Southwest revamps Rapid Rewards program

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Southwest Airlines revealed updates to its loyalty program, Rapid Rewards, on January 6, including removing blackout dates and seat restrictions for reward redemptions.The upgrade to the airline's 24-year-old rewards program is set to launch March 1.

Calling it the "All-New Rapid Rewards," Southwest said the update is a response to customer feedback the airline received about its current rewards program. Customers are currently limited to which seats they can redeem points for and when they are allowed to redeem — two restrictions that may have limited the number of business and long-haul travelers joining the program.  

“We think the new program will appeal to our [current] customers, and we feel we've addressed issues for the business traveler and long-haul travelers,” said Chris Mainz, a senior specialist in the communications department at Southwest. “We [currently] have an award-winning program but it was launched in 1987 and for the most part we haven't changed its basic components.”

New program upgrades include: no blackout dates, no seat restrictions or capacity controls, points that don't expire as long as members earn by flying or using one of the airline's partners once every 24 months, and points are based on the purchased fare and fare product.

Southwest has worked with Austin, TX-based advertising agency DSD&M for more than 20 years. The airline has also worked with New York City-based Wunderman for “several years,” said Mainz.

Wunderman's work with Southwest is limited to the Rewards Program.

“[The program upgrades] are about winning more customers and enhancing the customer experience,” Mainz said. “We feel these are positive enhancements.”

The program will launch March 1 in order to give current and new members adequate time to familiarize themselves with the upgrades, according to Mainz.  

The Rapid Rewards credit card member program currently allows participants to redeem points for flights to 800 destinations, stays at 70,000 hotels and gift cards at about 45 major retailers.

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