Southwest Airlines is the latest airline to announce changes to their loyalty program. United Airlines has been the big newsmaker as of late, with big changes to how upgrades work and how elite members qualify for status. Now, we have news that Southwest is upping the price on the best benefit in domestic airline loyalty, along with a positive change on the expiration of points.
Southwest Companion Pass Increase
Effective January 1, 2020 the number of points required to qualify for the Southwest companion pass will increase from 110,000 points to 125,000 points. You can read about it from JT Genter at TPG and Gary at View From The Wing.
That still makes the companion pass a phenomenal value, especially if you live near a major Southwest connection point. However, the timing of this change will throw a wrench in the works for folks who seek the absolute best timing for earning the companion pass. I spoke about the strategy with Jen from Deals We Like on my podcast earlier this week:
Jen is one of the best experts on Southwest Airlines. She’s had the companion pass for about as long as I’ve been writing this blog. Essentially, the best strategy was to apply for a Southwest credit card near the end of a calendar year, such that you could earn a big chunk of points in the first month of the new year. Qualifying for the companion pass in January of 2020 would mean virtually two years with this valuable benefit, until the end of December, 2021. With today’s change, Southwest has moved the goal posts a bit further away to qualify for a companion pass for those hoping to earn it first thing in 2020.
Side Note: I caught up with Jen later in the day to get her opinions on the change:
Rapid Rewards Points No Longer Expire
Southwest Airlines also announced today that Rapid Rewards points will no longer expire. When United eliminated expiration of miles recently, I categorized it as a non-event. For some, the change on United Airlines’ mileage expiration is a small negative, as they’ll fight with a larger group of people to redeem their miles in the future. However, Southwest doesn’t restrict the availability of awards, since their points are more of a rebate than a “mile” or “point” that can be redeemed in a bunch of different ways with airline partners, etc. That means everyone should be able to get value from their Southwest Rapid Rewards points at some point in the future.
Minor Change On Same Day Changes
Southwest Airlines is giving over a year of notice on small changes to how same day flight changes will work. For elite members, Southwest still won’t charge a fee for a difference in fare or a change fee as some airlines do. However, they will pass on extra airport taxes if they incur them. These are likely to be small amounts.
The Final Two Pennies
An extra 15,000 points to qualify for the Southwest companion pass is not a small amount for most folks. However, I still think the benefit is worth it. A year’s worth of free travel for a companion on every single Southwest flight is pretty appealing. This is especially true if you live near an airport like BWI, Atlanta or Dallas-Love Field. I wouldn’t hesitate to stretch the extra 15,000 points for a companion pass in 2020.
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