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Southwest Adds Wyndham Hotels to Its Loyalty Program

Southwest made big news yesterday by failing in its bid to buy bankrupt Frontier Airlines.

But on the same day, and on a decidedly lesser note, the airline did announce a successful acquisition of a different sort: a new partner for its Rapid Rewards program.

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Effectively immediately, Rapid Rewards members can earn credits for stays at 6,000 Wyndham Hotel Group properties under the following brand names: Wyndham, Ramada, Days Inn, Super 8, Wingate, Baymont Inn & Suites, Microtel Inn & Suites, Hawthorn Suites, Howard Johnson, Travelodge, and Knights Inn.

The normal earning rate will be a half credit for every stay. But to promote the new tie-up, Rapid Rewards members will be awarded triple credits for the second stay, through the end of the year. To earn credits, travelers must also be members of the Wyndham Rewards program, and have Southwest selected as their preference for earning airline rewards.

Southwest has been a laggard in expanding earning and awards opportunities for Rapid Rewards members. And even with this latest addition, its program is still pretty bare bones, with just 17 program partners. American, by contrast, boasts more than 1,000 companies awarding miles in its AAdvantage program.

With its recent focus on offering services and amenities targeted to business travelers, enhancing Rapid Rewards has clearly been repositioned closer to the top of the airline's priority list.

There's also new competitive pressure coming from JetBlue, which will be launching a thoroughly redesigned program this fall.

For an airline of Southwest's size, its loyalty program is still on the anemic side. But adding the Wyndham network is at least a down payment on a brighter future for Rapid Rewards members.

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