When it comes to making elite status in its Rapid Rewards program a must-have status for high-frequency flyers, Southwest is at a considerable competitive disadvantage. With no first-class seats or airport lounges, there’s just not much that Southwest can offer super-loyalists in exchange for their business.
The most substantive perk available to Southwest high-flyers is the Companion Pass – free travel for a designated companion – earned after logging 100 one-way flights during a calendar year. But other benefits of A-List and A-List Preferred status are notably humdrum: priority boarding and check-in, an earning bonus, dedicated phone line, and so on.
This week, Southwest added one more perk to that short list of benefits available to its elite members: free standby status on alternative flights. Normally, flyers on most tickets are charged the difference in fares when changing flights.
Somewhat surprisingly for an airline that prides itself on simplicity and consumer-friendliness, the new benefit comes loaded down with conditions and restrictions.
Please see a Customer Service Agent at the airport for this benefit. New flight must depart within two hours of original scheduled departure, between the same city pairs, and on the original date of travel. On flights outside of the two-hour free same-day standby window, A-List and A-List Preferred Members will receive priority standby and will be required to pay the difference in fare if a seat becomes available. Free same-day standby and priority standby will not be provided for non-A-List or non-A-List Preferred Members in the same reservation.
For those who already considered elite status with Southwest pursuit-worthy, the addition of the new perk makes it a bit more so. For others, it’s just too modest to be a difference-maker.
Reader Reality Check
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.