I am a member of several frequent flyer programs. Some are better than others. Recently, I read an article by a leading travel expert, who is also a member of the multiple frequent flyer awards program club, though his top pick was different from mine. In this blog, I’ll share his and will follow up with a post about my favorite airline rewards program.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
If you are a frequent flyer on discount carrier Southwest, then it pays to be a member of its Rapid Rewards program. The program is about as simplistic as they come: After every eight round trips, you score a free Standard Award ticket. However, the flights must have been taken within the same two-year period. I like the way the airline automatically deposits your free flights into your account, though they expire after one year.
As one might expect, it’s not as easy to redeem the free tickets. Southwest only offers a limited number of award seats for each flight. However, you can work around this capacity restriction a bit by converting two Standard Awards into one Freedom Award, which basically guarantees you a seat on any flight, if one is available. In addition, unlike American Airline’s frequent flyer program, Southwest doesn’t charge a fee if you book award travel over the phone. The airline also doesn’t charge a fee if you cancel a trip and redeposit the award in your account or if you change your award ticket itinerary, or book at the last minute.
Are there blackout dates? You betcha! Southwest recently increased its blackout dates to 15 days per year (though that’s nothing compared to other programs) surrounding major holidays and long weekends. Limited blackout dates also apply to Freedom Awards.
For super frequent flyers (those that fly 32 times within two years) Southwest offers an A-list program, which lets you breeze through check-in and enjoy priority boarding. In addition, you can score double- and triple-mile bonuses for flying to and from specific markets.