Southwest Airlines History
Southwest Airlines is the world’s largest low-cost airline, was established in 1967, and is headquartered in Dallas, Texas. First named Air Southwest Co. by founders Rollin King and Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines original intention was to provide air travel service throughout Texas. After a lawsuit win, they changed their name to Southwest Airlines and started flights from Dallas to Houston and Dallas to San Antonio.
The founders of Southwest Airlines wanted to create a certain culture on their airline and started using, “Long Legs and Short Nights,” as their catchphrase alluding to their majorette, cheerleader, and dancer flight attendants who wore hot pants and go-go boots. In the early days of 1971 and 1972 though, they suffered losses and had to sell several of their planes.
When airline deregulation and the Wright Amendment began in 1978, Southwest hoped to benefit from interstate flights from Love Field in Texas. However, Southwest and other airlines were stopped from operating and ticketing passengers on flights from Love Field to any destination outside the states that bordered Texas. It wasn’t until 1997 that Southwest could fly to other states including Alabama, Mississippi, and Kansas.
Southwest hired their first black pilot in 1980 and eventually promoted him to chief pilot in 1992. He was the first black chief pilot of any major U.S. airline. In 1985, Southwest laid out $60.5 million in stock and cash for Muse Air since they were collapsing. They renamed Muse to TranStar Airlines and it operated as an independent airline until Southwest sold it to Texas Air in 1987.
1992 brought around another acquisition of Morris Air, which cost Southwest $134 million in stock. They were able to cash in on the capital and routes that Morris Air had and expand their travel destinations. Southwest then went on to become one of the first airlines to have a website in 1995. This allowed travelers to view route maps, schedules, and company information. Southwest.com is now the number one airline website for online revenue and attributes 70% of their flight bookings and 73% of flight-booking-generated revenue to their website. This boosted Southwest Airlines into a reputation for unique thinking and proactive risk management.
With all the pains the Wright Amendment caused to Southwest, in 2004 they started attempting to get it repealed and by the end of 2005, service to St. Louis, Missouri, and Kansas City, Missouri were allowed from Love Field. By 2006, the Wright Amendment started to be phased out and Southwest was able to begin new operations across the entire U.S.
Southwest’s reputation took a hit when in 2008, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) filed documents to Congress that Southwest allowed 117 aircraft to fly with passengers even though the planes were not up to federal standards. Some planes were allowed to fly for up to 30 months despite the passing of their inspection deadlines. Later in 2008, Southwest Airlines decided to voluntarily ground 44 aircraft to provide further inspection on them. They were forced to pay a fine of $7.5 million in 2009 for safety and maintenance issues. Also in 2008, they were able to purchase ATA Airlines for $7.5 million to gain landing spots at New York LaGuardia.
To add to their list of bankrupt or failing airlines, Southwest then bought AirTran Airways in 2010 for $3.2 billion with $500 million spent on integrating the two airlines. This eliminated another low-cost airline competitor, allowed them access to Atlanta, and added additional slots to New York and Washington DC airports. Mexico and the Caribbean in addition to 25 other destinations were also added to Southwest’s roster with the AirTran purchase, which greatly expanded their reach.
For 10 straight years, Southwest Airlines has held the honor as number three on Fortune Magazine’s Top Ten Most Admired Corporations list. They also added more Mexican and new South American destinations to their list as of 2012. The flights will begin in 2015 along with the costs of upgrades and building five new gates and a customs facility.
Through purchasing tons of smaller competitor airlines, Southwest has been able to thrive and grow from a small Texas operation to a large, national carrier. Still with low-cost ticket prices, they’re able to charm customers with excellent service and continue their always admirable business techniques.
Southwest Airlines Codeshare Agreements
Unlike some other airlines, Southwest does not participate in any airline alliances, but does have a codeshare agreement with AirTran Airways. They used to have several other partnerships, however, all ties have been severed except AirTran.
Southwest Airlines’ Top Cities and Where They Fly
Southwest Airlines is headquartered in Dallas, Texas with 89 U.S. destinations in 42 states and also flies to Puerto Rico. They do not abide by the typical hub and spoke flight routing system, but rather prefer to use the point to point method. Much of their air travel is local passengers without connections, which allows the point to point system works much more efficiently. They have top cities that they serve rather than hubs and have large operations in several major airports.
- Baltimore-Washington International Airport
- Chicago Midway International Airport
- Dallas Love Field
- Denver International Airport
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
- Lambert-St. Louis International Airport
- Los Angeles International Airport
- McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas)
- Nashville International Airport
- Oakland International Airport
- Orlando International Airport
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
- San Diego International Airport
- William P. Hobby Airport (Houston)
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Frequent Flyer Program and How it Works
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program is based on a three-tier fare scale and cost of the air travel ticket. Rapid Rewards members can earn and redeem points based on where they fly and what class they fly in; basically like every other airline. They used to have a credit system where 16 credits in a 24-month period equaled one free round-trip ticket, valid for use any time during the next year, but they recently changed to the traditional points to ticket price ratio. Southwest does allow you to earn more points for using a Southwest partner (list included at the bottom of this article) for car rentals or hotel stays even if you don’t happen to fly Southwest to get there.
