Southwest's frequent flyer program has become irrelevant to me

Southwest Rapid Rewards logo

I've been a big fan of Southwest Airlines for years.

And until last spring, I would have told you Southwest had the best frequent flyer program in the industry.

You made 16 one-way trips within two years, and you got a free ticket to anywhere Southwest flew.

It was so beautifully simple that it was one of the few loyalty programs that actually worked on me.

It made me more likely to fly Southwest.

Then the airline changed its frequent flyer program, and simple flew out the window.

Take the October Rapid Rewards Report that just popped into my inbox.

According to this email, I now have three different types of points and two different types of "qualifying flights."

I am the proud holder of:

Another box has my Transition Activity Status with a couple of different numbers regarding my progress toward A-List Status and a companion ticket.

There's also a button to log in and View Full Account Details.

You mean there's more?

Next to my point status is a note from Ryan Green, the airline's senior director of customer loyalty and partnerships.

"It has been seven months since we launched the All-New Rapids Reward program," Mr. Green writes, "and it comes as no surprise to see so many of our Members becoming pros at earning and redeeming points."

Good grief. I don't want to be in a frequent flyer program that's so complicated I have to become "a pro" to figure it out.

Then Mr. Green says: "We encourage you to show off your knowledge by participating in our newest Rapid Rewards promotion, the Chief Reward Officer 30 Million Points Giveaway!"

I'm sorry, this is a loyalty program not graduate school.

I'm not interested in playing "videos, quizzes and games" in order to win more points. I have work to do.

So what happened when I had to travel from Chicago to New York last week?

I could have flown Southwest to LaGuardia.

Under the old Rapid Rewards Program, I know the round trip would have earned two segments toward my next free ticket.

I always knew how many segments I had -- remembering a number between 0 and 16 is pretty easy.

If I had 14 segments in the bank, I would have known that booking last week's trip on Southwest would have meant another free ticket.

But under the new system, I would have earned hundreds or thousands of points to add to a total that I don't know and gets me what exactly?

Every free ticket now requires a different number of points. In many ways, the new Southwest program is more complicated than the other frequent flyer programs I'm in.

As a result, Southwest's new Rapid Rewards program played no part in my decision.

I booked on Delta.

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