C’mon Southwest, You’re Better Than Yesterday’s Devaluation

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.

southwest-marriott

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.”

southwest-transfarency

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.

flying-to-havana-10

Bottom line

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?

Comments

  1. Hi Ben, I bought a Hotel and Air Marriott package on 12/31/16 and the miles still have not posted to my SW account. Marriott will not return the package. Marriott told me today that they should have posted the miles to my SW on 12/31/16 and SW should honor it. SW sees no pending miles posts. What recourse do I have here? I feel really screwed up by SW over this change. Please advise.

  2. C’mon southwest! Why are you suddenly not letting us exploit the loophole that could save even a sporadic traveler thousands of dollars? ! ? ! ? And especially after months of bloggers very publicly telling us how to rip you off!

  3. @Lucky – As someone so aware of the industry as you are… How do you figure Southwest could have given this notice? What happens if Southwest gives notice? Suddenly within the window of opportunity everyone transfers their points at once and picks up a companion pass and their planes are crowded with people who are flying for free in which they have made little no revenue on. In some cases no notice changes absolutely stink but there is no way around this one.

  4. This headline had me scared for a second. This is basically nothing in the scheme of things as long as you can still get it by getting 2 Chase Credit cards per year. How that method is still around baffles me. Eventually that’s going to go. Mark my word on that.

  5. Many people transferred points to take advantage of this loophole. The jokes on them. if they want the companion pass, start booking flights.

  6. I agree with those who do not see how SW could have given notice. On the other hand, I think returning the Miles of those who transferred in within a certain time period prior to this change would be the decent thing to do.

  7. The timing and lack of notice smack of a giant “screw you” to bloggers who wrote about the Companion Pass and those of us knowledgeable and disciplined enough to earn and collect the points necessary to take advantage of the opportunity. Which, I am sure, is a whisper of a fraction of a percent of the number of people who fly Southwest Airlines. Thinking that there were ever any more than a handful of Companion Pass holders on any given flight is fantasy. Most have never even heard of the Companion Pass let alone earned one. Giving notice might have sparked a “rush” on these packages, but I doubt it would have amounted to much in the grand scheme of things.

    Which brings us back to the no-notice devaluation. Southwest couldn’t care less what they do to the travel hacking community because there are so few of us. In fact, they are likely reading posts and comments like this one with glee. Knowledgeable customers are a threat to their bottom line, and we are the most knowledgeable customers they have. The fewer of us, the better for them. Next up, Chase card bonuses I’m sure. Caveat emptor.

  8. @ Ben — Why did you fly Southwest from Cuba? Why do you care what Southwest does? Southwest might as well not exist as far as I’m concerned, and I can’t imagine you feel much different.

  9. Lucky is spot on with his analysis.

    What really gets me is that Southwest called this a “loophole” to justify the no-notice policy change. What is and isn’t a loophole in their eyes? How is having two Chase cards, or ordering lots of flowers not a loophole now?

    I’m sure Southwest management will already be getting enough complaints, so I urge anyone who is affected by this change to contact the management of Southwest’s business partners instead — Marriott, Hyatt, Chase, etc. Let them know how much you valued their alliance with Southwest and that now since they can’t be trusted it weakens the value of both Rapid Rewards and their partner’s program.

  10. Totally understand why Southwest made this move. The people complaining should get over themselves. You were profiting off a loophole and now its closed – move on. SW is a for profit company and is not in business to give away free companion passes.

  11. I agree it was too good to be true situation. There was a loophole which was abused. No notice is the right course from airlines perspective.

  12. This got blogged about hard. We’re all told not to hoard points and to redeem as soon as possible. Those who were waiting were wanting to get two years of CP instead of getting the sure thing. I would hardly call this a devaluation as it has nothing to do with southwest’s system, this was absolutely a loophole.

  13. Calling this a devaluation is dubious at best. I feel SWA was well within their right to end this loophole with Zero notice.

