Southwest Airlines has announced changes to make earning status easier from flying and from credit card spend, a new benefit to top tier status, and greater flexibility for all members in redeeming their points.
- Fewer segments to earn status: Starting next year, instead of flying 25 segments or earning 35,000 qualifying points, A-List status will require 20 segments (or still 35,000 points). A-List Preferred will require 40 segments, down from 50, or the same 70,000 qualifying points.
- Earn credit towards status twice as fast with card spend: Starting next year, the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier, Premier Business, Priority, and Performance Business Credit Cards will earn 1,500 qualifying points per $5,000 spend, which is double the previous rate of 1,500 per $10,000 spent. Those who spend towards a Companion Pass are going to earn status along the way more easily.
- Free drinks: A-List Preferred members will receive 2 complimentary drink coupons with their mobile boarding passes on flights of 176 miles or longer starting Nov. 6, 2023.
- New cash and points redemptions: Southwest’s redemptions are revenue-based, but you need all the points in your account to cover a redemption – which leads to breakage (accounts that don’t redeem all their points) and is really the only reason to transfer points from a program like Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest (since you may not be getting more value than redeeming points directly for paid travel). This changes in spring 2024 with the ability to combine points and cash for redemptions.
These are all positive changes to the program. It also tells me that Southwest is seeing fewer frequent business travelers than they did pre-pandemic, racking up flight segments, and that as a result their tiers may not have as many members in them as before. They’re also making the logical move to follow American and Delta (and the O.G. Frontier) in having credit cards count aggressively towards status-earning. That’ll be a reason to spend on their cards, in addition to companion pass-earning, when the value of the rewards earned for card spend are lower than you’d get elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Southwest’s top ‘A-List Preferred’ status isn’t significantly differentiated from their entry level A-List. Adding free drinks for their top tier is a move towards improving on that, and it’s very much on-brand. It also matches the top tier benefit at competing large airlines, and something carriers frequently offer to those who are in extra legroom seats (who are often elite) anyway.