Most recently, Southwest’s Rapid Rewards changed their policy to allow no blackout dates, seat restrictions, or expiring points, and increased the number of options for Rapid Rewards members to use points. They also have unlimited reward seats where if there is an available seat, you can use rewards for it. You also earn points for every seat you book regardless of class.
Depending on the class of ticket you book for air travel, you earn different award amounts. For booking a Business Select ticket, you earn 12 points per $1, an Anytime ticket will earn you 10 points per $1, and a Wanna Get Away ticket will earn you 6 points per $1. So the more expensive the ticket, the more rewards points you earn.
Depending on how many total points you earn, you can qualify for one of the three tiers of member status. A-List membership is granted for those who have flown 25 qualifying one-way flights or earned 35,000 tier qualifying points in one year. A-List preferred membership is earned by flying 50 qualifying one-way flights or earning 70,000 tier qualifying points in one year. But the ultimate reward from Southwest comes in the Companion Pass, which is earned by flying 100 one-way flights or earning 110,000 qualifying points in one year. This allows you to choose one companion to fly with you for free as long as you maintain the Companion Pass status.
When you use one of the Rapid Rewards credit cards, you earn miles for every dollar you spend on qualifying purchases. If you book with Southwest or any of their partners, you earn 2 points per $1 spent. When you dine out, if you join the Rapid Rewards Dining club, you can earn up to points for dining at restaurant partners. The other points rates vary by company.
Redeeming and earning points with Southwest is easy if you do some light research on their website and book award travel through there as well. Southwest has one of the best websites with the most clear information for their Rapid Rewards members to figure out how to use their points, how many points they need, and how to book award flights.
Southwest Airlines Business Select Cabins
Best Flights to Take With Southwest Rapid Reward Miles
Unlike many other award programs, Southwest’s Rapid Reward award tickets rise and fall with the seasons and days of the week. Typical award tickets for other airlines are always the same whether it’s the height of Christmas travel or the off-season, but Southwest bases their award ticket totals on the base price of the ticket. You can score a great deal such as a $59 (3,540 miles) flight from L.A. to Phoenix in the off-season or you may end up paying as much as $180 (10,800 miles) if you book on a popular day of the week during a peak month.
Your best bet to get the ultimate value for your Southwest Rapid Reward miles is to scour the market and make sure you’re getting the best ticket price for your trip. That way you’ll be paying the least amount of Rapid Reward miles for it. Make sure you book on a good day of the week (new ticket prices come out every Wednesday morning) and that you’re booking in the off-season. If you have to travel during peak times, book 3-5 months ahead of time, if possible, to get lower rates.
How to Book Southwest Airlines Award Travel
Booking Southwest Airlines award travel is as simple as going to their website, logging in to your Rapid Rewards Account, and clicking “Book a Flight” and “points” in the shows fares in category.
If you’re more interested in talking to a real person, call 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792) to make a reservation or 1-800-445-5764 for Rapid Rewards Customer Service. They also have Southwest Vacations booking (1-800-243-8372), New Hotel Reservations through their partners (1-800-733-1137), and Jackpot Deal Packages (1-877-308-4216).
How to Earn Southwest Airlines Rapid Reward Points
Gathering up all of your Southwest Airlines Rapid Reward Points should be easy when there are tons of ways to earn. The most obvious being air travel with the 12, 10, and 6 points per $1 earned depending on seat class. Beyond just air travel, you can earn rewards on your hotel, rental car, dining, online shopping through the Rapid Rewards shopping portal, your energy bill, and buying flowers from 1-800-flowers as well as several other business partner options. There is a complete list of all the point transfer and earning partners at the bottom of this post.
Southwest Airlines’ website is also easy to use and helpful when looking for ways to earn points. They clearly show all of the partners, how many points you earn, and how to redeem them. Another great way to earn points is by using any of the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credit cards. Each card’s benefits and reward bonuses are listed below:
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card: You can receive 25,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months. You earn 2 points per $1 on Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways flights, Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. On your card member anniversary, you receive 6,000 bonus points and for every $10,000 you spend on the card, you earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points. Additionally, there are no foreign transaction fees.
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: You can receive 25,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months. You earn 2 points per $1 on Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways flights, Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. On your card member anniversary, you earn 3,000 bonus points.
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card: You can receive 25,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months. You earn 2 points per $1 on Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways flights, Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. On your card member anniversary, you receive 6,000 bonus points and for every $10,000 you spend on the card, you earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points. Additionally, employee cards are free with no foreign transaction fees.
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Business Card: You can receive 25,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months. You earn 2 points per $1 on Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways flights, Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. On your card member anniversary, you earn 3,000 bonus points. Additionally, employee cards are free.
Rapid Rewards come in all shapes and forms from tons of different businesses and retailers, but the best way to earn Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards is to get one of the Southwest credit cards and use it to make all of your purchases including air travel, rental cars, and hotels.
Southwest Airlines Point Transfer and Earning Partners
- Best Western
- Carlson Rezidor Hotels
- Choice Hotels International
- La Quinta
- MGM Resorts International
- Starwood Hotels
- The Venetian
- The Palazzo
- Wyndham Rewards
- Rapid Rewards Shopping
- Rapid Rewards Dining
- Energy Plus
- Reliant Secure
- Valued Opinions
- Diners Club
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