It Just Got Easier For Frequent Travelers To Get Elite Status With Southwest

New year, new perks — at least, when it comes to Southwest Airlines. While some carriers have recently come under fire for making it tougher for fliers to achieve elite status, like Delta's recent changes to the SkyMiles program, Southwest is relaxing its policies. Starting January 1, 2024, the Dallas-based airline says passengers will need fewer flights to unlock more rewards, according to a recent update on the airline's website.

As it stands now, travelers are required to book 25 one-way flights in order to achieve A-List status. Next year, that number drops down to 20 one-way flights (or 35,000 tier qualifying points) in one calendar year. The A-List perks include priority check-in and priority boarding, meaning you'll have a better chance of snagging your favorite seat with the open seating policy. On qualifying flights, there's also a 25% earning bonus, a flexible same-day change policy, same-day standby, and a dedicated phone line to contact customer service.

Changes to A-List Preferred

On January 1, 2024, Southwest's threshold for A-List Preferred members will lower as well. Previously, travelers needed to spring for 50 one-way flights in order to qualify for preferred status, but now they'll need only 40 flights or 70,000 tier qualifying points. In addition to all of the A-List perks, A-List Preferred members can enjoy free in-flight WiFi and a 100% earning bonus on qualifying flights (compared to 25% on A-List alone).

There's one more perk for A-List Preferred members to get excited about, and it's arriving a little earlier than the others. Starting November 6, 2023, the airline will add two complimentary premium drinks to the roster. That means holiday flyers can enjoy a couple of spirits, wines, beers, hard seltzers, or hard lemonades on the house. This policy change applies for each leg of the journey, provided that the flight is longer than 176 miles. Water, juices, sodas, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and snacks are, of course, still complimentary.

Cash + Points, plus 2X spending

Though the required number of flights for elite status have gone down, the number of overall points you need for each tier will not change in 2024. It's still 35,000 points to achieve A-List and 70,000 points for A-List Preferred. But if you're a credit card holder, you'll now be able to get there twice as fast. On January 1, 2024, every $5,000 you spend on your airline credit card will give you 1,500 qualifying points towards elite status. Previously, the spending requirement was $10,000. This policy change is across the board for travelers with a Rapid Rewards Premier, Premier Business, Priority, or Performance Business Credit Card in their wallet.

Even without a Southwest card, there's one more change up ahead. In spring of 2024 (the exact date is still to be determined), Southwest will roll out the "Cash + Points" option to redeem flights. If you have at least 1,000 points in your Rapid Rewards account, you'll be able to redeem the balance to pay for part of your flight and use another payment method for the rest of your flight. Previously, it was one or the other — all cash or all points. The goal of all of these upcoming changes is to deliver more flexibility, simplicity, and value to customers, explains Southwest. With the soaring prices of just about everything these days, we could all use a little more of that.