(NEW YORK) — As travelers race to book flights for the holidays, Southwest Airlines has announced new changes that will make it easier to earn higher status, with better access to upgrades and more perks for elite members.
The largest low-cost carrier announced new perks for flyer loyalty through its Rapid Rewards program.
Starting Jan. 1, Southwest will be lowering its threshold to qualify for A-List and A-List preferred status, which allows for better access to upgrades and perks such as free drinks.
“It’s really bucking the trend of what we see with other airlines, which are actually making it harder, making it so that you need to spend more money to achieve this sort of level of status,” David Slotnick, senior aviation business reporter for The Points Guy, told ABC News’ Good Morning America.
Recently, Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian said the company “probably went too far” with its loyalty program changes, which were announced mid-September and would have made it harder to reach top status, as well as restricted access to lounges. Those changes were set to take effect in 2025, but the airline has since said it is “assessing” customer feedback — particularly from longtime Delta loyalists who were unhappy with the changes — and that “modifications” will be made “sometime over the next few weeks.”
Other airlines have made changes to their loyalty programs similar to those Delta announced earlier in September.
Changes amid the airline industry are coming as more Americans look to score holiday travel deals and experts caution that the booking window is closing.
“If you’re planning to fly for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year — now is the time to book to take advantage of the lowest prices,” Hayley Berg, lead economist for travel site Hopper, told GMA.
According to Berg and other industry experts, airfare prices for each holiday will jump $5 to $10 a day, whereas in the final three weeks before travel, those prices could spike between $10 to $30 each day.
Berg said “if you can fly on the less popular days around the holidays, you can save upwards of 40%.”
“When you fly is just as important as when you book your tickets,” she said.
Check out even more expert holiday travel tips — including the best times to book and fly — here.
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