Social Media Crisis Communications: Southwest Rapid Rewards Backlash

As you’ve probably heard, especially if you are a frequent flier, Southwest Airlines has “improved” its rewards program and it is causing quite a stir in the social media world.

Southwest wanted to kick off its nearly 40th year of business with a brand-new rewards program.  The All-New Rapid Rewards Program allows fliers to redeem points on “every seat, on every flight with no blackout dates or seat restrictions.”  The amount of points earned is based on the fare and the fare product purchased, and the same is true for redeeming points.

No, the program does not sound like a bad idea, but it begs the question, “why?”   In the past, Southwest Airlines won awards for their simple rewards, why would they make such a risky move to change their system to a credit system like other airlines?

Many people seem to have the same question because the #rapidrewards hash tag is buzzing with unhappy customers




and Southwest Airlines Facebook page is littered with complaints.



And what about last week’s Facebook scam?  Was that simply a coincidence? 


One thing’s for sure, Southwest’s Community Manager is going to be busy addressing everyone’s problems.  Will they be able to get through this transition smoothly?  It’s not looking good so far, their website has been down for the past four days. People are reportedly losing all of their current points and shares are rapidly declining; the price is currently at $11.57.  

But then again, Southwest has dealt with social media problems before.  Remember Kevin Smith?