  14. While SW has the right to change their rules at any time, they should have given some notice, even if short. It was not a loop hole if they allowed it.

  15. Agree with Southwest on this one. It’s not a full-fledged part of their loyalty program and is something most people expected to end soon anyway, given the intense media coverage. To me, it’s more akin to Alaska not giving an end-of-year gift. People came to expect it year after year, but not offering it isn’t really taking something away.

    Not to mention the people who made the transfer in the first 2 days of the year are the most likely to be repeat offenders, so it has particularly low effect on 99% of the customer base while making a somewhat punitive point to those who have done this for multiple years. Doubt this was an intentional effect, but to them, not necessarily a negative.

  16. This is the same Southwest leadership that:
    – Made the value of points from transparent to opaque
    – Devalues the value of points at least annually without any notice (remember, with revenue based redemption, points shouldn’t need to devalue individually)
    – Added the no-show no refund restrictions
    – Announced a virtually non-existent A-List standby “benefit”
    – Raised the price of buying points, then sells it at a discount – sounds like a Legacy carrier
    – Is making fully refundable tickets non-refundable if you make a simple change
    – Charges just as much as legacy airlines but refuses to interline during IROPS. (Hey, it made sense when they were really cheap and short haul only, but now, it makes no sense.)
    – Sells an unlimited number of Early Birds per flight

    And to the other comment, no it was not a loophole. It was an allowed benefit. A loophole is when they don’t enforce an existing rule. This is clearly a rule change.

    Do you really expect them to give notice on a devaluation. It won’t be the last of 2017

  17. For those of you who have been hoarding Marriott points for this redemption (as I have been doing) Marriott’s Flight and Hotel package is still a very good bargain. You are getting 7 nights of Marriott hotel at the posted redemption rate (including the 5th night free) and you are basically getting 1 to 1 redemption of Marriott points to airline mile. That’s a pretty good deal.

    Yeah, I’ve been eyeing the SW CP but now that it’s gone, I’ll probably do a different package that suits my travel plan this year, and get 132k United miles.

    Yes, I wish SW would have given a heads up for a month or three or whatever, but oh well. I never liked SW anyway. We adapt and move on.

  18. Who wants to fly crappy SW anyway.
    I got Companion pass thru two Chase credit cards years back.
    But I didn’t use the pass even once.
    Because SW is a crap and I only fly First domestic.

  19. I never understood why points transferred from Marriott counted, but points transferred from Chase UR did not. One would think they would have closed this loophole at the same time.

  20. Good call Sam. But I’m not even that impressed with First domestic anymore. I have to bring my own Krug and caviar. And… if I want the lobster thermidor I also have to bring my own cook. Sure, it’s a little hard to only fly long-haul first class from Omaha, so I just fly private to whatever hub I’m flying out of that day…

    And those southwest points are virtually worthless. 120,000 points is only like $3300 with the companion pass. That amount of money barely covers my roundtrip to chicago on my neighbor’s Challenger 600!

  21. The hotel transferred points have NEVER been sanctioned in the T&Cs. It was a loophole plain and simple. Calling this a devaluation is a pure LIE.

    WN absolutely has done the right thing to close the loophole. Those who stupidly enough to listen to countless touts from bloggers on taking advantage of this loophole only have themselves and their own greed to blame.

  22. $3,600 worth of flights and 7 nights at a category five hotel for $1,595. Amazing that WN didn’t stop this months ago.

    Complain you were stopped from getting $3,600 worth of air flights for nothing? Plus free flights for a compaion for two years?

    It’s not a devaluation; more like stopping on-going theft.

  23. Bah. Happy New Year.

    Unable to get Sw cards due to chase implementing 5/24, I focused spending and travel with Marriott all year to target the companion pass. Lots of family travel this year will need to be replanned.

    Probably going back to not flying sw at all in response. Wondered if they might convert me while we had the CP.

