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And the Freddie Goes to...Southwest Airlines


April 24, 2008 was quite a night for our frequent flyer program, Rapid Rewards. After a year of ups and downs in the airline industry, we were thrilled to win three awards and place in the top five in four other categories at the 20th Annual Freddie Awards.

For those of you who don't know what a Freddie is, let me explain. As David Grossman points out in his article in USA Today , the Freddie's are essentially the Oscar's for frequent traveler programs. Each year, InsideFlyer magazine invites members of all frequent traveler programs to vote for the programs they feel deliver the best combination of benefits, awards, and returns on loyalty from the traveler's point of view. The winners are determined by the overall merits of each program and were chosen this year after travelers cast more than 625,000 ballots. (Twenty years ago, only 864 ballots were cast...that's a 72,000% increase!)

We were thrilled to take home first place honors for Best Award Redemption, Best Award, and Best Member Communications. Best Award Redemption is the Award that honors the Program that makes redeeming an Award the most "flyer friendly" (Award seat availability, fees involved in booking an Award - of which we have none, ease of the process, etc.), and it was our tenth consecutive year to win this honor! No one else has won this trophy since it was created in 1998! It was also our very first year to win Best Member Communications, the Award that honors the Program that communicates most effectively with its Members through various channels. And as if those weren't enough, we also placed in the top five in four other categories, including: Program of the Year, Best Web Site for, Best Customer Service, and Best Elite Level.

It was a great night, and occasions like these always give you a chance to reflect back on the events of the past year.

Last year we made some significant changes to Rapid Rewards--adding the Rapid Rewards' A-List and a second redemption option, the Freedom Award. Despite some criticism, these Freddies seem to reaffirm that our Members think these are positive changes, and they responded by showing support with their votes.

It also was a year of tireless effort by the folks on my Team and others who worked diligently to bring our Members the things they have come to expect - relevant communications; relevant partner offers; and frequent, fast Awards.

The event also gave me a chance to think about how much we owe to all of our frontline Employees who interact with our Members on a daily basis. They keep the promises we Marketing folks make, and the truth of the matter is...they're the secret to our loyalty program's success.

So, as I lugged my suitcase through the airport--which was considerably heavier because of the trophies we were bringing home (and which gave the TSA fits as it went through security!)--I found myself looking forward to next year's event. I wonder what's in store? No doubt we'll continue to look for ways to improve our Program, keeping it relevant and fresh for our Members in the months and years to come.

Explorer C
I think it's Freddie, but either way congratulations!
Aviator C
Charlie, Mea culpa. As you can see it is correct now Brian
Explorer C
Southwest's trophy display case is going to need more mounts to keep it on the wall!! Great job!
Explorer B
No, not a reaffirmation that your changes were positive, just reaffirmation that every other carrier's program is worse. Unfortunately, with award programs these days, it is not the best that wins, simply the least worst that wins.
Explorer C
Was it before or after 4/24 and your prestigious award that you decided to double your fee for using an award, and begin forcing your 'loyal' customers to use TWO awards just to get the nonstop flight that we could get for one award until just recently. What is this all about??? FREEDOM AWARD??? I guess the awards we have been working for all this time are now only worth half of what they were worth. I didn't complain when you raised the number of $dollars that had to be spend to get a point on your SW VISA card, but this is ridiculous! I am very disappointed.
Explorer C
Trying to use a rapid rewards certificate is like thring to by $2.00 gasoline! About impossible. Rewards are worth half of what they once were. I'm baililing out on your NEW PROGRAM
Explorer C
This is the first time I have blogged anything. Congratulations on the award. I was trying to find a place on the website to thank you for your improvements. I love the numbering system for boarding the plane. I really wanted to thank you for how easy it was to change a reservation. I was hearing horror stories from friends that it was going to cost me a fortune to change my return flight to a later date. It cost me $19 and I was able to do it all online. Thank you!! I don't understand the other comments about the reward flights. I just used mine and it only cost me $5. I have started flying SW exclusively the past few years and love it. I'll fly SW even without the rewards but it is a nice perk.
Explorer C
It's ridiculous that you advertise "Business Select" seats and charge more for them. I was on flight 3339 to Orlando and my Position # was #1. I sould have been number 1 on the plane...I ended up in row 12! About 30 people "including animals, boarded in front of me. Im going back to Delta, who knows how to treat their loyal business travelers.
Explorer C
I have a house in Las Vegas and presently work in Orange County. I fly 2-3 weekends per month leaving on Friday after work and returning before 9am on Mondays. I am a JetBlue baby until they changed their schedule and it was just impossible for me to fly with them. The last time I flew Southwest a very long time ago, it was filthy! Last weekend I am forced to fly Southwest because of their schedule. Not actually very convenient to fly from Ontario when I live and work in Anaheim but I had no choice. I was very much surprised to see how easy it was and how nice and clean the plane is. No fuss about their service either and even without a personal TV, service was outstanding. I have a new LUV!
Explorer C
Its one of the biggest scandels in recent past, , , Freedom Award. More like jam it in the customer's %^$ Award. Listen everyone, I signed on to the credit card years and years ago when it first came out and signed on as a business so all my employees could benefit also. Hey, free flights when one of them needed to get to a family member or to an occasion. What better thing is that? And the purchases were for the company or them. They keep track of it and do an honest and good job at it. I use mine religiously for everything including my monthly bills and pay it off every month, , , it's a huge bill each and every month. I expect to get what I signed on for. A credit as the defined rate which was raised without a stink to 16 credits or 16 thousand dollars spent out of your pocket which puts money from every purchase you make into a Southwest CEO pocket. THEY MAKE MONEY ON YOUR LIFE TOO. I called and complained this week and this sweet lady on the phone kept repeating the same line, "I'm sorry and we do apologize." She said it 9 times! Oh here comes a YouTube phone call conversation. What's that about?? You're sorry?? You're apologizing for shoving it up. I hate to tell you but it's the truth, Southwest has gone south on a crooked trail. I am closing my Southwest Card today and will never use the service again or the airline no matter what. US here we come. I would rather fly on an airline that at least says what really happened in the board room when the person responsible for this said to everyone at the table, "We just need to tell them the truth, we're raising the non-restricted to 32 thousand dollars spent and see where the chips land." instead of, "Let's make it sound better than it is, we'll call it the FREEDOM award, everyone loves the word FREEDOM. They won't figure it out. Blackout dates are worse and tell them they wanted it anyway. Yeah, a survey. We'll tell them THEY told us from the SURVEY to spend double. Hold it, just tell them they VOTED that way. Yeah, , , a VOTE. Everyone loves to VOTE." Well here it comes, FREEDOM to VOTE right up our . . . . . I never ever had an issue with Blackout Dates, kind of figured it was a tough time anyway to get a seat and the airline was telling us the truth. They could sell more seats, make more profit and are telling the truth when they said Blackout. Anyway the word Blackout is a negative term, a bad thing, and doesn't even come close to the warm and fuzzy feeling I got when I heard, FREEDOM award. Get screwed or don't, , , you have the FREEDOM to chose. Good luck Southwest, I noticed my last two flights had plenty of seats left on them and it was to the Kentucky Derby, , , must have been two-for-one Freedom seats and everyone one couldn't sit down because their butts were sore. ( was told no seats were available on an earlier flight, called back in less than two minutes, got a different person on the phone and got seats on the same earlier flight, , , hmmmmm. FREEDOM's that no one took you up on maybe? Give the Freedie back to Fred, See ya, wouldn't want to be ya, and I won't be coming back like the rest of the customers you're going to lose. I can hear it now, "Oh hold it, we'll just reduce the fee to 1.5 and call it the PATRIOTIC award. Everyone loves a PATRIOT. . . You think maybe, , , GRANDMA award. Naaaaaa, to sappy." Won't work! We're on to you. I apologize. . . Bill
Explorer C
Totally agree with Bill!! (Freedom Award is BS!) Give back the Regular availability of Rapid Rewards seating with blackout dates! As I wait for a reply from someone, again I picked up this months issue of Spirit magazine while traveling on Southwest Airlines as I do weekly. I re-read a line in the Star of the Month page that slipped past me the first time I read it and was again annoyed: [ ..."Best Award Redemption", which recognizes the program that has the most frequent flyer award seats available for Customers to redeem. ] Really? Well, this number might be high enough to win an award from Inside Flyer Magazine, BUT, it's not high enough for me to make use of my rewards! What does a Customer of Southwest (who is also a Rapid Rewards member, Companion Pass holder and "A" lister) have to do to get a seat using his Rapid Rewards? I have tried countless times, months in advance, to use my Rapid Rewards to book trips to visit family or have them fly to visit me. The number of available Rapid Rewards seats currently available to Customers seems VERY limited. Most times when I do find an available seat with a Reward it's only for half of the trip I'm trying to book. Then I’m forced to pay to get a one way ticket on another airline for the second half of the trip. What makes this lack-of-seats-inconvenience even sadder is, one time I had to PAY $405 for a second half of an itinerary ON SOUTHWEST because it was the cheapest. Why am I paying for tickets to book what should be, a free roundtrip book able with my large number of saved Rapid Rewards? I (or any Southwest Customer) should not have to sit at the computer playing a game of chance in order to use their Rewards. It would be nice to see the number of available Rapid Rewards seats raised to a level where myself and others that frequently fly your airline might have a chance at booking one 3-4 months in advance. Is that too much to ask? Your Customers DON'T CARE about Freddie awards!