Southwest Kills Companion Pass Earning Option Without Advance Warning

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Southwest updated their Companion Pass terms and conditions today to exclude point transfers from hotels.

The new paragraph they added into the terms excludes point transfer from hotel partners as Companion Pass qualifying,

“Purchased points, transferred points transferred between members, points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club, points earned from program enrollment, tier bonus points, flight bonus points, and partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not qualify as Companion Pass Qualifying Points.”


This effectively kills the 90K Starpoints transfer into 120K Southwest points, companion pass, and 7 nights in a Marriott hotel.

There are still some other great Starwood transfer options including 90K Starpoints for 132K United miles and 7 nights in a Marriott hotel. Or until 1/6/17 you can transfer Starpoints into Alaska miles via Virgin America at an outstanding 1:1.625 ratio.

When I wrote about that deal back in September I wrote,

“If you transfer points now then the Companion Pass status will expire on 12/31/17.
If you wait to do the transfer until 2017 then the Companion Pass status would last until 12/31/18. Then again, it’s always possible for Southwest to stop awarding Companion Pass status for hotel transfers, so you might want to take advantage of this deal while it’s still alive.”


And that’s exactly what Southwest has done. I’m just disappointed that Southwest didn’t give any advance warning. So much for Southwest being different than the network carriers.

#WhereIsTheLuv?

Feel free to Retweet to get Southwest’s attention:

You can also complain to the DoT about Southwest’s change without warning here.

HT: mochjas, via DDF and TPG

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48 Comments on "Southwest Kills Companion Pass Earning Option Without Advance Warning"

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Sean

What a way to advance their brand in the new year lol

Mountain Man

Ouch!

Andrew

honestly… why would they give people companion pass for anything other than flying with them? short notice sucks though, but I understand why they’d want to kill this.

Dan

@Andrew:
I agree with you, but changes without notice are dirty pool.

AsherO

Southwest is now one of the big-four, and they act the part too :)

Z

Just purchased ~$1,200 via the star woods bonus worth of points to get this. – shocked it’s no longer available.

Mike

Thanks for warning Dan- I was about to make transfers tommorow as I was waiting till new year bc have companion already for 2017- now I may do united instead.

Dan

@AsherO:
Indeed :(

@Z:
That stinks.

Might want to wait a couple days to let the dust settle, but otherwise the Alaska or United options in this post are very good ones.

Or try filing a complaint with the DoT about the Southwest change.
http://airconsumer.dot.gov/escomplaint/ConsumerForm.cfm

Southwest

By the way this has always been in their fine print (points earned from organ enrollment) but they never actually followed it. I got my last companion pass with opening two cards 50k bonus on each.

Dan

@Southwest:
Not true. The old language did not exclude hotel transfers.

Mendy613

Wow that sucks!
On the other hand though, it’s nice that they officially sanctioned bonus points from credit card sign-ups. They never excluded them but never officially allowed it.

SK

Off topic. But can you please clarify if the Marriott 7 night certificate can be used as 7 different nights in 7 different hotels or must be used in one hotel 7 days in a row?

Dan

@SK:
It must be in one hotel for 7 consecutive nights.

Steeeveknowsbest

Wow! That stinks I have 270k Marriott poised to go…

L

Wowwwww!
I was literally on the SPG page about to xfer pts to Marriott for the CP tomorrow when I got the tweet. Thank you!

Wonder if they’ll reverse this at all, or if I should xfer to Alaska for an emirates redemption

If going to do Alaska, best to do via Virgin America before 1/6/17 right? to get the 62% bonus?

Mountain Man

I hope they don’t take away free cancellations and free bags next.

Dan

@L:
Try filing a DoT complaint, but you do need to do the Virgin transfer by 1/6 to take advantage of that bonus.

Tzvi

Just to clarify, can you still get the companion pass from the bonus of opening 2 southwest cards?

sam

Hi Dan. If we still go ahead with Starwood to Marriott option, do we still get the 120K miles with southwest airlines, with no companion pass?

Dan fan

So the bonus’s from the 50k rewards cards still work, right?

DFW Jon

Thanks for the heads up Dan. Curious, what is the likely response from a DOT complaint? Any data points?

Dan

@Tzvi:
Yes.

@sam:
Yes.

@Dan fan:
Yes.

@DFW Jon:
They’ll open an investigation and they may compel Southwest to give a grace period or they may do nothing.

