Early Analysis of Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Program Changes

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Earning free flights will take longer, but benefits will outweigh costs for most personal and business travelers, according to new survey from Meeting Tomorrow

Meeting Tomorrow, a leading nationwide provider of technology solutions for corporate meetings and events, has released an analysis of the impact of the Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program changes Southwest Airlines announced today.

The complexity of the changes has made it difficult to assess how they will affect travelers. Under Southwest’s current Rapid Rewards program, award travel is earned by accruing credits based on one-way flights. Sixteen flights are required to earn one roundtrip ticket. The new Rapid Rewards Program, effective March 1, 2011, will use a more complex points formula, using fare class (Business Select, Anytime, Wanna Get Away) and ticket price to determine the number of points required to earn and redeem a free flight.

Earning free flights to take 25% longer
The simplest way to compare the current and new Rapid Rewards Programs is to calculate how many flights it takes to earn a round-trip ticket under both programs, given equal fare amounts and ticket classes:

Rapid Rewards Program (current):    16 one-way flights
Rapid Rewards Program (beginning 3/1/2010): 20 one-way flights

This means on average it will take 25% longer to earn a free ticket under the new plan.

Better for business travelers redeeming miles for personal travel
The analysis shows that business travelers, particularly those that redeem miles for personal travel, stand to benefit most from the changes.

“The new formula by which points are accrued and redeemed means that most business travelers will accrue miles at twice the previous rate, and fare classes normally associated with personal travel will require less miles,” according to Marla Wasserman, senior business analyst, Meeting Tomorrow. “This means a last-minute business traveler could potentially acquire enough miles with just two paid flights to earn a free round-trip ticket, if reserved with advanced notice.”

Better for some personal travelers and infrequent fliers
Many travelers who accrue points through personal travel should also realize advantages under the new Rapid Rewards Program. “The new program completely eliminates the standard industry practice of limiting the amount of award ticket seats on each flight,” continued Wasserman. “Even more significantly, under the new program there is no concept of blackout dates. Travelers can choose any available ticket and fare class any day of the year.”

Although not mentioned prominently by Southwest, the new program is also a boon for “infrequent fliers.” Under the current program, miles expire after 24 months, whereas miles have no expiration under the new program.

The full report of the Southwest Airlines Rapid Reward Program changes is posted at: http://www.meetingtomorrow.com/southwest-analysis.html.

About Meeting Tomorrow
Any Time. Any Place. Nationwide Audio Visual.
Meeting Tomorrow specializes in providing audio visual services for companies with recurring live and virtual events nationwide. These businesses choose Meeting Tomorrow as their partner to ensure a consistent, exceptional experience, any time, any place.

For more information:
Marla Wasserman
(773)754-3030
pr(at)meetingtomorrow(dot)com

http://www.meetingtomorrow.com | 1-877-633-8866

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Zachary Caudill
Meeting Tomorrow
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