The Loyalty Program Guide to Southwest Airlines

By Amanda Wowk

September 03, 2019

Travel enough and you start to notice the difference between the haves and the have-nots. That is, those travelers who have elite status (and the perks that come along with it) and those that don’t. If you’re in the latter part of that passenger profile, you might be asking yourself questions like: What are the perks of signing up for a frequent flyer program? How can I receive complimentary upgrades? Is there a secret password for accessing an airline’s lounge? Is it really worth it to pursue the top-tier status?

With these questions in mind, our team set out to better understand not only what it means to have elite status with a US-based airline, but what we could be missing having say, Gold status versus Platinum. In this multi-part series, we answer these questions—and more—about domestic carriers’ loyalty programs.

Southwest Airlines

How to earn points with Southwest Airlines

Travelers part of Southwest’s frequent flyer program are known as Rapid Rewards® Members. As members of this loyalty program, travelers earn points on Southwest flights based on the ticket price and fare type. Rapid Rewards® members can also earn points with Southwest’s partners when you shop, dine, rent a car, stay in a hotel, and more. There are so many ways to earn points, both in the air and on the ground. Best of all, your points don’t expire as long as you have flight-earning or partner-earning activity at least once every 24 months.

Fare typeRapid Rewards® points per dollar
Wanna Get Away?®6 points
Anytime10 points
Business Select®12 points

Rapid Rewards® points can be used for award travel and other redemptions. For example, you can fly round-trip in economy from BOS to FLL for as little as 7,837 points; EWR to SFO for just 15,092 points; and from DTW to LAX for 18,140 points. Want to make the most of your points? Enroll in Southwest’s weekly Rapid Rewards® email newsletter to learn about getaway deals within your points budget.  

As members of this loyalty program, travelers earn points on Southwest flights based on the ticket price and fare type.

How to achieve elite status with Southwest Airlines

Once you become a Rapid Rewards® member, you immediately start accruing towards an elite status. Southwest’s elite status program has two tiers: A-List and A-List Preferred. Elite status is earned either through flying a certain number of one-way qualifying flights or earning a certain number of qualifying points in a calendar year. Members have from January 1 to December 31 every year to qualify for elite status. 

Here’s what it takes to achieve each tier:  

TierA-ListA-List Preferred
One-way qualifying flights2550
Qualifying tier points35,00070,000

In addition to the above tiers, Southwest offers a Companion Pass perk, available to status members who fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. Companion Pass allows one person to fly with you for free (plus the government-imposed September 11th Security Fee of $5.60 per one-way trip) whenever you purchase or redeem points for a flight. Once you’ve earned Companion Pass, you have it for the following full calendar year, plus the remainder of the year in which you earned it. 

Companion Pass allows one person to fly with you for free whenever you purchase or redeem points for a flight.

Here for the benefits

You’ve flown the mileage and earned the points, now it’s time to cash in on the perks. Each elite tier yields its own benefits, starting with earning more points from your flights.

Fare typeRapid Rewards® points earned per dollarA-List points earned per dollarA-List Preferred points earned per dollar
Wanna Get Away?®6 points7.5 points12 points 
Anytime10 points12.5 points20 points
Business Select®12 points15 points24 points

Here’s what else you’re eligible for at each tier:

A-List

  • Priority boarding
  • Fly By® priority check-in and security lane access
  • Dedicated customer service phone line
  • Free same-day standby

A-List Preferred

  • Priority boarding
  • Fly By® priority check-in and security lane access
  • Dedicated customer service phone line
  • Free same-day standby
  • Free in-flight Wi-Fi

For a full list of perks, visit the status benefits page. 

Partner airlines

While Southwest is not currently part of an airline alliance, Rapid Rewards® members can use their points on 50+ global carriers to travel internationally. Head to the Redeem for More Rewards page and click “Explore Rewards” to view the reward portal and your international travel options.

Hubs and lounges

Southwest Airlines is based in Dallas, TX (DAL), with several focus cities across the US, including: 

Southwest does not currently operate its own lounges. Instead, use the TripIt app’s interactive airport maps to locate lounges in the airport(s) you’re traveling through. You’ll have everything you need to navigate your way with estimated walk times and step-by-step directions.

Ready to join? You can sign up for a Rapid Rewards® membership here. You can also explore the loyalty programs offered by Delta, JetBlue, and Alaska Airlines