On the same day that Alaska Airlines announced it would begin offering the chance to redeem miles for TSA PreCheck status, Southwest Airlines sent me an email notifying that I’d been instantly upgraded to A-List status and can keep it if I complete two round-trip flights.
Their criteria for the upgrade? Including my Known Traveler Number (i.e., PreCheck credentials) in my Rapid Rewards profile.
A few airlines currently offer or used to offer a fee waiver for Global Entry to its most frequent flyers — a benefit that includes access to TSA PreCheck. Alaska Airlines is now offering the chance to redeem miles for PreCheck, an offer that I construe as targeted to frequent travelers who have lots of miles sitting around. All of these airlines are trying to make the travel experience better for their most frequent customers.
What’s interesting is that Southwest has flipped the idea on its head. They want to attract more business, and many airlines seem to struggle with status match programs. How do you know this person is a frequent flyer? For that matter, how do you know he didn’t just submit a fraudulent account history?
Well, anyone who has gone to the effort to apply for Global Entry or PreCheck is almost certainly a frequent flyer. No one applies for a passport, pays $100, makes an appointment six months out, and then shows up for an in-person meeting (sometimes three meetings) for Global Entry unless they really want it. PreCheck is just $85 and much simpler, but let’s face it: most people are only focused on the hassle now and not the time saved on every trip to the airport for the next five years. That’s why PreCheck enrollment has suffered.
Granted, a Known Traveler Number not a great proxy for determining “Just how elite are you?” but neither is Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program very rewarding. It’s all coach. No one pays baggage fees or change fees. All you get are shorter queues and some bonus points. You have to be top-tier with Southwest before getting a Companion Pass, which includes a lot of free travel.
So for something like A-List, looking for a Known Traveler Number in someone’s profile is a perfect indicator. The airline can see it without asking me. In fact, the email says that I’ve already got A-List status without any registration hassle. I only need to take action if I want to extend it past May 25.
It’s a clever idea, and something that I think more airlines should consider if they want to quickly recruit new members to the lower tiers of their loyalty programs.
Terms & Conditions
Only the Rapid Rewards® Member who received an email/offer from Southwest Airlines® is eligible for this promotion. Offer is non-transferrable. Member must register for this promotion between March 21, 2016 and May 25, 2016 to qualify for promotional A-List status. Registration and promotional A-List status confirmation must be completed prior to booking of travel to receive A-List benefits. Promotional A-List status confirmation typically takes place within 72 hours of registration. Login to your account at www.southwest.com to verify your promotional A-List status. During this trial period, you will not receive an A-List card, but you will receive all A-List status benefits on all flights booked after registering, when you provide your Rapid Rewards account number when making your reservation. Member must either book and complete two qualifying roundtrip revenue flights (or four one-way revenue flights) between March 21, 2016 and May 25, 2016, or earn 5,850 Tier Qualifying Points from flights booked and completed between March 21, 2016 and May 25, 2016. Tier Qualifying Points earned from the Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card do not qualify for this promotion. A qualifying one-way flight for Rapid Rewards A-List status is a one-way revenue flight on Southwest Airlines from an origin city to a destination city, including any intermediate stops and/or connections on Southwest Airlines. A qualifying roundtrip flight for Rapid Rewards A-List status is a roundtrip revenue flight on Southwest Airlines from an origin city to a destination city and back to the originating airport or carrier-recognized co-terminal. Valid on new reservations booked within the promotional time period only. Award, Companion Pass, Southwest Vacations® packages, and reward travel do not qualify for this promotion. Changes made to this itinerary after purchase may eliminate qualification for promotion. Upon qualifying to extend promotional A-List status through December 31, 2016, you will receive an email within 24 hours of qualification verifying your earned status for the remainder of 2016. Please allow up to 15 business days after qualifying for the extended A-List status to receive your A-List card. If A-List status is earned by flying 25 qualifying one-way flights or earning 35,000 Tier Qualifying Points in the calendar year while qualified for promotional A-List status, the regular A-List status will supersede the promotional A-List status, entitling the Member to A-List status through December 31, 2017. All Rapid Rewards rules and regulations apply and can be found at www.southwest.com/rrterms.