Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Miles Program: Changes for AirTran Flyers

Back in March of 2011, Southwest Airlines revamped its popular Rapid Rewards program, moving it from a credit-based system to one based on points. Now more changes are coming as Southwest continues its integration with AirTran which Southwest acquired in the fall of 2010 (and see the video below).

Update on Southwest’s Takeover of AirTran

Changes for AirTran Miles Members

Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards program has long been one of the most popular among fliers, because members feel it gives great value and Southwest hopes AirTran flyers will agree.

What You’ve Got to Know about Miles Programs

Although the two loyalty programs remain separate for now – Southwest’s Rapid Rewards and AirTran’s A+ Rewards – flyers who are enrolled in both can now transfer loyalty rewards between the two programs to redeem them for reward travel to 97 destinations, including Mexico and the Caribbean (served by AirTran).

Free Bags for AirTran? Not Yet

2011 Revisions to Rapid Rewards Program

Back in early 2011, I went on WFAA’s Good Morning Texas program to talk about what changed back then; if you’re not intimately familiar with this miles program, take a look:

The Southwest Difference

Southwest is hoping to make itself more attractive to business travelers who plunk down more money for travel, and the 2011 revisions made to its rewards program were geared to those flyers.

But what about leisure travelers? Southwest still has three big things going for it:

  1. Southwest offers relatively low fares and flies to a wide array of domestic cities plus AirTran’s Caribbean and Mexico destinations
  2. Southwest gives passengers free checked-bags
  3. Southwest has no change fees

Why Miles/Loyalty Programs Matter

For those of you not familiar with frequent flyer rewards, I urge you to learn more about how airline miles programs work because they’re worth it. With enough status, members can bypass many airline fees, which can be just as important as the chance to earn points for free travel.

See Southwest’s website for more on how AirTran and Southwest miles members can now transfer rewards between the two programs.

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Published: April 23, 2012