The End Of An Era At Southwest

Helaine and I are big supporters of Southwest Airlines’ frequent flier program, “Rapid Rewards.”

First, we like Southwest. The employees usually seem friendly and helpful The flight crews act as if they enjoy their job. This is uncommon in the airline industry.

Second, it is much easier to get a ticket. Most airlines make you accrue 25,000 ‘miles’… sometimes more in peak season. Southwest charges 18,500 for a free ticket.

Even more important, if there’s a seat on a plane, your voucher for a free flight is good! There are no restrictions other than a few dates (very few).

Now this is changing and I’m not happy.

No Blackout Dates and Seat Restrictions on Award Travel

Beginning February 10, 2006, all Awards issued will have no systemwide blackout dates and will be subject to seat restrictions. Restricting the number of seats for Awards helps us maintain our low-fare leadership and keeps the program lucrative for you.

Please plan ahead when making your flight reservations as certain holiday or peak travel periods will be in high demand and your desired flight may not be available for Award travel.

Here are a few more things you should know

* Awards issued before February 10, 2006 will have no seat restrictions, but are subject to published blackout dates.

* Awards issued on or after February 10, 2006 will have seat restrictions, but no systemwide blackout dates. Members need to be flexible when choosing times and dates to their destinations as certain holiday or peak travel periods will be in high demand and that makes booking Award travel difficult.

* Last-minute Award usage will still be allowed based on seat availability.

* Awards are still valid for 12 months.

* Receiving a Companion Pass still only requires 100 credits within in 12 months.

* Companion travel will still have no seat restrictions or blackout dates

When I read words like, “keeps the program lucrative for you,” I am tempted to count my fingers. This is not being done for me. This is not my choice of what would be.

Southwest didn’t ask – and I assume the reason is they already knew how I, and others, feel.

Here’s the most distasteful part of all of this. When an airline restricts capacity, no one is ever told how restrictive it is. There is no transparency. So, when Southwest says, “no systemwide blackout dates,” the words might be true, but with an incredibly large fudge factor added.

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