Continued from page 1

“Their program has been a laggard for years,” Winship said. “This is head-and-shoulders above the old program, and my guess is it’s going to stack up pretty well against programs of legacy carriers” such as American, Delta and United.

But Winship cautioned that Southwest is still viewed dimly by many business travelers because it doesn’t have first-class cabins or airport lounges.

Jay Sorensen, a loyalty-marketing consultant, said few people pick an airline solely for its frequent-flier program, “but there is a large market of business travelers and this expands Southwest’s ability to get them.”

Southwest officials acknowledged that the changes will make their loyalty program more complicated. That’s a noteworthy admission for an airline long driven to keep things simple, right down to operating with only one kind of jet.