Clark Howard

3 Big Changes Are Coming to Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines has announced some changes that affect their Rapid Rewards loyalty program, Companion Passes, plus A-List and A-List Preferred Members who take advantage of same-day standby status.

Fly Southwest Airlines? These Rule Changes Could Affect You

One of the changes has already gone into effect, one takes effect in the near future and one won’t come into play until 2021. This is how it breaks out…

Rapid Rewards Changes

As of October 17, your Rapid Rewards points are no longer in danger of expiring. Prior to that, points would expire if there was no activity on your account for two years.

With this change, Southwest joins Delta, JetBlue and United in the “points/miles never expire” club.

Companion Pass Changes

Southwest's Rapid Rewards Companion Pass is highly sought after because, once earned, it allows you to choose someone to fly free with you for the remainder of the year in which you earn it plus the entire next calendar year (you pay only taxes and fees).

Currently, you must fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points to get the pass.

As of January 1, 2020, you will need to collect 125,000 Companion Pass qualifying points to earn the pass for the following full calendar year. The 100 qualifying one-way flights requirement in unchanged.

If you are currently working toward earning a Companion Pass in 2019, you can still do it as long as you earn 110,000 qualifying points by December 31. The pass will be good throughout 2020.

Team Clark travel expert Clara Bosonetto says that despite the increase in the number of points required to obtain the pass, it's a real positive that Southwest is still allowing points accrued with credit cards to apply to the total.

“If the Companion Pass is the goal, racking up those credit card points becomes even more attractive,” she says.

Same-Day Standby Changes

Same-day standby is a Southwest policy that allows certain travelers to change their reservations if they want to leave on an earlier flight, assuming there is space on that flight.

Currently, there is no charge at all for A-List and A-List Preferred Members to take advantage of same-day standby.

Beginning January 1, 2021, any A-List or A-List Preferred Members who use same-day standby will be responsible for paying any additional government fees and taxes that result from the change in flights.

Members still will not be responsible for paying any difference in fares, as long as the new flight leaves prior to the original one on the same date of travel and is between the same city pairs.

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