Today Southwest Airlines announced that members of AirTran A+ Rewards and Southwest Rapid Rewards can now transfer points between the two programs.
Key points to remember:
>Members of both programs now have access to a total of 97 destinations in the two airlines’ combined networks. (See above for all Southwest destinations. Click here for AirTran route map.)
>The two programs remain separate for now—today’s announcement is about point conversion between the two programs. It’s not about a merger of the two programs. Eventually, the AirTran program will disappear, but Southwest would not commit to any specific date for this. (Last we heard, AirTran will be around until at least 2015!)
>In order for the conversion to work, you’ve got to be a member of Southwest Rapid Rewards—if you’ve not joined yet, here’s how.
>Southwest says that the new conversion site is similar to online banking sites where users can transfer money between multiple accounts online and in real time.
>Unfortunately, transferring AirTran points to the Southwest program won’t extend their life. Southwest says, “When transferring A+ Rewards Credits into Rapid Rewards Credits, the expiration date of the newly created Rapid Rewards credits will remain the same as the original expiration date of the A+ Rewards Credits converted.”
>Points transfers will not count toward elite status in either program. Points or credits earned by qualifying flight or partner activity will count toward elite status in the program in which they were earned.
>While Southwest would not reveal specific membership numbers, it’s safe to say that the Rapid Rewards membership base is exponentially larger than AirTran’s. All those Southwest Rapid Rewards members will (for the first time ever) be able to redeem points for international flights—meaning AirTran flights to Mexico and the Caribbean. With that in mind, AirTran members with plans to redeem A+ points for trips to these destinations should act fast—there is going to be a run on award flights by the zillions of members of Rapid Rewards, and the award seats are capacity controlled.
>Along the same lines as the above blurb, the zillions of Southwest Rapid Rewards members will now have access to those nice AirTran business class seats using their converted points for upgrades or awards…so it’s going to get tougher to sit up front on the dwindling number of AirTran business class seats out there…
>The points conversion site will live on Southwest.com—AirTran members will find links to the new conversion site from the AirTran.com A+ Rewards page.
>One A+ Rewards credit will convert into one Southwest Rewards credit, which means it will take 16 AirTran A+ Reward credits to equal one standard roundtrip award on Southwest.
>In the Southwest program, once your account reaches 16 credits, one standard roundtrip award credit is automatically generated, which expires in one year. So if you transfer 16 A+ Rewards into Southwest credits, a standard roundtrip award is automatically generated, which is valid for one year. (Note: Southwest’s Standard Award can be split into two in order to use for two separate one-way flights. But you cannot generate a one-way award with only eight credits, as you can now do on AirTran.)
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