Anonymous

Get even

All with SW points should book same flight and all cancel 1 hr before the flight.
Make them fly empty

Barry Graham

I’m not complaining, I prefer other airlines anyway!

Meir

@Dan
I transferred before this update came out and possibly even before they changed the language… what are the chances I can get them to honor it on the basis that the terms weren’t updated yet? Or just try Dot?
Any help is appreciated.

frank m

Dan, get real as far as being warned beforehand.

If you knew this was going to happen, Southwest would still be crushed with a bunch of companion passes earned via hotel transfers that expire 12/31/17. They don’t want that either.

Anyone with a brain would know that they were taking a chance by waiting. You even mentioned that in your post. This benefit has been way overpublicized too by many bloggers, so you knew sooner or later it was going to go away.

WingIt

If we file a DOT complaint, any suggestion on what to write? and under Personal Information, should we choose I am: “Other” ?

This STINKS when a company, and we are not talking about mom-and-pop store here, pulls the rug under lots of customers.

Emgee

@frank m: they could of just pulled it right away if that’s the case. They obviously enjoyed the free advertisement as long as it worked best for them and conveniently pulled it without notice, that’s quite unfair .

Samd

I don’t see why anyone would even consider filing a complaint. I don’t think that Airline points are aGod given right. It’s their program and they give you these points on Goodwill. Nothing obligates them to have a loyalty program at all. Filing enough complaints will eventually result in the airlines repealing loyalty programs altogether

Doug

Really annoying SWA / LUV. You need to give notice to a structural change in the program. In my case I would have change some 2016 tickets to Business Select to get the Companion Pass and A List Select. Instead just have this annoying change without notice.

Dan

@Meir:
Email Southwest executives and file a DoT complaint.

@frank m:
How does that justify a major change without notice?

@WingIt:
That works.
And it does stink.

@Samd:
No, airlines make billions selling their miles to banks and hotels.

They owe people who collect them notice of major changes. The DoT has said that they may get involved in major changes made without warning.

Meir

@Dan
Will do, how do I find the email address for Southwest executives?

Sharon

You all might want to take to social media to let SW know how you feel. Maybe bad press will get their attention and they’ll reverse their decision

avi

@Meir:
first initial and last name @ southwest.com
https://hunter.io/search/southwest.com

ad120

While another one bites the dust, thank you WN for the experiences!

dave

Too bad. This was really something for nothing while it lasted. I was greedy and was going to do this later this month to extend the life of the companion pass. At least the companion pass with credit card bonuses is still alive. Thanks for the heads-up.

David

@Anonymous: LOL! Yes… get it going on the forums and Reddit.

burton

Hi everyone. If you tried to redeem hotel points for a Southwest Companion Pass but are now unable to redeem, please contact me using the form at http://theburtonfirm.com/contact-us/. Our law firm is exploring potential claims based upon possible anti-consumer activity.

Southwest

@dan but how do you know they will suddenly start following their fine print? They haven’t been keeping to their rules ever..

Steven R.

Dan, why would you encourage people to file a DoT complaint over this? You know that this serves no constructive purpose and that SWA is not violating any regulations here.

This has been nothing more than people taking advantage of Southwest to get CP. It costs them money, and probably a lot of it. If they had given advance warning, it would just have encouraged more people to take advantage before the deadline and resulted in them issuing far more companion passes.

Seriously, think about what you are suggesting. Southwest should have given advance warning to the people who were deliberately gaming the system to let them know to hurry up and game the system before the loophole was closed?

It’s not even like Southwest took anything away from people or revoked companion passes that had already been issued. They simply said, “if you were planning on doing X, it’s not going to work anymore.”

You should follow the example of some of your commentators and be grateful that SWA made this available for so long, enabled so many people to take advantage, and still allows CPQPs from 2x signup bonuses. Your outrage-mongering here is shameful.

Dan

@Steven R.:
Why is it gaming the system?

They have always counted hotel points for CP status.

If they don’t like that, then give warning of a change. That’s the fair way to deal with your loyalty members.

If DoT disagrees with me that’s fine. But why in the world shouldn’t people let them know?

E&N

Anonymous, that’s about the worst idea I’ve ever heard. Hurt SW with last minute cancellations so they fly empty? DO we want to push them into changing their incredibly beneficial cancellation policy??

