Details on New Southwest Rapid Rewards Pricing Model

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As promised, Southwest Rapid Rewards has rolled out their new Rapid Rewards award pricing system today.  Details on exactly what the new award prices would look like were a bit light from Southwest in advance of the changes, but now reports are starting to come in from those who have been pricing awards via the new more variable priced award model.

Previously “Wanna Get Away” fares costs a flat 70 points per dollar for the base fare, but now that amount can vary base on “based on destination, time, day of travel, demand, fare class, and other factors“.  Southwest has said most awards stay the same price as they were before, but until today there was no way to begin testing that statement (and of course with variable prices that can change at any time).

A good resource thus far is this thread in Flyertalk which shows that some test searches people have done that indicate the price has indeed stayed at 70 points per dollar, and at other times has gone up to around 80 points per dollar.  It is worth mentioning that the busy holiday travel season is not yet loaded into the Southwest calendar, so we don’t know yet if those flights will stay in the 70 – 80 points per dollar range that has been found so far, or if they will go beyond that threshold.

I did a couple of my own tests and found on a Friday in early summer that a flight from Houston – Aruba (via Orlando) priced at 76 points per dollar.  A Memorial Day weekend Friday flight from Houston – Las Vegas was also 76 points per dollar.  Using that same Friday of Memorial Day weekend Houston – Orlando came in at 74 points per dollar and Austin – Cancun 70 points per dollar.  I purposefully was picking travel days that I thought might be more popular, so I’m not surprised that most of my flights were not at the old 70 points per dollar rate.

To find out the points per dollar cost you have to get the base fare (without all the taxes/fees as shown below) and then take the total number of points required divided by that base fare.

As an example, here is a July 5th nonstop flight from Orlando to Houston that prices at $331 one-way.  If you click on “fare breakdown” you see that the base fare is $294.79.  Yesterday that flight would have cost a flat 70 points per base dollar for a total of about 20,635 points, but today with variable pricing it costs 22,994 points at a ratio of 78 points per dollar.  Either way that flight doesn’t strike me as a great deal on points or dollars, but it is a good example of a Southwest award that costs more today than yesterday.

I’m glad to see that thus far we are talking about flights that cost no more than around 12% more points today than yesterday, but it is anyone’s guess as to whether that stays constant, or whether that difference increases over time.

Have you found some Southwest award flights pricing differently today than yesterday?

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  1. The problem with this isn’t that the prices went up, it is the precedent it sets. Now Southwest is no better than Delta with its “the price is what we say it is” approach to redemption.

  2. My Las Vegas flight went from 11,910 pts per person to 12,590 pts. This is on the $197 fare…

    But if I took a connecting flight through Denver the same day it would be $205 Fare and 11, 877 pts.

    So even though the non-stop COSTS $8 less they want 713 more points to be able to take that non-stop….

  3. This is just the beginning. The devaluation isn’t so much about how much a specific route will cost, but that they can change it on a whim. As time goes on, and more people book with companion passes, expect the peak routes, and vacation routes, to go well above 80 cents per point.

  4. I’m fairly new to the points game. Earlier this month I booked a “just in case” flight for my family to Tampa in September. Today when I checked the points required for the same flights were actually lower so I was able to change my reservations and save about 650 points on each. I was very happy with how easy it was to make the changes. I calculated the points per dollar and it is a 70 to 1 ratio. I guess the fares must have gone down since earlier this month.

  5. The highest I found was a flight to Aruba which was 80 points / $. I at first thought it was just international flights that were going up – thanks for the link to the Flyertalk thread which showed me that it was some domestic flights too

  6. You’re glad to see the increase is just 12%? I guess it could be worse… But 12%? And we haven’t even seen peak holiday pricing yet. I should tell my boss I only want a 12% raise. He’d think I was crazy.

    There’s no reason consumers should put up with this. Have you had enough? Do you want change? Join other frequent fliers who are protesting this change:

    Those who don’t make an effort to call out SWA on this bogus set up have no room to complain. To be silent is to be complicit.

    • Well I’m glad the worst we see so far is 12%….we have experienced much worse with other airline changes. However, I agree the real issue is how much it may change in the future…

  7. If the worst so far is 12% (which is A LOT in my book), I can’t imagine what the holidays will look like when people are trying to see their families. Imagine a family of four trying to travel during a peak time on points. What used to be 120k points is now 134400; or more. That is a major change.

    I expect this type of non-transparent behavior from other airlines, but not Southwest. It’s against their brand, and against everything they claim to stand for.

    • You must be a big fan of Delta as well because this is exactly the same thing as they just pulled, removing any reference point for what a reward flight should cost and making planning for the future an impossibility.

  8. I think 12% is a lot. But I have to say that on my last 9 domestic flights, all on Southwest, every one was completely full – so it’s hard to expect them to not take advantage of that.

    • Odd, I just took my first two Southwest flights, from MCO to MSY return and I was shocked at how empty the flights were compared to the United and American flights I am usually on. I would guess that we were about 65% full on the way out and 50% on the way back, versus 95%+ regularly on my United and American domestic flights.

  9. So does it ever make sense to transfer UR to WN anymore? UR can get 1.25-1.33 cents per point with standard travel redemptions and those EARN miles.

    • Can make sense to top off your account or if you have the Companion Pass and are basically getting 2x the value.

      • I am pretty sure you are not getting 2X the value, because cash fares also work for the Companion Pass, so, although you use half the points you otherwise would, you also would have only paid half the price.

  10. So, many of the fares priced in points have stayed the same and others have increased by as much as ~ 12%.

    Has anyone seen an example where the prices in points have DECREASED? Or is it just variable 70 points/dollar and up?

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