One of the bigger sweet spots in the domestic aviation market is the Southwest Companion Pass which allows qualifying Rapid Rewards members to bring along a designated guest on their trips for the cost of the carrier’s taxes and fees.
The Southwest Companion Pass is a benefit unmatched by any other U.S. airline. The carrier isn’t solely known for that though, and over the years Southwest has accumulated many fans, all for good reasons. The carrier for years has allowed every passenger to bring two free checked bags, adopted an open first-come-first-serve seating policy, and taken offered generous no-change fees and no-cancellation terms.
If you often fly with a companion on routes that Southwest covers, the Southwest Companion Pass is one of the greatest promotional offers in the travel industry.
While that sounds like it’s too good to be true, obtaining the Companion Pass is easier than you may think. Here’s what you need to know about the pass, its terms and limitations, and how to earn it in a way that maximizes its value.
Table of contents
- What Is The Southwest Companion Pass?
- How To Get The Southwest Companion Pass
- Points That Do Qualify For The Companion Pass
- Points That Don’t Qualify For The Companion Pass
- Strategies To Quickly Earn Rapid Rewards Points
- Southwest Companion Pass 101
What Is The Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass is a buy-one-get-one-free(ish) ticket on Southwest Airlines. The perk has unlimited uses for the year you earn it in and the following calendar year.
In true Southwest fashion, it’s a no-strings-attached perk, and it comes with very few restrictions.
The person who earns the companion pass gets to name one person as their companion. When the companion pass holder books a ticket on Southwest, either with cash or points, their named companion gets to fly with them for the cost of the taxes and fees – which starts at $5.60 each way.
The one main rule of the Companion Pass is there must be at least one seat available for sale in any fare class on the flight.
You’re allowed to change your companion up to three times per year (not including the initial companion), meaning in theory you could have as many as seven people as your companion over two calendar years.
Traditionally, to earn the pass, you must earn 125,000 qualifying points or fly 100 qualifying flights with Southwest in a calendar year. However, starting in 2023, Southwest is raising the requirement to 135,000 qualifying points. But, if you have a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card, then you’ll receive a 10,000-point boost, thus requiring the same number of points required.
The best part is that the 135k Rapid Rewards Points are not exchanged for the Companion Pass. You retain all 135,000 points after you designate your companion!
Is the Southwest Companion Pass Worth it?
If Southwest flies through your local airport and you regularly travel with a family member or friend, the Southwest Companion Pass can offer incredible value.
If Southwest doesn’t stop at your airport, or you’re not likely to travel very often, or you rarely travel with someone then it might not be worth it.
The question is where is the value for you?
For instance, you may see a $125 flight discount voucher with Citi’s American Airlines Credit Card as more valuable as you can gift the voucher to someone else.
Furthermore, If you are a heavy solo traveller, you may see more benefit in collecting points on a legacy carrier, such as American where you can earn Loyalty Points (the carriers status points) with a credit card and leverage those 135,000 points for a return trip to Asia in business class. Can you leverage $10,000 worth of value from southwest?
How To Get The Southwest Companion Pass
To earn the Companion Pass, you’re going to have to generate a lot of activity with the Southwest Rapid Rewards programme.
In general, there are two ways to earn the Southwest Companion Pass
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year;
- earn enough 135,000 Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year
Points That Do Qualify For The Companion Pass
Southwest lists three major categories of points that qualify for the Companion Pass:
- Points earned from flying on paid flights booked through Southwest
- Points earned from the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards
- Points earned from Rapid Rewards partners
This means that you can’t simply buy 135,000 Rapid Rewards points, nor can you transfer the points from Chase.
As a frequent flyer programme though, the traditional way of earning award points would be to earn all 135,000 required points through travel.
- Wanna Get Away fares: 6 points per dollar in base fare
- Wanna Get Away Plus fares: 8 points per dollar in base fare
- Anytime fares: 10 points per dollar in base fare
- Business Select fares: 12 points per dollar in base fare
That means a Rapid Rewards member would need to spend $22,500—before taxes and fees—on Southwest’s Wanna Get Away fares to earn enough qualifying points from flights alone. If you were to only buy the more-expensive Business Select fares, you’d still need to spend $11,250 in fares (before taxes and fees) to earn the Companion Pass.
Points That Don’t Qualify For The Companion Pass
In typical airline fashion, not all Rapid Rewards point activity counts toward earning the Companion Pass. However, most earning activity does qualify.
