Southwest Airlines is changing its Rapid Rewards frequent flyer programme so that, from today, members will have 24 months (instead of the current 12 months) to earn credits toward free travel.
In addition, from February 10 2006 the carrier will remove systemwide blackout dates and implement seat restrictions for Award travel. Southwest's research and polling revealed that the changes that members wanted most were more time to earn credits and no systemwide blackout dates for Award travel.
Members' existing credits will immediately be extended for an additional 12 months, giving current members two years to earn free travel on Southwest. For Awards issued on or after February 10 2006, seat restrictions will apply. Systemwide blackout dates also will be removed, but certain holiday or peak travel periods will be in high demand and may be difficult times to redeem Award travel. Unexpired Awards issued before February 10 2006 are unrestricted, even if redeemed after that date. Awards will continue to be valid for travel 12 months from the date of issue.
In the Company's ongoing effort to keep the programme simple and easy to use, Southwest is exploring ways to provide an Award "seat finder" on its web site to help Members more conveniently locate dates and flights when Award seats will be available.
In 2003 and 2004, more than five million Awards were redeemed in Southwest's Rapid Rewards programme, one of the highest redemption rates in the airline industry. At the Companion Pass level of the Rapid Rewards programme, Members earning 100 credits or more in a 12-month period will still receive the benefit of naming a companion to travel free with them for one year.