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I wrote earlier about Southwest nuking the ability to transfer hotel points to Southwest Rapid Rewards and have those points count towards the Southwest Companion Pass. This was a very expected change but I was adamantly opposed to the way Southwest went about it.
First, they (and many others) have dubbed this a “loophole.” Since language regarding the ability to make such hotel transfers and have them count towards the Companion Pass was reportedly present and allowed in the previous terms and conditions, I still don’t see how this could be classified as a “loophole” (more on that in the article above).
But that aside, the main issue was that Southwest provided no notice before they removed this option for earning the Companion Pass and proceeded to remove it on January 1, 2017, the date on which many consumers were set up to redeem their Companion Passes with points transferred from hotel programs. AND, many purchased SPG points during the 50% off (targeted) promotion, which was the biggest discount for purchasing points ever offered by SPG in an effort to redeem those points through a Marriott Flight and Hotel package in order to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
So you had a long line of consumers eager to take advantage of a deal (explicitly allowed in the T&C) and then they had the rug pulled from under them to usher in the new year!
For a program that prides itself on transparency, or “transfarency,” this was a joke in my opinion. Also, it represented yet another airline making a significant change to a program with zero notice that undoubtedly screwed many people who otherwise would have taken different actions with even a little bit of notice.
But, Southwest heard our shouts (prayers?) and they’ve reversed their decision… temporarily, at least.
They released an official statement:
As we began the New Year on January 1, we took the opportunity to close a loophole in our Rapid Rewards Companion Pass terms and conditions related to transferred points from our Partners. This was an effort intended to clarify qualification requirements for Companion Pass, one of the best benefits in travel, as well as to protect the integrity and value of the Rapid Rewards program.
In doing so, we updated our terms and conditions which now clearly state that points transferred from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club will no longer count toward qualification for a Companion Pass. Members will continue to earn toward Companion Pass benefits through paid flights flown on Southwest, Points earned through spend with Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credit cards, and base points earned through transactions with Rapid Rewards partners.
Many of you have reached out to us since then, and we greatly appreciate your honest and candid feedback. Because we are a Company that values our Customers and believes in doing the right thing, we are offering a limited window for Customers to earn toward Companion Pass by transferring their loyalty points from these Partners.
To that end, points converted from the above mentioned programs will count towards a Companion Pass until March 31, 2017. This is a hard deadline and we will not be able to make any exceptions beyond March 31. If you have points with these Partners that you wanted to transfer, please do not wait. Make the transfer before the deadline.
We appreciate all of our Customers and look forward to seeing you onboard very soon!
Once again, I’m not a fan a fan of the loophole language since I don’t think that really applies, but I’m a huge fan of them extending the deadline to make transfers until March 31, 2017. That’s a big move as it will give consumers plenty of time to get their points already earned (or nearly earned) transferred to Southwest with enough time to get their Companion Pass.
In my opinion, Southwest avoids a black eye by offering this extension, since it was the lack of notice that was the big issue and not the change itself.
I personally don’t have a problem with them killing the ability to transfer hotel points to earn the Companion Pass. For one, once that option became more publicized most of us knew it would be happen at some point and second, it’s their right to make their own business decisions to maximize earnings. And as long as they provide reasonable notice for such changes, I can’t take any issue with them for doing what’s good for business.
So let this be a lesson learned that voicing your concern and frustration with changes from these programs can result in changes and isn’t a waste of time. Hopefully other airlines and loyalty programs will be more like Southwest and listen to their customer base in order to make compromises that serve the interests of both parties. As I said before, I love Southwest, and with this latest decision to modify their policy, I think I love them a bit more.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.