The new Southwest Rapid Rewards program, which goes into effect March 1, is getting ripped apart by travelers on the airline's Nuts About Southwest blog.
In a Rapid Rewards Followup blog post Jan. 7, communications manager Brian Lusk acknowledges "there is some concern about what the new program will mean for Customers," and he notes that Southwest estabished a website "to help our Members understand the new program and what it will mean for them."
There were 242 comments about the new program as of this writing and judging by the first couple of pages of comments, the opinion was overwhelmingly negative.
Many commenters said they understand the new program -- and they don't like the changes.
There are many facets of the program that have drawn withering criticism. Among them, the new program awards points based on the fare type. For example, purchases of Business Select fares earn 12 points per dollar, Anytime fares earn 10 points per dollar, and Wanna Get Away fares earn points at just half the rate of Business Select fares at 6 points per dollar.
Southwest is pushing those Business Select fares. As the Rapid Rewards website states: "When you spend more, you'll earn more. Now you have another reason to go for that Business Select Fare."
One anonymous commenter, reflecting a theme picked up by others, wrote:
SOUTHWEST HAS CHANGED THE RULES AND I'M NOT PLAYING BY THOSE RULES ANYMORE. As a loyal Southwest customer for over 8 years, I have to say, without a doubt, this is one of the worst moves Southwest has ever made. The new program no longer rewards me for being a frequent Southwest flier. Instead, it rewards people for buying higher fares, even when cheaper fares are available. What a hoax. I guess they want to sell as many of those "Business Select" seats as possible. For an airline that prides itself on "every seat being a first class seat," it sure seems like they are now trying to create a class structure, based on what people spend. Also, the new program is THE MOST COMPLICATED one I have ever seen for anything in the travel industry, be it airline, hotel or rental car. Absolutely ridiculous. I no longer consider Southwest to be my airline of choice and I will now look at all my other options. I have frequent flier acounts with other airlines and that's where I will be investing my travel money from now on. I would rather earn miles for the distance I fly than for the amount of money I spend.
Another commenter, notsohappyshorthauler, implored Southwest to listen to the criticism and make changes.
I respect the work you (and your father) have done with everything not only here, but at Continental too. (Yes, I read Airliners and Airways regularly) I'm stunned that Southwest hasn't seen the outcry- of all the posts I've read here, and via other sourcs, it's nearly 94% AGAINST the new system. It makes NO sense except to a beancounter MBA with an idea to increase ancilliary revenue streams- and lose focus on what Southwest has focused on for a long time: Simple, efficient, easy, reliable and LUV-Filled service. The 'new' Rapids Rewards system shows none of that to ANY of your customers- except those with the larger expense accounts. A better solution (Should that fine beancounter MBA with the fancy title and the -total- lack of understanding of what Southwest's history and mission IS) would have been to do this: Keep the old RR system of 'credits'- but change the # needed to get the free trip, from 16 to 20. In order to balance the playing field for those in the longer-haul markets, change the credits awared: 0-750 miles= 1 RR credit; 751-1950 miles= 1.5 RR credit; and 1951 miles plus= 2 RR credit. Now THAT is a simple change that beneifts both Southwest- and it's customers. I've been studying the airline industry since I was all of 6- some thirty years now- and I have a deep passion for the customer-centric cultures that make the world a better place. I can say unless Southwest repeals the changes, there will be a monumental end to the world that we have LUVd for a long time- and the name Southwest will ring the same as American, United or even USAirways. Bring back the LUV. Bring back the OLD RR system.
It remains to be seen whether Southwest will make any changes to the program, given the heat that it is under. You can expect criticism anytime you make a big change, but the level of objections merits attention.
But, Southwest has to get social media credit for not censoring the criticism on its own corporate blog or deleting comments outright. In addition, Lusk gets points for engaging with the commenters and answering some of the criticism.
Whether the new Southwest Rapid Rewards program will need some tweaking and redemption is a question the airline undoubtedly is considering.