Southwest

Trump’s Presidency Is Changing How Airlines Petition For Routes

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I love following airline filings with the Department of Transportation. Stuff is filed almost every day, and it’s interesting to see the arguments that airlines make to justify why they should be granted a route over another airline, etc.

While most of the support I saw from airline CEOs during the election was in favor of Hillary Clinton, many airline CEOs have come forward to say that they’re looking forward to working with Donald Trump to “protect American jobs,” which many airlines interpret as the U.S. taking a protectionist approach of their businesses, including airlines.

For example, the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies (the U.S. lobbying group against the Gulf carriers) released the following statement after Emirates announced a new flight between Athens and New York:

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50,000 Point Sign-Up Bonus On The Southwest Plus Card

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There’s presently an increased bonus of 50,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $2,000 within three months on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card. While we often see increased bonuses on the Premier Card, seeing an increased bonus on the Plus Card is rarer.

The card has a $69 annual fee, which is lower than the $99 annual fee on the Premier Card.

There are a few reasons to consider this sign-up bonus:

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Southwest’s Boarding Process: Why I Both Love And Hate It

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I flew Southwest to Havana last week, which is the first time in five years that I flew Southwest.

The reason I don’t fly them has to do with me valuing traditional loyalty programs and a global route network, rather than any issue I have with the airline as such. Southwest is (for the most part) extremely well run, and really the most full service airline in the U.S., as they don’t charge for checked bags and allow free ticket changes. Furthermore, their flight attendants know how to hustle, and could teach the crews at some other carriers a trick or two.

But the part of the Southwest experience I found the most interesting was the boarding process. People have long teased Southwest for their “cattle call” boarding, and this was the first time I’ve flown Southwest and paid attention to the process… and I liked it a lot more than I was expecting… in some ways.

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Yay: Southwest Backtracks On Companion Pass Changes

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It’s nice when big corporations realize they didn’t handle something well, and then do the right thing. That’s exactly what’s happening here. On January 1, 2017, Southwest changed their policy on Companion Pass qualification without notice, which caught a lot of people off guard.

While the change as such was reasonable, they should have done better than to provide no notice of the change, and it seems they agree. Southwest has backtracked on their no-notice change.

While hotel and car rental points transfers won’t count towards Companion Pass, that policy will only kick in as of April 1, 2017. Per Southwest’s statement:

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Southwest Companion Pass Has A Very Bad Week

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Southwest Rapid Rewards started the year on a bad foot, when as of January 1 they changed the qualification criteria for Companion Pass without any advance notice. In order to earn Companion Pass (which lets you take a companion with you on all Southwest flights for free) you need to earn 110,000 qualifying points per year, though Southwest changed what type of points qualify towards that total.

Specifically, with this change, points transferred from hotel and car rental partners no longer qualify towards Companion Pass. The change as such was reasonable enough, though I think Southwest should do better than to make a change like this without notice, especially since some people had already transferred points in anticipation of earning Companion Pass in 2017.

Well, that hasn’t been the only Southwest Companion Pass drama this week. Earlier today Southwest sent out an email to Rapid Rewards members with the subject line “Congrats! You earned Companion Pass.”

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

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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.

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.

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Southwest Makes It More Difficult To Earn The Companion Pass

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While Southwest isn’t my airline of choice, there’s a lot I respect about the airline. For example, I love that they don’t charge for checked bags, and also appreciate their lack of change fees. Furthermore, one aspect of their frequent flyer program is arguably the best deal in domestic travel — I’m talking about Southwest’s Companion Pass.

The Southwest Companion Pass lets you take a companion with you for free whenever you fly. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on an award ticket or revenue ticket, you can always have someone fly with you just for the cost of taxes. It’s an incredible, one-of-a-kind deal.

You can use it an unlimited number of times, though can only change your designated companion at most a couple of times per year (so you can’t have a different companion on every trip).

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My Last And Worst Flight Of 2016

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I’ve spent the past couple of days in Cuba, and yesterday morning I was scheduled to fly from Havana to Fort Lauderdale on Southwest Airlines. I’ll have a lot more about my thoughts on visiting Cuba and our overall experience at the airport on arrival and departure in future posts, but first wanted to highlight the unfortunately travel day I had yesterday.

Like many frequent flyers, I’m accustomed enough to delays so that I’m not shocked when they happen. Just in the past couple of months I’ve had a four hour delay on Ukraine International Airlines and a three hour delay on Garuda Indonesia. While delays are never fun, ultimately I can work from anywhere with an internet connection. So my feeling towards delays come down to how good of a job the airline does communicating with passengers.

Well, yesterday I had what I can only describe as the worst delay of my life. That’s not to say that it was the longest, but rather that it was the mostly poorly communicated and handled from start to finish, with the least pleasant circumstances.

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Oklahoma City Flights Cancelled Due To Shooting

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Sad news out of Oklahoma City, where a full ground stop has been ordered in the aftermath of a shooting.

This is a developing story, and details are thin, but the Oklahoma City Police department has confirmed one victim thus far, a Southwest Airlines employee who was shot in the airport parking lot.

The police department also gave this statement to media in the area:

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We Just Redeemed 150,000 Airline Points For Gift Cards… Oops?

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I don’t think there’s more of a mileage faux pas than redeeming your hard earned miles for gift cards or merchandise. With saver level award availability seemingly more limited than ever before, airlines are offering more ways for you to redeem your miles, including for merchandise and gift cards.

For example, through the United MileagePlus Merchandise Mall, you can redeem 40,600 MileagePlus miles for Bose headphones that would retail for $300. That’s like getting less than three quarters of a cent of value per mile.

Or you can redeem Membership Rewards points for gift cards at the rate of one cent per point. Given how many great uses there are of Membership Rewards points, I couldn’t imagine redeeming points that way.

So this isn’t how you should redeem your points… but I also just advised Ford to redeem 150,000 airline points for gift cards. Let me explain.

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Don’t Make This Mistake With Your Southwest Points

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I don’t personally fly Southwest much nowadays. Back when their fares were actually less expensive than the competition they were my primary domestic carrier. I earned the Companion Pass through the Chase credit cards for 2011/2012, but otherwise I think the last flight I actually purchased for personal travel on Southwest was in September of 2014.

I still have quite a few lingering points in my Rapid Rewards account though, and generally redeem them for other people. As Travis has mentioned in the past, Southwest has the best program for speculative award bookings, as there’s no penalty to cancel and redeposit the miles.

I’ll use Southwest points to arrange “backup” positioning flights to connect with an award ticket, and cancel if award space opens up. Or I’ll book both a Friday afternoon and Saturday morning flight for my mom, for example, and then she can choose which one is better for her work schedule right before the trip.

I was actually trying to book a flight for my mom the other day when I encountered a “feature” of Rapid Rewards I hadn’t known about previously, and figured I should pass on.

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DOT Tentatively Grants 8 Airlines Rights To Fly To Havana — Here Are The Routes

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Early last year sanctions began to be lifted between the US and Cuba, following the embargo that was in place for decades. This was huge news for those looking to travel to Cuba, since it created more circumstances under which US tourists could visit (and those travel restrictions have been eased even further since then).

What is far from instant, however, is actually restoring commercial flights between the two countries. Air treaties between countries are complicated matters even under normal circumstances, let alone a situation like this, where they’re making up for decades of non-diplomacy.

As I wrote about in February, the US and Cuba signed an agreement to restore commercial service between the two countries. Under this agreement, US airlines could start bidding on routes between the US and Cuba, for up to 110 flights per day.

Only 20 of those daily frequencies could be commercial flights to Havana, though, while the other frequencies would have to be to other cities in Cuba (where there’s presumably a lot less demand). US airlines had a 15 day window where they could request flights to Cuba, so at the end of that we learned of all the flights US carriers wanted to operate to Cuba, which far exceeded the number of available frequencies.

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Video: Southwest Captain Operates Retirement Flight With Son As Co-Pilot

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This story is just plain (plane?) awesome. Southwest just published a touching video about a Southwest captain on his retirement day. The best part? Both of his sons are also Southwest captains, so he got to fly his two final legs with them, with one being a co-pilot on each flight.

Here’s the video:

What an awesome end to an incredible career!

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Get ~$700 Worth Of Flights With The Southwest Card Sign-Up Bonus

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Chase is offering a 50,000 point sign-up bonus on the Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, which they seem to offer every so often. You can receive the 50,000 point bonus after spending $2,000 within three months, and the offer is available to those who haven’t received the sign-up bonus in the past 24 months.

The bonus is available on the business version of the card as well. Just click on the application link, and at the bottom of the page you’ll see a link to the business version.

Each card has a $99 annual fee, which isn’t waived the first year.

Southwest Rapid Rewards is a revenue based program, meaning the cost of an award is directly correlated to how much a paid ticket would cost. Take the below flights between Tampa and Los Angeles, for example. The paid fare is $163 using a “Wanna Get Away” fare.

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