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Aw, nuts: Customers sound off about Southwest's frequent-flier redo

January 11, 2011|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Southwest Airlines plans to make major changes to its frequent-flier program -- something that's not sitting well with some customers.
Southwest Airlines plans to make major changes to its frequent-flier program… (Paul Sakuma / Associated…)

Last week, I wrote somewhat glowingly about changes coming up in March to Southwest Airlines' Rapid Rewards program. Now my travel-writing colleague Jay Jones begs to differ (and he's not alone).

You can voice your views in the poll at left and in the comments section at the end of this post.

"Savvy travelers who worked the old Southwest system got a lot of free trips," Jones said. The system was simple: Take 16 one-way flights (eight round trips) in 24 months and you get a free round trip. But, I groused to Jones, I never hit that threshold.

He countered that plenty of people did -- and got nice trips for racking up points on, say, $29 flights from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. By his calculations, those folks will have to spend a lot more to cash in.

Jones worked the math this way: Buy the cheapest fare category on 16 one-way flights at, for instance, $100 each and you get 9,600 points (based on six points per dollar spent), which falls short of the 12,000 points (6,000 each way)you need to score a round-trip ticket even in the lowest fare category.

Southwest apparently has been hearing disgruntled comments too. It posted a note to customers on its Nuts About Southwest blog last week that reads in part:

"Hey, folks!  We know that there is a lot of buzz out there regarding our announcement of the new Rapid Rewards program.  We have been monitoring Customer feedback on all of our channels, and we know there is some concern about what the new program will mean for our Customers.

"Rest assured, the new Rapid Rewards program is based on what our Customers have been asking us to change over the years, and it was very carefully designed by and responsive to an extensive set of Customer research and feedback from our Members.  With more understanding of the benefits of the new program, we feel that our Customers will ultimately agree that the changes make the program better."

And here's how some reacted on the airline's blog:

"I've been a loyal Southwest customer for years, even though I live within five miles of O'Hare, but with your new Rapid Rewards Program changes it sure looks like I'll be heading back to United!
Face it YOU BLEW IT! Just a suggestion ... when Coca Cola blew it with "New Coke" they wisely went back to their old recipe .. .a lesson Southwest better learn from ... Gee thanks!"

-- JT Colson

"I'd love to know where those customers are who have been asking for these changes? I know a lot of people who fly SW and so far haven't found anyone who's happy about the changes. If you really want to know how your customers feel, send a questionnaire out to all your customers who have an email registered with you. Yes, that would be a lot of work but aren't your customers worth that respect and time? I respectfully ask you to rethink these changes."

-- M.A.

And on my earlier post, "rah-62" took me to task:

"The other paper has it right and you have it wrong.  This is bad for the average flier, and is yet another step for Southwest towards just being like every other airline."

Ouch. You can go to Nuts About Southwest to read more comments from unhappy customers.

Anybody out there want to chime in? 

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