Yesterday I wrote about how Southwest made a major change to how you can earn their Companion Pass. Companion Pass is one of the best deals in domestic travel. If you take 100 flights on Southwest or earn 110,000 points in a year, you can take a companion with you on all flights just for the cost of taxes, regardless of whether you’re paying cash or redeeming points.
With yesterday’s devaluation, Southwest changed what type of points count towards Companion Pass. As of yesterday, points transferred from hotel and car rental partners no longer qualify towards that status.
Southwest was perfectly justified in making this change
There’s nothing wrong with Southwest making this change. Arguably it was too easy to earn Companion Pass, and the change was overdue. For example, using Marriott’s Hotel + Air Packages, you could redeem 270,000 Marriott Rewards points for 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points plus seven nights at a Category 1-5 property. In and of itself, that’s more than enough points to earn Companion Pass for a year.
So while some people aren’t happy about this change, it’s not fair to hold the change as such against the airline, as they made a reasonable policy change.
The no-notice nature of the change is what’s wrong
Southwest prides themselves in being a transparent airline. They refer to how they have “Transfarency,” where they claim to be “all about being open and honest with customers.”
However, unfortunately it seems that their desire to be open and honest with customers doesn’t extend to their loyalty program. In the past Southwest has made changes to their loyalty program without notice, and this is the latest such incident.
If they knew they were going to implement this as of January 1, there’s no excuse for why they couldn’t have announced this at least a couple of weeks back.
The timing here is especially unfortunate, as a lot of people initiated points transfers from Marriott and Starwood in the past couple of days, as they were planning on using those points to qualify for Companion Pass in 2017. I’ve had several readers contact me to ask what they can do, as they initiated the transfer prior to yesterday, and were caught off guard by this change.
Southwest, the change you made was reasonable, and I don’t think anyone can really fault you for changing Companion Pass qualification criteria. However, doing so with no notice, especially at a time when a lot of people had already initiated points transfers, doesn’t show much goodwill, or much of a desire to be transparent. There’s no excuse for not providing advance notice of this change.
What do you guys think — was it okay for Southwest to make this change without notice, or is it not cool?