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Southwest links its loyalty program with AirTran’s

Although it will be some time before Southwest Airlines completes an operational merger with its AirTran Airways subsidiary, the company is bringing the benefits of each carrier’s frequent flyer program to the members of both.

Southwest announced that members of its Rapid Rewards program and of AirTran’s A+ Rewards plan can now shift program credits between the two in order to redeem award travel on either airline, assuming they belong to both programs.

For Southwest Rapid Rewards members, that means using award tickets for new vacation options, since AirTran flies to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean that Southwest doesn’t serve with its wholly domestic route network.

Rapid Rewards members can transfer 1,200 program points or one Rapids Rewards credit into one A+ Rewards credit. AirTran frequent flyers can switch one A+ credit into one Rapid Rewards credit. The A+ program requires 16 credits for one roundtrip coach ticket on AirTran, and Southwest’s program requires 16 credits for one Standard Award ticket. Thirty-two A+ Rewards credits are worth one Freedom Award in the Southwest program.

Except for the new ability to transfer credit between Rapid Rewards and A+ Rewards, the two loyalty programs remain separate for now, Southwest said.

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