Pass qualification) that will make a Companion Pass even more reachable.

These may not be the best welcome offers that we’ve seen for the Southwest co-branded cards but, nevertheless, between the 25,000 point boost that Southwest has announced and the welcome offer on one of these cards, someone who has yet to set foot on a Southwest aircraft this year will already be over half-way to earning a Companion Pass.

Southwest Travel Funds (Vouchers) Extended

The Facts

  • Travel funds that have expired or that would have expired between 1 March & 7 September 2020 will now expire on 7 September 2022
  • Travel funds created between 1 March & 7 September 2020 will now expire on 7 September 2022

Also:

  • Travel funds that are set to expire or funds that are created between 1 March & 7 September 2020 will have the option to convert those travel funds into Rapid Rewards points at the same rate you would be able to purchase a ticket with points today.

Thoughts

This looks pretty generous as the new travel fund (voucher) expiration dates mean that some flyers are being given a further 2.5 years in which to use their Southwest credits – that’s a lot better than the 1-year vouchers that a lot of airlines are still trying to get travelers to accept.

It’s not entirely obvious what Southwest means when it says that customers can convert travel funds into points “at the same rate you would be able to purchase a ticket with points today” but I suspect that means that Southwest will offer a point for every 1.4 cents as that’s (approximately) the value of points when redeemed for flights.

Bottom Line

I know there will be some people out there who will find a way to make some of the things announced appear to be bad news or “unfair” but please ignore them. Overall this a pretty good set of measures announced by Southwest as it guarantees everyone’s elite status for another year and it keeps flyers incentivized to keep flying when travel resumes later this year – it’s hard to ask for much more than that (although Southwest would have been given more kudos had it not waited for all the other major US airlines to announce their own elite measures first).

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