Book Southwest Awards Before Unknown Devaluation

In February, Southwest announced that they’d be making some changes to the Rewards Rewards frequent flyer program as of April 17, 2015.

Southwest-Rapid-Rewards

Historically Rapid Rewards has been a pretty straightforward revenue based frequent flyer program, whereby the cost of an award ticket is directly correlated to the cost of a revenue ticket. That hasn’t stopped Southwest from making devaluations, though.

For example, last April Rapid Rewards devalued their redemption rates. For Rapid Rewards tickets, they went from charging 60 points per dollar of airfare to charging 70 points per dollar.

However, it looks like the pricing for Rapid Rewards award tickets will become even more dynamic as of April 17, 2015. Here’s how Southwest describes the changes:

Beginning April 17, 2015, the number of Rapid Rewards Points needed to redeem for certain flights will vary based on destination, time, day of travel, demand, fare class, and other factors. However, there are still many flights which will stay at the current redemption rate. And don’t forget that when fares go on sale, so do the points needed for redeeming for a reward flight on those fares.

For an airline which once prided themselves in simplicity and transparency, this sure is a disappointing change. Presumably they’ll be charging even more points per dollar of airfare for “peak” flights, in instances where they’d otherwise be able to fill those seats.

Anyway, if you have Southwest Rapid Rewards points to redeem, I’d definitely recommend making a booking before Friday, April 17, if possible. Keep in mind there are no change fees for Southwest Rapid Rewards tickets, so you can always cancel if need be.

Does anyone have specific predictions as to what changes Southwest is making to Rapid Rewards?

Comments

  1. The speculation on a “members only” forum for A-List Preferred RR members that I belong to is that the “first targets” for this change will be the international routes. Data that has been shared on the forum indicates that between 50- 60% of all “fares” booked on WN’s international flights (other than Nassau) have been reward bookings (including companion pass bookings). If that’s really the case, then that would mean WN could actually be running a number of these flights at below break even on a revenue basis. The speculation continues that delinked award pricing will also be deployed for the T-Day and X-Mas periods in certain markets that have had traditionally disproportionate redemption vs. revenue bookings.

  2. I’m willing to bet any route that has traditionally seen heavy use of the Companion pass during peak vacation times will get higher points too. This way they can keep the cash rate competitive to attract paying passengers, while not letting anyone get too much value out of their points.

    It’s all common sense.

  3. Not having a transparent award chart or revenue-based formula puts WN into DL territory (and there are rumblings that UA is next, naturally).

  4. Thanks for the reminder. Had a couple of Intl bookings where i didn’t add the CP on it yet as i was hoping the reward price would go down and cancelling the ticket with CP on it and then reissuing is a pain (ok, takes an extra 5 minutes). Did it all now just in case something radical is announced. Also booked some other potential trips just because there is no penalty for cancelling reward flights.

  5. I’d love to see the “data” that says 50-60% of WN bookings are free seats. According to the data that WN submits to the DOT, the route with the highest percent of free seats is ATLSJU at 14.4% and the lowest is ATLMBJ at .7%. The average across their entire caribbean region is 8.3%

  6. Thanks for the heads-up. I was thinking of a Mexico babymoon in September, I will book it today.

  7. @lucky – I just looked at Southwest’s website, doing a few dummy searches, and some of their award flights are cheaper than they used to be. I did a booking for next weekend DCA-HOU and then one in May from DCA-CUN. They came out to a cost of ~58 points/$ and ~52 points/$ respectively.

  8. I noticed varying redemption’s as well from 58 points per dollar to 72 points per dollar on a few routes that I searched….no explanation from SWA yet?

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