While the list of qualifying activities is long, certain activities won’t help you toward the Companion Pass. The following activity does not count toward earning the Companion Pass:
- Purchased points
- Transferred/gifted points
- Points earned from program enrollment
- Tier bonus points
- Promotion bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards)
- Flight bonus points
- Partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards)
- Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Partner program transfers—including points converted from the hotel and car loyalty programs, e-Rewards, Valued Opinions and Diners Club)
- Purchased promotional tier qualifying points
Additionally, it’s important to note that award flights, i.e. those booked with Rapid Rewards don’t help you earn the Companion Pass. Only revenue Southwest flights earn Companion Pass-qualifying points and qualifying flights toward the 100-flight requirement.
Strategies To Quickly Earn Rapid Rewards Points
There are a few headline points to earn points effectively:
- You can’t earn the pass through a combination of points and flights – you must choose one or the other;
- Ideally, you want to earn the Southwest Companion Pass at the start of a new year to maximize the amount of time you have the pass.
- Keep in mind that you haven’t officially earned your Rapid Rewards points until they hit your account, which can vary depending on when your credit card statement ends.
Unless you are the type of person who can make 100 flights in a year, the credit card route is likely to be your best option, as it seems to be for 95% of the internet.
1. Bundling With A Personal Credit Card
First things first, since Southwest credit cards are issued by Chase you’ll need to be sure you’re under the notorious 5/24 rule. In other words, if you’ve applied for five credit cards (from any card issuer, not just Chase) within the past two years, you’ll likely be denied another until your card count decreases.
Second, Chase won’t let you get a new Southwest bonus on any of the personal cards if you currently have one open or if you received a bonus in the past 24 months.
2. Southwest Personal Plus Business Credit Cards
If you want another way to earn via a credit card, the only other way is to get a business card. Chase does not let you have two open Southwest personal cards remember!
Just make sure that your points from both cards post in the same calendar year since qualifying points reset at the first of the year.
3. Use Your Southwest Credit Card For Everyday Spending
Using your existing Southwest credit card for spending is also a great strategy if you can’t or don’t want to get a second Southwest card, and therefore can’t use a sign-up bonus to get partway to your Companion Pass.
4. Use The Southwest Shopping And Dining Programs
Southwest Companion Pass 101
when using the Companion Pass there are a few tidbits to know.
How To Designate Your Companion For The Southwest Companion Pass
Before you can use the Companion Pass, you’ll need to designate your companion.
To designate a companion, log into your Rapid Rewards account. On the Snapshot tab, find “Choose Your Companion”, click “Enter Companion Info”, and follow the instructions to complete the process.
You’ll need to provide Southwest with your companion’s full name, gender, date of birth, mailing address, email address and phone number.
If you were thinking to game the system, remember “corporations and other entities cannot be designated as Companions”.
In any event, after submitting the info, Southwest will send a “Companion Pass Member Kit”, including the coveted membership card, to the Companion Pass holder.
Southwest notes that the kit will arrive in seven to ten business days.
You can change your companion up to three times per year by calling Southwest directly at 1-800-435-9792 and providing your new companion’s information.
Eligible Flights For The Southwest Companion Pass
Companion Pass holders can use the Companion Pass anywhere that Southwest flies. And there are no blackout dates or availability restrictions to use the Companion Pass.
There are no restrictions on route either, meaning that the Companion Pass also works on Southwest’s international routes. Just remember that you do have to pay the taxes and fees for your companion ticket, and those can be higher on international flights.
Bookings for the companion don’t even need to be the same type of fare available class. You can add a companion even if you booked a Wanna Get Away fare and only Anytime fares are available when you go to add your companion.
A designated companion can join a pass holder at any time as long as the Companion Pass is valid on the day of the flight.
To book a companion onto a flight, you first must have booked your flight (with as a revenue or award ticket). After your flight is booked, go into your Rapid Rewards account and select the “My Trips” tab. Locate your flight, and select the “Add Companion” option. Click through the confirmation page, which will include price details like taxes and fees, and purchase the ticket for the companion to complete the process.
Southwest Companion Pass Companion Restrictions
There aren’t many restrictions on using the Southwest Companion Pass, but it’s important to pay attention to the terms and conditions. You don’t want to risk forfeiting this valuable pass!
The tickets must match each other. If the pass holder’s ticket is cancelled, the companion’s ticket will also be cancelled. If the pass holder changes their ticket, the companion’s ticket must also be changed to match the new flight details. The designated companion will be required to pay for their ticket if the two do not match.
Both passengers must travel together. The Companion Pass holder and the companion must check in together. The check-in agent may require the Companion Pass card to be displayed in order for the companion to travel.