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Southwest Airlines streamlines in-app bookings via Rapid Rewards integration

Southwest Airlines is rewarding members of its frequent flyers program with an easier way to book a flight on mobile, showcasing how integrating loyalty with mobile convenience is an increasingly important strategy for brands.

In the airlines’ recently updated iOS application, users can log in to use their Rapid Rewards information to book a flight and check out in only a few taps via the new Express checkout feature. Frequent flyer members can also access a fresh interface for tracking their rewards status.

“Express check out is a feature that allows Customers who are signed into their Rapid Rewards account and have their credit card and Customer information saved to bypass the Passenger information and Purchase information pages,” said Adam Rucker, a spokesman for Southwest Airlines. “This gives our most frequent Customers a more streamlined checkout process.

“Our aim is to provide the most robust and useful app experience to our customers with easy access to services they need during all phases of travel,” he said. “The new app’s intuitive design gives customers a personalized experience and better showcases information pertinent to the customers like special offers and Rapid Rewards account details.”

Streamlined interface
The new Southwest Airlines iOS app features a faster, more streamlined interface.

Customers can also book rental cars, access upcoming trip information and save boarding passes to Apple Wallet from within the app.

From the home page, users can check in for a flight, check its status and view their boarding position.

“It is smart for Southwest to have the loyalty log in,” said Scott Michaels, vice president of client engagement at ArcTouch.

“The Southwest program is not affiliated with the major airline loyalty programs, so it makes sense to do all it can to onboard people into the program they run, as well as provide the status to the member within the mobile app,” he said.

Customer satisfaction
Southwest Airlines was an early leader for mobile customer satisfaction in the travel industry thanks to a simple, no-frills approach that translates well to smartphones.

However, most of the major airlines brands have been heavily focused on enhancing their mobile experiences over the past couple of years in recognition of the important and still-growing role that smartphones play for travelers.

These developments suggest airlines are still trying to determine the best combination of features and functionality that will meet customers’ needs. The pressure is on airlines to address those needs, with one-third of airline boarding passes expected to be delivered via mobile devices by 2019, according to Juniper Research.

However, online travel agencies have been more aggressive in building their mobile strategies of late, with Expedia,,

In July of 2015, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines rolled out an updated mobile app with analysis capabilities designed to anticipate guests’ preferences and needs without prompting, such as suggesting optimal flight seating during the booking process (see story).

Last spring, United Airlines revealed the beta version of a new site, which is touch-friendly across all platforms and provides customized travel history widgets, suggesting that filtering options for streamlined booking and a unified experience are functions sought by travelers (see story).

Airlines are also looking to mobile payments to streamline the booking process. Early last year, Virgin America was the first United States airline to integrate with Visa Checkout (see story).

One way airlines are likely to further develop9 their apps in 2016 is by providing in-flight entertainment and communication via the personal devices passengers bring. However the trend is more communication for passengers.

“Flights equipped with gogo are going to have very low cost texting allowed during a flight,” Mr. Michaels said. “For many people, this will be a great way to talk to whomever is picking them up on the other end, or simply to just keep the conversations going while on a flight.

“With the cost for this being so low, I would expect it to just be rolled into the cost of the ticket for some airlines, and remaining an upsell item for value carriers,” he said.

“It’s worthwhile to talk about what is not going to happen, and that is the airlines opening up the network for voice communication on commercial flights. By this I mean Skype, Facetime and the myriad of other voice and video messaging products. The reason has nothing to do with the technology but with safety as the stewards maintain the position that they will lose control of the aircraft if everyone is talking away on their phones to people on the ground.”