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Gripes From Southwest’s Frequent Fliers

DALLAS (CN) - A class action claims that Southwest Airlines fails to award frequent flier program companion passes by applying points to the incorrect year.

Cory Couch, of Arizona, sued the Dallas-based airline in Federal Court on Feb. 2.

He claims the terms of Southwest's Rapid Rewards program "state repeatedly" that points for the companion passes are earned on Southwest-branded credit card purchases made during the calendar year.

Couch claims the airline does not disclose that points earned on purchases after the close of a customer's December billing cycle are actually applied to the next calendar year. Couch says that his December billing cycle ended on Dec. 8, 2014.

Southwest's companion pass is a coveted perk for frequent fliers, as it allows a designated companion to fly for free for a full year as long as the primary flier purchases a ticket for each flight taken.

"Plaintiff and other class members rushed to complete purchases using the Rapid Rewards credit cards on the mistaken belief that the points from such purchases would count, for companion pass purposes, for the calendar year in which the purchases were made," the 25-page complaint states.

"Southwest denies companion passes to members who have made purchases sufficient to earn the required 110,000 points during the calendar year. Hundreds if not thousands of members have been wrongfully denied their companion passes despite spending the required sums on purchases."

For each dollar spent on the Southwest-branded credit cards, one point is awarded. Two points are awarded for each dollar spent directly with the airline or with its hotel and car rental partners.

Couch says he made more than $10,800 in additional purchases on his Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card after Dec. 8, 2104, believing the earned points would be credited to the 2014 calendar year.

"At best, Southwest's Rapid Rewards Program terms are unclear and ambiguous with respect to how points are earned and the timing of when they are earned for the purposes of issuing companion passes," the complaint states. "To the extent the terms are unclear, ambiguous, and/or susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation, then they must be construed against Southwest as the drafter. Members have no authority to negotiate any of the program barrage of terms."

Couch claims that a program member's monthly point accumulation tally "gives the impression" that points can be transferred multiple times during the month. He claims Southwest did "nothing to indicate that the earning period has reset" on Dec. 8, and that points earned after that date would not count for that calendar year.

Southwest spokesman Thais Conway said the airline is reviewing the lawsuit. He said the company "takes pride" in its customer service and loyalty programs.

"Our focus on the customer has earned us multiple recognitions, including a 2014 Freddie Award for Best Loyalty Credit Card and Best Customer Service by InsideFlyer," Conway said Monday.

Couch seeks class certification and damages for breach of contract, breach of the faith, promissory estoppel and unjust enrichment.

He is represented by Robert B. Kleinman in Austin.

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