  24. For those of you who transferred on or before Dec. 31 – those points will post with a 2016 date, even though the transfer may not complete until 2017. There’s still a chance the points will count toward a 2016 CP (good until the end of 2017). (In my experience, Choice Hotel points take about 8 days to post; I’ve heard reports that Marriott is faster.)

    And spending 390,000 Marriott points to get 132,000 UA miles plus 7 nights at a Category 9 hotel is still a fantastic deal!! If you value Marriott points at 0.75 cents each, you’re spending $2,925. If you value UA miles at 1.5 cents each, as I do (most bloggers value them higher), you’re getting $1,980 worth of miles. That means you’re spending about $945 for 7 nights in some very fine hotels – about $135 a night. Quite a deal for some of the top hotels in New York, London, and other cities.)

  25. I’ve had the companion pass for 2 years. Thought it would be terrific, but didn’t really find it to work out that way. Didn’t enjoy flying southwest and as a northern VA (DC suburbs) resident it often meant going to Baltimore which was a colossal pain when factoring in rush hour. Also, found many of their flights, given our limited flexibility to be astonishingly expensive for short flights, ex. $400-500. Also got burned by not realizing that the refunds aren’t really refunds, they are travel credits that expire in 12 months from the date flight was booked, not the date the flight was scheduled. Due to a family health issue, we lost over $800 on the darn companion pass this year for flights we had booked in advance, but couldn’t fly, and couldn’t rebook within the time frame. Southwest didn’t even respond to my email, although they acknowledged it and promised to respond within 48 hours. Will try a letter in the new year. Sort of liberating not to even contemplate the southwest pass again, at least for us.

  26. Those of you supporting the Southwest management fascist edict were obviously absent from kindergarten the day your teacher taught you about playing fair.

  27. Bob U., how are you deriving $1595 for 7night/120k mile Marriott package? I’m not aware of how to get a package that cheaply.

  28. I’m amazed at the amount of Southwest employees on here defending the company. What happened to standing up for the little guy? Bottom line is if you can’t get rewarded from SW one way or another why would you fly them? Cattle call boarding, no lounges, no CP, no 1st/business class=no reason to fly.
    Tell your friends, family, co-workers and business associates. Boycott SW! Make your new 2017 resolution.

  29. Luvlost – to each his own, I guess. Southwest is my favorite airline for domestic travel, because of their “no change fee” and “fully refundable points bookings with no fee” policies. These policies are far “little guy friendlier” than the legacies. (I am not a WN employee – just a satisfied customer. I was a UA loyalist until I discovered the benefits of WN’s policies.) Yes, I do enjoy first class, but complimentary upgrades on the legacies have become virtually nonexistent. And I use my Priority Pass membership to get lounge access when flying WN or anyone else. (I guess I’m a little inconsistent – enjoy the lounge; board with the cattle call, then stay in nice hotels. Oh, well….)

  30. As they stated this is a loophole. I don’t see a reason why they should be so polite to give a grace period for people to take advantage of a loophole, instead of a promised benefit.

  31. Those of you who use the fact that this was a loophole because it was not possible to transfer chase points for Companion pass but was possible using Marriott points assume that Marriott and Chase compensate WN the same value for their points. We don’t know what the conversion rate agreement was between the parties, we can’t assume that WN didn’t intend for this. Doing this on 1/1, in my view, shows no goodwill towards their customers, and leaves a very bad taste. They’ve done this before with their unforgivable devaluation of fixed price currency, you’re only promoting this type of no-notice devaluation behavior.

  32. I have the CP and A-list for 2017. This is another squeeze play by SW. You used to be able to transfer AMEX points to SW for a CP. Not anymore! You used to be able to transfer Hertz and Hyatt points to SW for a CP. Not anymore! Pretty soon all the perks will be gone. No more free bags. No more changing flights. No more point refunds on cancelled flights. They’ll move the CP to 150,000 and we will talk about the good old days. SW is making record profits and will continue to do so. The routes I fly every seat is always taken. The cattle wants cheap fares and the rest of us who care are screwed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *