American and Southwest Airlines Amp Up Their Loyalty Rewards Programs

Customer loyalty was topic No. 1 this week for both Fort Worth-based American and Dallas-based Southwest—and both companies made moves to further reward it. On the same day, the airlines announced major rollouts and enhancements of their loyalty rewards programs. Here's how you could benefit.

Two giant Dallas-Fort Worth airlines found themselves on the same page this week—releasing big updates to their loyalty rewards programs on the very same day. The details should be good news for travelers whether you’re flying for business or pleasure.

Fort-Worth based American Airlines rolled out a new business loyalty program it calls the first of its kind. AAdvantage Business rewards both eligible companies and their travelers with AAdvantage miles and additional Loyalty Points for booking business travel on or on the American Airlines app. American says the program “offers a faster pathway to a more rewarding experience for companies and travelers alike.”

Focusing not just on business fliers but on all its Rapid Rewards program members, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines announced five enhancements to the award-winning loyalty program. The enhancements reward the airline’s loyal members “by making it easier for customers to earn tier status; awarding A-List Preferred Members with up to two complimentary premium drinks; and allowing customers to pay for Southwest flights using a combination of cash and Rapid Rewards points,” Southwest said.

Both companies were keen to stress how much they value their customers’ loyalty—and the pains they were taking to show it’s not taken for granted.

“American has built something no one else offers,” Scott Laurence, American’s SVP of partnerships and retailing, said in a statement. “We want to reward both the companies doing business with us and the traveler who’s actually flying in the airplane seat. It’s a win-win. We’ve designed a simple program that goes above and beyond in delivering rewards and tools that benefit everyone.”

American noted that companies who apply and are approved for the CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard will earn more rewards even faster.

Over at Southwest, VP of Marketing Jonathan Clarkson stressed how getting rewards would now be even easier for the airline’s customers.

“We’re making our award-winning Rapid Rewards program even stronger, by adding new enhancements to our loyalty program, making it even easier for members to earn and enjoy their benefits,” Clarkson said in a statement. “By lowering the tier requirements and making credit card spend count double toward tier requirements, we’re able to deepen engagement with our brand and cobranded credit cards, while maintaining the core program values that our customers know and love—including unlimited reward seats, no blackout dates, and points that don’t expire.”

Details of the new American Airlines program

American calls AAdvantage Business “a simple, convenient loyalty program for businesses of at least five employees, without any minimum spending requirement for the company to start earning miles.”

The details, per American: “For every $1 spent on eligible business travel, businesses earn 1 AAdvantage mile to redeem on travel and more including hotels, car rentals, Admirals Club lounges, and other experiences for employees. For that same $1 spent, eligible individual travelers earn 1 Loyalty Point that counts toward their accrual for earning status as an AAdvantage member. These Loyalty Points are in addition to any miles or Loyalty Points the traveler is earning as an AAdvantage member.”

An American Airlines spokesperson made some of this clearer in an article posted by Skift Research.

“If an employee goes to a conference—instead of the smaller business having to pay for travel—they can redeem miles for the employee’s flight, hotel, car rental, and an Admirals Club day pass too,” the spokesperson told Skift. “AAdvantage Business will be a much simpler program to manage travel with, now that it’s tied to the AAdvantage program. Business Extra was on a points currency, meaning customers had to convert points to miles to redeem on flights and other rewards.”

Details of the Southwest program enhancements

Southwest ticked off the details of its own five Rapid Rewards enhancements.

Per Southwest, a key enhancement will enable members to earn A-List status faster, with members only needing to fly 20 one-way qualifying flights (instead of the previous 25) or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points to reach A-List status.

Two other Southwest Rapid Rewards enhancements include enabling members to earn A-List Preferred Status faster and the ability to earn Tier Qualifying Points faster with Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase. 

Starting Nov. 6, Southwest A-List Preferred Members can receive up to two complimentary premium drinks per flight, added directly to their mobile boarding passes. And starting in Spring 2024, Southwest Rapid Rewards Members will have the option to pay for their flight with a combination of cash and points, starting with as few as 1,000 points, the airline said.

Skift Aviation Forum to be held November 1 at the Omni Fort Worth

By the way, the aforementioned Skift Research is presenting the Skift Aviation Forum at the Omni Fort Worth on November 1. The event will bring together CEOs and senior executives from across the airline industry to discuss the future of aviation.

One of the forum’s many scheduled topics: “How will loyalty program evolve?”

You can learn more about the aviation forum and register for it by going here.

Quincy Preston contributed to this report. 

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