When Southwest Airlines first entered the market, they were a breath of fresh air. There were no baggage fees, change fees or any other stupid fees that we have grown accustomed to. And their frequent flyer program wasn’t half bad either (for a revenue based program). It was easy to earn and redeem points and simple to understand. The more money you spent on a ticket, the more points you would earn. The more expensive a ticket costs, the more points you would need to redeem that ticket.
But I have a feeling those easy Southwest days are soon to be over. In case you missed it, Southwest has been rolling out significant changes to their terms and conditions. Some changes they have announced and some others, they haven’t. Let me give you a couple of examples.
First, Southwest Airlines’ change/cancellation policy is one of the best in the industry, if not the best. When you buy a ticket, you can cancel your ticket or make changes to your itinerary at anytime, all without any additional fees. Find a lower priced flight? No problem, change your flight and get credited for the price difference. Want to fly another flight priced higher than your original ticket? Just pay the difference. Accidentally sleep in and miss your flight? No problem either, your funds will automatically be credited back to you. They basically made it idiot proof. But not anymore.
Southwest Airlines has now implemented a “No Show” policy. Effective immediately, if you do not cancel your itinerary at least 10 minutes before your flight or do not show up, you will be considered a “No Show” and funds from your reservation will be forfeited. This applies to all fares including Wanna Get Away, Business Select and Anytime fares. However, flights booked using points will not be affected and those points will be redeposited back into your account (for the time being). Now, I’m not faulting Southwest for this. You really should be showing up for your flights. If you can’t make your flight, just cancel it. Airlines are in the business of making money and they should be able to make money from every seat on every flight. I actually don’t mind this change at all but I’m sure it’s just one of many changes to come.
Secondly and more importantly, Rapid Rewards members will face a devaluation to their frequent flyer program starting next year. Currently, you need 60 points for every dollar a ticket is priced at to redeem for a flight. Effective March 31, 2014, you will need 70 points to redeem for every dollar on Wanna Get Away fares. For example, a $300 ticket would cost you 18,000 Rapid Rewards points now. Next year, that same $300 ticket will cost you 21,000 Rapid Reward points. The change sounds small at first but as you can see, it adds up pretty quickly doesn’t it?
Let me break it down for you one step further. To earn the 18,000 Rapid Rewards points required for that $300 ticket, you need to spend $3,000 on tickets flown on Southwest Airlines flights (Wanna Get Away fares). Starting next year, to earn the 21,000 points required to redeem for that same $300 ticket, you will need to spend $3,500 on tickets flown on Southwest Airlines flights (Wanna Get Away fares). That’s an additional $500 in spending! That’s no bueno. For you big spenders that redeem points for Business Select or Anytime fares, this devaluation does not apply to you. This change only affects redemption for Wanna Get Away fares for the time being.
Tell me what you guys think. Is this a sign of more things to come? Or is Southwest still the best airline out there?