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Old Mar 28, 11, 5:33 pm   #1
nsx
Moderator: Southwest Airlines & Travel Safety/Security
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: California
Programs: WN CP & A-list preferred, Interstate BBQ at MEM B17, fan of Hyatt, Priceline, and Hotwire
Posts: 16,079
New "improved" secret formula for A-List Boarding Pass ranking

FT'ers have been wondering what happened to the ranking of boarding passes since March 1. If you are not familiar with this issue already, you can see the recent discussions in these threads:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/south...ed-roster.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/south...a40-check.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/south...l#post16075824

I have dropped from the top 3 A-listers on every flight to a rank of 9th to 27th on flights this month. Because I typically manage to purchase the lowest fare on every flight, re-faring the reservation if necessary, I suspected that the fare paid had suddenly become very important in deciding who gets A16. Although Southwest has always refused to disclose its ranking formula, raw flight count was obviously the primary and possibly the only criterion prior to March 1, 2011.

I recently asked Southwest for an explanation. They were happy to explain to me that:

1. Yes, the formula has changed.

2. Southwest still prefers to keep the formula secret.

3. The new formula is consistent with the emphasis of the new Rapid Rewards. I interpret this to mean that a higher fare paid and/or a higher qualifying points count over time will give you better boarding numbers. My guess, based on reports on FT, is that it's mostly the fare paid on the current flight.

4. All A-List Preferred members are assigned boarding numbers before A-List members get their numbers. An A-List Preferred member will always get a better number than all A-List members unless the reservation is made after the 36-hour deadline or something abnormal happens.

5. There were a few glitches earlier in March, but the new formula is now working as intended. The boarding number examples I sent them were accurate. I really was ranked as low as 27th among A-List Preferred members (Boarding Pass A42) today, despite my 90 annual flights. In a nutshell, this means that A40 is the new normal for some people who were accustomed to A16.

I have emphatically recommended that Southwest email all A-List members to explain that the formula has changed and it's not a software failure. Furthermore, since the point of the new formula is to reward purchase of higher fares, keeping the change entirely secret would make no sense.

If I were Southwest, I would present the change objectively:
Southwest wants to reward purchase of higher fares. To the extent this succeeds, it will improve profitability and help Southwest maintain the lowest possible fares for customers who book travel far in advance. Therefore the new policy ultimately benefits the demoted low-fare customers where it counts: in the wallet.
This is the same reason that low-fare customers generally cheered the advent and the quick success of Business Select. We were demoted 15 places in the boarding order, but the discount fares stayed lower longer. Customers are savvy enough to connect these dots if Southwest just outlines the reasoning. Respect our intelligence and we'll respect your company's honesty.
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Old Mar 28, 11, 6:09 pm   #2
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
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nsx thank you for following up with SWA on this. this is a really bad news to us FT.

Kirkbees
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Old Mar 28, 11, 6:41 pm   #3
KC
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkbees View Post
nsx thank you for following up with SWA on this. this is a really bad news to us FT.

Kirkbees
Speak for yourself. Given my A+ status and typical purchase of Anytime fares for work travel, I stand to see improved boarding numbers. Not that being A16 vs. A40 is really that big a deal to me (especially on my typical routes that don't have thru passengers).
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Old Mar 28, 11, 7:22 pm   #4
 
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So if I'm A-list preferred it reasonable to assume I might get something in the A40s, and A-list will be something below that, and EBCI will be something below that, and T-24 check-in will be something below that???

Given that I have real options other than Southwest, I think I can do far better boarding wise and upgrade wise with elite status on other carriers.
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Old Mar 28, 11, 7:30 pm   #5
nsx
Moderator: Southwest Airlines & Travel Safety/Security
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by starflyer View Post
So if I'm A-list preferred it reasonable to assume I might get something in the A40s, and A-list will be something below that, and EBCI will be something below that, and T-24 check-in will be something below that???
This would only occur on a flight packed with commuters. On a normal flight A+ should get you A20-25 even on a low fare.
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Old Mar 28, 11, 7:50 pm   #6
 
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I had already suspected that A+ was being seeded in front of A. I also suspect, but I can not prove it, that they are not refilling canceled A and A+ except with late check in A and A+. A-16 to A-19 were all A+. I had one flight with A-17 in which there was no A-16.

