Southwest’s Companion Pass is one of the most valuable airline perks around, particularly if you fly a lot within the United States and the Caribbean.
It’s an excellent travel perk for newlyweds as many couples like to travel extensively the first few years of marriage, perhaps before kids might enter the picture. It’s also somewhat unique as most legacy airlines don’t have a similar program. For that reason it can be a little confusing. I’ve written this post to cover the basics of the program and also as a supplement to a specific reader request regarding earning the Companion Pass.
What is the Companion Pass?
Southwest’s Companion Pass is a perk that allows the holder’s companion to fly free whenever the holder flies on Southwest. This benefit applies whether the holder’s ticket is booked with cash, points, through a business, etc. It’s one of the most valuable airline perks around as it essentially doubles the value of Rapid Rewards points and/or cuts the cash price of flights in half for couples traveling together.
With Southwest’s expansion into more Caribbean markets the Companion Pass is even more attractive as those are markets that are especially popular with honeymooning or vacationing couples. I’ve had Companion Pass for the past several years, enabling Patty to fly free on flights with me to Aruba, Cancun, Florida, Kansas City, St. Louis and more. It really is incredibly valuable for people that can or do fly a lot domestically or to the Caribbean.
How Do You Earn the Companion Pass?
To get Companion Pass (CP) you must earn 110k companion pass-qualifying Southwest Rapid Rewards points, or fly 100 one-way flights, within a calendar year. You’ll get the CP for the rest of the calendar year in which you earn it and also for the entire following calendar year. If you can earn the CP early in a calendar year, you can reap the benefits of it for almost two full calendar years.
It’s absolutely critical to note that you do not actually redeem points to get the CP. You simply have to acquire 110k CP-qualifying points within a calendar year. So once you earn the CP you will most likely have a lot of points which then essentially double in value if most of your flights will be with your companion.
It’s also important to understand that you don’t have to hold all 110k points in your account at any time. You can redeem points throughout the year without any impact on earning the CP.
Earning via Southwest Flights
The obvious way to earn the Companion Pass is through flying on Southwest Airlines. For each flight you take you’ll get Rapid Rewards points which count towards the CP. Booking Anytime or Business Select fares get you good number of points. Wanna Get Away fares are preferable for points redemption and cash purchase but they won’t earn you very many Rapid Rewards points.
Wanna Get Away fares are cheapest so the natural inclination of most folks is to simply book the Wanna Get Away fare without even looking at the Anytime or Business Select fares. However, in certain cases that can be the wrong move. Because you earn Rapid Rewards points at a rate of 6 per base fare dollar on Wanna Get Away, 10 per base fare dollar on Anytime and 12 per base fare dollar on Business Select fares, it makes sense to book the Anytime or Business Select fare if the price of them is close to or just slightly more than the Wanna Get Away fare. In this example, the Anytime fare costs $53 more than the Wanna Get Away fare but earns more than double the points.
Earning via Transfers into Rapid Rewards
Some transfers count toward CP, including transfers from hotel programs. Transfers directly from Ultimate Rewards do not count. This means that if you are very close to earning CP and have a boatload of Chase Ultimate Rewards points you may want to consider transferring some into a hotel program and then from the hotel program into Southwest Rapid Rewards points. In general this approach doesn’t offer great value unless you are only a small number of points away from CP qualification or you are going to use the CP an enormous amount.
Earning via Credit Cards
As is often the case, the lowest-hassle, quickest way to rack up large number of airline miles/points is through credit card signup bonuses. In the case of Southwest, there are multiple credit card options, all offered by Chase. There are two personal cards – Premier and Plus – and also a business card.
The signup bonuses for all of them vary back and forth over time from 25k to 50k points. If you’re looking to apply and don’t see a 50k point signup offer, check out the referral thread on FlyerTalk. Often times there 50k point offers available through referral even when they’re not publicly available.
When applying for two Southwest credit cards you may be asked by the phone rep why you want/need two Southwest cards. One reasonable answer is that you are looking to use different cards to separate/track different expenses.
If you have a business, even if it’s a sole proprietorship, you can apply for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card, which is currently offered with a 50k point signup bonus.
When you’re done reading this post, check out my other posts for even more details on the Southwest Companion Pass…
- Reader Request: Help Us Get Southwest Companion Pass
- Reader Request: Help Me Understand Southwest Companion Pass Before My Head Explodes
- Reader Success! Staci Earns the Southwest Companion Pass!
- Reader Success! Chris & Jillian Nab 7-Night Aruba Honeymoon & Companion Pass
It’s Best to Earn the CP Early in the Year
As I mentioned early in this post, when you earn the CP, you’ll have it for the remainder of the calendar year you earned it and the next calendar year. So earning it early in a calendar year means you could have it for nearly two full years!
Earning it via flights will realistically mean that you earn it late in a calendar year as it’s just not really feasible to fly the necessary amount in a couple months. So the best way to play this is to obtain two Southwest credit cards with 50k point signup bonuses, early in a calendar year. Once you meet the signup bonus spend requirement, you’ll have at least 104k points towards the 110k point CP requirement. With some additional point earning through any of the methods listed here you can get CP early in the calendar year. You’ll then have the CP for close to two full years. This is the approach I’ve used and it’s worked out excellently.
Switching Your Companion
You can switch your companion three times during the time you have the CP. This increases the value of it even further! When I most recently earned my CP I originally set it up with my mom listed as my companion as I was looking to get her free flights to/from Florida. Once that trip was completed I switched my companion to my wife and then immediately made companion bookings for her on flights I had already booked for myself.
To change your companion, call Southwest customer service at 800-435-9792.
You’ll Get a Physical Companion Pass Card (Which You Don’t Need)
Southwest will mail you a physical CP card once you’ve attained CP status. It is useless. You don’t need it to fly or to make companion pass bookings.
Booking Companion Flights
Once you’ve earned the Companion Pass you can book flights for your companion on Southwest’s website. It’s very straightforward. You simply navigate to the holder’s booking and then select “Add a Companion.” As long as there is a seat available on the plane, you can make a companion booking (the only exception I know of is a standby situation). Alternatively you can call Southwest and have them add the companion over the phone.
You could even have Jane use her Rapid Rewards points to book a flight for John and then have Jane added as John’s companion (assuming John has CP). This can work out great for couples that both have Rapid Rewards points. Patty and I have used this approach many times.
Maximizing the Value of the CP
It’s pretty obvious that the more you use the CP the more value you receive. Its greatest value may come when the CP holder’s airfare is paid for by his/her employer, or someone else, and he/she is then able to add the companion. For points redemptions, you’ll of course want to focus on Wanna Get Away fares which usually only require about 60-70 Rapid Rewards points per base fare dollar. If the CP holder can make such a redemption and then add a companion, the two folks traveling will be doing so at minimal cost.
For every nitty-gritty detail, visit Southwest’s Program Terms and Conditions site, click the “plus” sign next to What are the Rapid Rewards® Rules and Regulations? and then scroll down to the Companion Pass section.
Still have questions about the Southwest Companion Pass? Fire away in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer!