Southwest Rapid Rewards has been a revenue base frequent flyer program since 2011, on both the earning and redemption side of things. The catch is that it hasn’t been quite that straightforward. The number of points you earn depends on the type of fare you book — Wanna Get Away, Anytime, or Business Select — and the same is true of redemptions.
Up until now, a redemption has taken roughly the following number of points per dollar, depending on the type of fare you booked:
- Business Select fares cost ~120 points per dollar of airfare (so a $500 ticket would require 60,000 points)
- Anytime fares cost ~100 points per dollar of airfare (so a $500 ticket would require 50,000 points)
- Wanna Get Away fares cost ~72-74 points per dollar of airfare (so a $500 ticket would require 36,000-37,000 points)
As you can see, the only good way to redeem Rapid Rewards points has been for Wanna Get Away fares. Not only are those the cheapest fares in general (based on the revenue cost), but you also need the fewest number of points per dollar of airfare to redeem for them. Business Select fares are consistently way more expensive if paying cash, and on top of that you need almost twice as many points per dollar of airfare.
View from the Wing reports that as of today, Southwest Rapid Rewards has updated their redemption rates, as follows:
- Business Select fares cost ~78 points per dollar of airfare
- Anytime fares cost ~78 points per dollar of airfare
- Wanna Get Away fares cost ~76-78 points per dollar of airfare
As you can see, Southwest Rapid Rewards has increased redemption rates for Wanna Get Away fares by ~6%, but in the process they’ve made redemptions for Business Select and Anytime fares much more reasonable. It no longer matters what kind of ticket you redeem for, you’ll get roughly the same value per dollar of airfare.
Of course a vast majority of people are redeeming points for Wanna Get Away fares, and for those passengers this is a ~6% devaluation. However, chances are that one of the reasons that people were almost exclusively redeeming for these types of fares is because the value of other redemptions was so bad, so going forward we may see more people redeeming for Business Select and Anytime fares (though given how much more expensive those fares usually are when paying cash, I can’t imagine that many more people redeeming for them)
I have mixed feelings about this change. On one hand, I hate when revenue based frequent flyer programs increase redemption rates. That shouldn’t really happen, given that award pricing in revenue based programs already reflects natural price increases over time. Of course what should happen and what does happen are often two different things.
At the same time, I appreciate Southwest moving towards a model where you can get the same value from your points regardless of the type of fare you book. This is only logical, given how much more expensive Anytime and Business Select fares are.
What do you make of these changes to Southwest Rapid Rewards?