I have not had worse than A-18 since the change. I had A-17 yesterday and the guy with A-18 said I must really fly a lot because he always got A-16 or 17.

Personally, for me, this may be the best change out of 2.0.
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Old Mar 29, 11, 5:19 am   #7
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: SE USA
Programs: HHonors Diamond, WN A-List Preferred & CP, Marriott Gold, Avis First
Posts: 221
I have had A16 on every flight this month until today. I regularly fly on Anytime fares, due to most of my travel being scheduled less than a week away. I have even had A16 on a free ticket. This morning (at airport now) I am A26 and bought my ticket at 9:20 PM last night (anytime fare - must have been an open spot or cancellation). No complaints here yet...
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Old Mar 29, 11, 7:02 am   #8
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Programs: Hhonors Diamond, Southwest A-list Preferred, Delta Million Miler
Posts: 348
Southwest has every right to create a fare system, rewards program and boarding process that makes the most sense for their business model. I get that. On the other hand, I have every right to choose an airline whose programs work vest for me. I refuse to stress out every flight wondering if I am A40 or A16. Because I fly almost every week (100% on WN), there are certain seats that I value (again that's just me). If I can't secure one of them then WN doesn't work for MY business model.

In fact, because WN doesn't fly into Harrisburg PA (where my office is located), I fly into PHL almost every week and then drive 90-minutes to my office and hotel. Why sould I make that sacrifice any longer for WN? based on my projected travel pattern I could easily make Platinum on Delta in very short order. Not every DL flight would have a first class section, but I could upgarde on most flights and enjoy the Club atmosphere on layovers.

You can keep my A40 boarding pass WN!
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Old Mar 29, 11, 1:17 pm   #9
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Programs: WN peon (was A+), IHG Plat Hilton HHonors Gold DL SkyPesos PM (still a peon) US Chmn, Hawaiian Haole
Posts: 1,162
Maybe more complex than revenue on each flight ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by nsx View Post
FT'ers have been wondering what happened to the ranking of boarding passes since March 1. If you are not familiar with this issue already, you can see the recent discussions in these threads:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/south...ed-roster.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/south...a40-check.html

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/south...l#post16075824

I have dropped from the top 3 A-listers on every flight to a rank of 9th to 27th on flights this month. Because I typically manage to purchase the lowest fare on every flight, re-faring the reservation if necessary, I suspected that the fare paid had suddenly become very important in deciding who gets A16. Although Southwest has always refused to disclose its ranking formula, raw flight count was obviously the primary and possibly the only criterion prior to March 1, 2011.

I recently asked Southwest for an explanation. They were happy to explain to me that:

1. Yes, the formula has changed.

2. Southwest still prefers to keep the formula secret.

3. The new formula is consistent with the emphasis of the new Rapid Rewards. I interpret this to mean that a higher fare paid and/or a higher qualifying points count over time will give you better boarding numbers. My guess, based on reports on FT, is that it's mostly the fare paid on the current flight.

4. All A-List Preferred members are assigned boarding numbers before A-List members get their numbers. An A-List Preferred member will always get a better number than all A-List members unless the reservation is made after the 36-hour deadline or something abnormal happens.

5. There were a few glitches earlier in March, but the new formula is now working as intended. The boarding number examples I sent them were accurate. I really was ranked as low as 27th among A-List Preferred members (Boarding Pass A42) today, despite my 90 annual flights. In a nutshell, this means that A40 is the new normal for some people who were accustomed to A16.

I have emphatically recommended that Southwest email all A-List members to explain that the formula has changed and it's not a software failure. Furthermore, since the point of the new formula is to reward purchase of higher fares, keeping the change entirely secret would make no sense.

If I were Southwest, I would present the change objectively:
Southwest wants to reward purchase of higher fares. To the extent this succeeds, it will improve profitability and help Southwest maintain the lowest possible fares for customers who book travel far in advance. Therefore the new policy ultimately benefits the demoted low-fare customers where it counts: in the wallet.
This is the same reason that low-fare customers generally cheered the advent and the quick success of Business Select. We were demoted 15 places in the boarding order, but the discount fares stayed lower longer. Customers are savvy enough to connect these dots if Southwest just outlines the reasoning. Respect our intelligence and we'll respect your company's honesty.
I am A+. I took a RR1 flight yesterday (no revenue to WN) and still got A18. I had an el-cheapo WGA change-of-plane hidden-city fare last Wednesday and still got A17/A16. Worst I have had since the change is A20. I fly on a mix of WGA, Anytime, and BS flights. Go figure.
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Old Mar 29, 11, 1:32 pm   #10
nsx
Moderator: Southwest Airlines & Travel Safety/Security
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
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Programs: WN CP & A-list preferred, Interstate BBQ at MEM B17, fan of Hyatt, Priceline, and Hotwire
Posts: 16,079
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnslloyd View Post
I am A+. I took a RR1 flight yesterday (no revenue to WN) and still got A18. I had an el-cheapo WGA change-of-plane hidden-city fare last Wednesday and still got A17/A16. Worst I have had since the change is A20. I fly on a mix of WGA, Anytime, and BS flights. Go figure.
It's simple: If your flight is full of commuters (approximately 30 A-List Preferred members on my Monday AM flights, fully verified by Southwest), you will get a worse number. If your flight has few A+ members, you will still get a good number.
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Old Mar 29, 11, 3:42 pm   #11
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: MDW
Programs: WN (CP 5x, A+ 2x), Marriott (LTPlat), Hyatt Diamond, KF Silver, Hertz PC
Posts: 131
A17 on RR1.5 award ticket

Quote:
Originally Posted by nsx View Post
It's simple: If your flight is full of commuters (approximately 30 A-List Preferred members on my Monday AM flights, fully verified by Southwest), you will get a worse number. If your flight has few A+ members, you will still get a good number.
Interesting. I always fly BS on my frequent trips, so A+ status doesn't come into play. Tomorrow I'm flying on an RR1.5 ticket to PHX and got A17. Wonder what is more important - the (likely) few A/A+ members on that flight, my purchasing history, status as A/A+/CP for consecutive years, timing of the reservation (made the first week of Feb)? Not that I'm terribly worried about it, but I agree SWA ought to be more open about this formula.
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Old Mar 29, 11, 4:08 pm   #12
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 87
same here

Quote:
Originally Posted by nsx View Post
It's simple: If your flight is full of commuters (approximately 30 A-List Preferred members on my Monday AM flights, fully verified by Southwest), you will get a worse number. If your flight has few A+ members, you will still get a good number.
Heavy commute larger number
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Old Mar 30, 11, 2:50 am   #13
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: TUS/PDX
Programs: WN CP/A-List, AS MVPG75K
Posts: 4,255
Quote:
Originally Posted by nsx View Post
It's simple: If your flight is full of commuters (approximately 30 A-List Preferred members on my Monday AM flights, fully verified by Southwest), you will get a worse number. If your flight has few A+ members, you will still get a good number.
Here's a simple way to verify your hypothesis. Wait until you're inside the 14 day window to book your commute flights one week. Maybe throw an Anytime fare in there if it doesn't cost something outrageous.

OR on your week off, book a dummy reservation, get the BP then cancel.

It's not a rock solid way to verify if they do get you a better number with a higher fare, but it should give you an idea.
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Old Mar 30, 11, 6:57 pm   #14
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: PWM/MHT/BOS
Programs: UA (lame duck)1K, US Plat,HHonors Diamond, PC Plat, SPG Plat, MR Platinum
Posts: 605
ugh well it's like every time I open a WN thread on FT there is more bad news for my flying. I've already reduced my WN flights due to 2.0 but w/ my CP planned to still keep some to maximize some reward flights.

But I can only imagine where i'll be boarding on those reward flights... Guess I'll have to be damn sure when booking em I steer clear of any biz commuter-heavy connection routes. Unfortunately my most common flight is WGA fares of MHT-PHL which is heavy A-list biz travelers. ::SIGH::

I sure will miss those A-17 to A-20 spots on the nonstop reward tix to Vegas - I don't think I've ever missed out on the spacious exit row. ARGH.
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Old Mar 31, 11, 9:05 am   #15
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Atlanta, GA
Programs: DL Diamond & 4MM, AirTran Elite, WN A-Plus
Posts: 1,070
I think Southwest has won this war when a group of intelligent Americans are having this intense a discusssion.. about where to stand in a line. Is this the key benefit in the FF program now?

Everyone used to talk here about how efficient the boarding system was, but the price of efficiency in the new boarding system -- and how it interacts with the new FF program -- seems to be this anxiety... about where to stand in a line.
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