While many airlines are grappling with the problem of how to make the upper tiers of their exclusive frequent flyer programs, well, exclusive again, Southwest is going against the grain and is about to make it a whole lot easier to acquire the airline’s version of elite status.
On Monday, the Dallas-based carrier outlined five enhancements to its Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program, which have been generally well received by a community of flyers who have become accustomed to wearily accepting devaluations masquerading as enhancements.
Two of the five enhancements lower the number of flights required to attain Southwest’s A-List and A-List Preferred status, while the third enhancement reduces credit card spending requirements to achieve tier-qualifying points.
The fourth enhancement adds a new benefit for A-List Preferred members in the form of two free premium drinks per flight, while the fifth and final enhancement will see Southwest introduce a new ‘Cash + Points’ booking option from Spring 2024.
What is A-List and A-List preferred?
Aside from its sought-after Companion Pass, the Southwest Rapid Rewards program has two main frequent flyer tiers – A-List and A-List Preferred.
A-List status is normally achieved by flying 25 one-way flights within a calendar year or achieving 35,000 tier qualifying points through credit card spend, whereas A-List Preferred status requires 50 flight segments or 70,000 tier qualifying points.
A-list status includes the following benefits:
- Priority boarding
- 24% point bonus on qualifying flights
- Same-day change and same-day standby
- Priority check-in
- and a dedicated phone line for customer services
In addition to the above, A-List Preferred status also includes the following benefits:
- 100% point bonus on qualifying flights
- Free inflight WiFi
How much easier will it be to acquire status?
From January 1, 2024, Southwest is going to make it significantly easier to acquire A-List and A-List Preferred status.
- To achieve A-List status, you’ll need to fly just 20 one-way flights in a calendar year or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points.
- To achieve A-List Preferred status, you’ll need to fly just 40 one-way qualifying flights or earn 70,000 tier qualifying points.
As you can see, the tier qualifying point requirement remains the same, but from January 1, 2024, the minimum spend to earn tier qualifying points is being halved. Instead of earning 1,500 tier qualifying points for every $10,000 spent on a Southwest cobranded credit card, the spending requirement will be reduced to just $5,000.
This applies to the following credit cards:
- Rapid Rewards Premier
- Rapid Rewards Premier Business
- Rapid Rewards Priority
- Rapid Rewards Performance Business
What about the free drinks for A-List Preferred members?
Starting on November 6, 2023, Southwest will add a new benefit for A-List Preferred members in the form of two free premium drinks per flight. The drinks coupon will be added directly to your mobile boarding pass, and any unused coupons can’t be rolled over to the next flight.
What do we know about the new Cash + Points booking option?
Not a lot at the moment.
From Spring 2024 (the exact date is yet to be confirmed), Southwest will allow customers to pay for flights with a combination of cash and points. Redemptions will start with as few as 1,000 points but Southwest has given away little else about how the program will work.
What we do know, however, is that not all customers will see a Cash + Points options during the initial rollout next year. It’s also important to note that Cash + Points payments won’t earn Rapid Rewards points or tier-qualifying points or either A-List and A-List Preferred Status or Companion Pass.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.