Happy New Year, everybody! Indeed, today is a happy day, both for me personally and for Southwest Airlines, as we are officially unveiling our All-New Rapid Rewards program. I know many of you have been anxiously waiting for us to announce the details of the new program, and believe me, we have been just as anxious to share our plans with you. This is, after all, the single biggest new product launch in our Company’s history, and I am so proud to be a part of it. While the new program will not officially launch until March 1, 2011, we are announcing the details today to give our Members plenty of time to become familiar with the changes.
Believe it or not, we actually began work on enhancing our Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program several years ago. While I know that seems like an awfully long time, it is hard to comprehend the magnitude and scope that goes into revamping an entire loyalty program. If you think about it, our Rapid Rewards program impacts almost every single aspect of our operation and our Company, from our Frontline Employees, to our Customer Support and Services Representatives, to our Customer Relations and Rapid Rewards Employees, to our Technology folks and our Reservations system, to our policies and procedures–not to mention all of the research that goes into hearing what our Members want to see in a new program.
And that is exactly what the All-New Rapid Rewards program is all about–meeting your needs and the needs of today’s traveler. We began by asking you, our Customers, and even those who don’t currently fly on Southwest, what is important to them in a loyalty program. We conducted months of Customer surveys, focus groups, and research to find out what travelers like about our current program, what they don’t like, and what they’d like to see changed. Best of all – we listened!
You told us that you don’t like blackout dates, seat restrictions, expiring credits, and limited options for earning and redeeming your credits, and that you did want additional ways to redeem, including travel to international destinations. Well, do I have some good news for you! In the All-New Rapid Rewards program, Members can redeem their points for every seat, every day, on every flight, with absolutely no blackout dates or seat restrictions. Simply put, if we are selling the seat, you can redeem points for it. And points don’t expire as long as you have some earning activity in a 24-month time period. Members will earn points for every dollar spent, so the amount of points you earn is based on the fare and fare product purchased. The same is true for redeeming points.
Another new feature of the enhanced program that we are really excited about is that Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Cardmembers will not only be able to redeem their points for Southwest flights, but they will also be able to redeem their points for international flights to more than 800 worldwide destinations, for hotel stays, gift cards, and much more.
The new program is designed to give you, our Customers, more control and flexibility over how and when you earn and redeem your points. When you buy certain fare products, you earn more points. And you can get the most out of your points by planning ahead so you can redeem them for the lowest fare possible. When you can plan ahead, you spend fewer points, and when a flight goes on sale, the number of points needed to redeem for that flight goes on sale, too. In the new program, you have the flexibility to spend your points as you wish. After all, this is a program designed for you, and these are your points!
The new program also features enhancements for our A-List Members and includes a new level of status with the A-List Preferred level. A-List Members will now enjoy new benefits, including a 25 percent earning bonus on flights. Additionally, the new A-List Preferred level includes all of the benefits of A-List, plus a 100 percent earning bonus on flights in addition to a few other benefits. And we’re excited to carry our popular Companion Pass program into the All-New Rapid Rewards.
Of course, Current Rapid Rewards Members will retain their existing Awards and credits, and our A-List and Companion Pass Members will retain their status level in the new program. All Members will be enrolled in the new program, and there is no need for them to re-enroll.
There are far too many details of our new program for me to mention here, and we’ve developed a whole host of resources and information for you to learn about the All-New Rapid Rewards. I encourage you to watch the brief videos that accompany this post right here on our blog, as they help explain the crucial elements of the new program. Additionally, we created a special web site, www.newrapidrewards.com, where you can learn even more. Plus, existing Rapid Rewards Members should be on the lookout for information that we will send directly to them.
I know our Rapid Rewards program is beloved and has been around for 24 years, and for the most part, we haven’t really changed it that much. But the time for an upgrade has come, and we truly believe that we have taken an award-winning program and made it even better. I hope you will agree, and I wish you all the very best throughout the New Year!