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Since first learning of the pending Southwest Rapid Rewards changes/devaluation that will happen on April 17th, I’ve been trying to get my hands on more details surrounding what those changes will actually look like. Obviously that has been tough, since if it were straightforward Southwest would simply included those details in their initial announcement to begin with.
For reasons I’ll more fully explain in a minute, I’m not overly optimistic we are going to actually get firm details on the changes before they go into play, but here are the highlights of what I have been able to learn since yesterday.
Official Southwest Statements on the April Changes:
The original info from Southwest released yesterday explained:
Beginning April 17, 2015, the number of Rapid Rewards Points needed to redeem for certain flights will vary based on destination, time, day of travel, demand, fare class, and other factors. However, there are still many flights which will stay at the current redemption rate. And don’t forget that when fares go on sale, so do the points needed for redeeming for a reward flight on those fares.
I know that ambiguous statement makes lots of us pretty nervous, and probably rightfully so given the direction many airline loyalty programs are heading in these days. To help us all be better prepared come mid-April, I’ve tried to get additional details from Southwest, and the best I have come up with is that basically that the application is complex and the rate will fluctuate.
An official spokesperson went on to say that:
It would be impossible to summarize how the displayed prices to consumers vary between BUR and LAX (or between any two airports for that matter), because each flight’s inventory is individually managed, and a fare filed in BUR may not be the same fare filed in LAX (and vice versa). Further, both parameters are subject to frequent changes (inventory can change instantly in real time; filed fares can change up to 4 times per day).
In addition, our service offering (number of flights, nonstop routes, connect opportunities) between the two airports may not be comparable. In the same way that it’s often more expensive to book a flight to New York vs. Albuquerque sometimes point redemption will vary based on what I referenced in the statement: destination, time of day, demand, fare class, and other factors. But I can’t reemphasize enough that in many cases, the current redemption rate will remain the same.
I like the last sentence, but the rest of the statement just basically means to me that the really popular flights are going to cost some unannounced number of additional points while most of my off-peak flights to Wichita, Kansas, will probably stay the same award price as they are now. Nothing indicates anything is going down in points price, so I think it is safe to assume that the high demand flights are just going to cost more at variable pricing intervals that they can adjust at will.
The good news, if you are a glass half full person, is that you will still be able to re-price those award flights at lower points prices if the price drops at some point before departure without penalty.
Welcome to Even More Variably Award Pricing at Southwest:
Southwest already charged more points for more expensive fares, so I’m not entirely sure why they needed to make that process even more variable since high demand flights typically already cost more than low demand flights, but that seems to be what they are doing. I’ll be sure to share more details if they are released in advance of the changes, but they may very not be released with any level of useful detail since the reality is that the rates will just vary. They are going to range from the same as today, to more expensive based on “destination, time of day, demand, fare class, and other factors”.
Welcome to the world of even more variably priced awards at Southwest. Get your award bookings in before April 17th if you can.