SOZ

I should not be surprised that SWA has reps lurking/posting on this blog.

wingit

@Steven R.:
Big companies often believe they can act with impunity against customers; but, fortunately we have governing bodies such as DOT which at times help level the playing field. So, to answer your question, the constructive part that can come out of a filing a DOT complaint in this instance is SWA needs to be reminded they will be held accountable if they do not act fairly towards their customers.

Dan has been nice enough to provide a reasonable idea (for action) for those who feel they have been unfairly treated, maybe it would be constructive if more folks would consider taking some time to write the DOT.

And to the guy who suggests arranging coordinated cancellations of flights so SWA flies empty planes – stop being childish.

Steven R.

@wingit: Thank you for your response.

I say it’s gaming the system because great perks like CP are intended to reward people who are loyal to the airline and do a lot of travel. While they’ve granted it for transfers and 2x signup bonuses in the past – perhaps intentionally or perhaps due to a technical oversight that they didn’t have bandwidth to correct promptly – we’ve all known that it has had a “too good to last” feel to it.

I think you probably know I’m right, since you yourself have been warning for quite some time that it probably wouldn’t last and reminding people “to take advantage of this deal while it’s still alive.” So clearly it’s not some standard part of the program that people should have expected to be around long-term. Anyone who planned to leverage hotel transfers to get CP probably reads your blog or others like it, which means they’ve seen these warnings many times and know that tricks like this simply don’t last forever.

So that’s why I find it problematic when you start trying to rile people up and send them to the DoT. It would be a different story, and I’d probably agree with you, if they had started revoking companion passes and claiming they were ill-gotten, or had changed CP qualification progress for people who had already transferred hotel points in. I think they probably waited until 1/1 as a matter of being as fair to customers as possible, since doing so avoided a scenario where people might have been working toward qualification all year and then had the rug pulled out from under them with these final points toward EOY.

What I imagine they did NOT want to do was to advertise this loophole themselves by making a prior announcement that they were closing it. This would have been a silly move on their part and probably would have encouraged far more people to take advantage of it than otherwise would have by imposing a deadline for when it would stop working.

A real solution to this issue for loyal customers who were impacted by this might be to write into Customer Relations to voice their displeasure and ask for CP to be granted for their transfer as a courtesy, or seek some other gesture of goodwill for the sudden change. But contacting the DoT over something like this just seems like an unnecessarily petty response, and I hope too many people don’t take you up on that.

Steven R.

@wingit:
I hear you and also hate when big companies treat customers poorly, but that’s not what this is. Southwest closed a loophole that more and more people were starting to take advantage of, and the same people who have been advertising this loophole (including Dan) have also been warning readers that it probably wouldn’t last much longer.

Southwest probably wanted to close this a long time ago, but out of fairness to customers, waited until 1/1 when CPQPs reset so nobody who had been earning or transferring in 2016 with the expectation of using this trick would be negatively impacted. To me, that’s already going above and beyond, since other airlines would probably have just cut something like this off mid-year if they were so inclined.

As someone who used the 2x signup bonuses to qualify for CP myself a couple years back, I really appreciate that SWA made that possible and even today continues to honor that as a means of getting CP. I think they deserve a thank you for offering what is possibly one of the coolest and easiest to obtain airline perks out there, not DoT complaints because they don’t want to get completely taken advantage of.

I totally understand the disappointment some people might have if they’d been planning to use this, but there should not have been an expectation that this would continue indefinitely, nor that Southwest would have given advance warning over closing the loophole. Filing a DoT complaint as a punitive measure just seems petty and does not encourage future kindness toward this hobby that we enjoy.

Dan

I have no idea why you’re insisting it was a loophole.

I also wrote to take advantage of the Sapphire 100K over the past several months before it’s pulled.

Does that make it a loophole or a great deal, which rarely stick around forever?

The old terms said it was fine. They made new terms without warning.
I believe that will be something the DoT would like the hear about.

People have been saving up to take advantage of this. I don’t see why they can’t let their feeling be known to the DoT.

Pillan

@Dan: People like to throw the term loophole around loosely. Loophole means in short relying on ambiguity.

You are correct, there was nothing was nothing ambiguous about it. Hotel point transfers counted, and they changed the T&C’s unannounced that they now don’t.

WN can say that their T&C’s state changes can be made at any time with no notice. That doesn’t necessarily make it legal and it will be interesting to see what DOT thinks about it.

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