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Wednesday, 06/11/03

Southwest Airlines does a lot of things right. For a while after 9/11 they seemed like the only US airline making any money, and they did it without being total bastards. I even like the first-come-first-served seating policy, because people who show up eight minutes before the plane leaves usually deserve the seat between the fat guy and the screaming baby. Southwest's frequent flier program, though, was apparently invented by people on an exchange program from one of the going-bankrupt airlines.

Every such system of my acquaintance works like Monopoly money -- you put together enough miles, and you trade some in for a free ticket. The nice person on the phone says, "And will you be paying for this with a credit card?" and you say, "Nope, miles, here's my account number", and you go on your merry way.

Southwest clings to the notion that I won't believe my good fortune unless I have a little token to hold in my hot little hands. I learned a few days ago that when I qualify for a trip, they have to spin their wheels for a few weeks, and then mail me a little Willy Wonka magic ticket.

Of course, I get so much co-branded Southwest Airlines junk mail that if I ever qualified for a free ticket in the past, I ripped it in half and threw it away believing it was yet another preapproved Visa card. The potential for theft or loss is gi-normous. And incredibly, their customer service people claim they've never heard of any airline doing it any differently. 11:04AM «

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