The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best deals in travel, so in this post I wanted to take a closer look at it. What is Companion Pass, how do you earn it, and how can you use it?
What is the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass?
With Southwest Companion Pass, qualifying Rapid Rewards members can take a travel companion with them on Southwest flights an unlimited number of times over the course of a membership year, by paying just the taxes and fees (which start at $5.60 one-way) for that person. It doesn’t matter if you’re booking a ticket with cash or redeeming points. This can essentially double the value of travel on Southwest Airlines, which is a pretty incredible opportunity.
How to earn the Southwest Companion Pass
Southwest Companion Pass can be earned in one of two primary ways:
- By flying 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year
- By earning 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year
Companion Pass is valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which it’s earned, plus the entire following calendar year.
What points count toward Companion Pass?
You can earn Companion Pass with 125,000 qualifying points, so what points count toward Companion Pass?
- Points earned through Southwest Airlines flights
- Points earned with Southwest co-branded credit cards, including both the welcome bonuses and any rewards for spending
- Base points earned when using the Southwest Airlines shopping portal
- Base points earned with most Southwest online partners, including Rocketmiles, 1-800-Flowers, etc.
What points don’t count toward Companion Pass?
Points earned in the following ways generally don’t count toward Companion Pass:
- Points purchased directly from Southwest Rapid Rewards
- Points transfered from partners, including Chase Ultimate Rewards, hotel and rental car partners, e-Rewards, Valued Opinions, and Diners Club
- Points transfered between Southwest Rapid Rewards accounts
- Promotional bonus points, like when an online shopping portal has an additional tiered bonus for a purchase
Earn Companion Pass with Credit Cards
Southwest co-branded credit cards offer one of the easiest ways to earn the companion pass. There are a total of 5 cards (3 consumer and 2 small business); the welcome bonuses and eligible spend on the cards count towards the 125,000 qualifying points required to earn the companion pass. This applies to the following three consumer cards:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card (review)
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card (review)
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Card (review)
and the following two small business cards:
- Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card (review)
- Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card (review)
How to use the Southwest Companion Pass
The process of booking travel with the Companion Pass is about as easy as it possibly could be, given how generous this benefit is. Let’s go over the details of how you designate your Southwest Companion Pass companion, and also how you book travel with your companion.
How do you designate your Southwest companion?
How do you designate the person who receives Southwest Companion Pass?
- Log into your Rapid Rewards account at southwest.com
- If you’re eligible, on the Snapshot tab find the “Choose Your Companion” section, click “Enter Companion Info,” and follow the instructions
- Once a companion has been designated, a Companion Pass member kit and membership card will arrive in 7-10 business days
- In the event that you prefer to designate your companion by phone, you can call 800-435-9792
Note that you can only designate one companion at a time. However, over the course of a year you can change your companion up to three times, meaning you could have up to four companions (at different times) over the course of one year. If you designate the same person twice in a year, that would count as two people toward your limit.
How do you book travel with the Southwest Companion Pass?
Once you’ve designated your companion, how do you go about booking flights for your companion?
- Just book your Southwest Airlines flight as you usually would, whether you’re paying cash or redeeming points
- Then visit the “My Trips” section of your account, and go to the “Upcoming Trips” section
- Once you’ve found the flight you’re looking for, click the “Add Companion” button, which will take you to the page where you can add a companion
- You’ll just have to pay the taxes & fees, and then you can complete your companion’s flight reservation
- In the event that you prefer to book by phone, you can call 800-248-4377
Note that you can even add a companion way later than you booked your ticket, as long as at least one seat is still for sale. It’s fine if the price increased, and you can have paid cash, redeemed points, etc., it doesn’t matter. There really are very few restrictions here.
The companion also doesn’t earn any Rapid Rewards points for their travel. That’s because Rapid Rewards is a revenue based frequent flyer program, and you earn points based on how much you spend. Since there is no fare associated with the companion’s travel, there are also no points to be earned.
Lastly, this should be obvious, but if you cancel your ticket, the ticket of your companion also has to be canceled. You can’t use the Companion Pass to have a companion fly around without you for free.
Is the Southwest Companion Pass worth it?
There’s not going to be a one size fits all answer as to whether or not the Companion Pass is worth it:
- Is it worth taking 100 flights on Southwest that you wouldn’t otherwise take in order to earn Companion Pass? No way
- If you’re a frequent Southwest flyer and fall just short of earning Companion Pass, is it worth putting in the effort to earn it? Definitely
- If you have a moderate amount of travel on Southwest planned, and there’s a great credit card bonus that gets you Companion Pass (or gets you most of the way there), is it worth applying for a card to earn it? Almost certainly
There’s a lot to love about Southwest in general. The airline doesn’t nickel-and-dime, and allows free ticket changes, two free checked bags, has great customer service, and offers complimentary drinks and snacks. The airline also has a huge regional route network in North America, with unrivaled frequencies in many markets.
Flying Southwest isn’t for everyone, though — there are limits to the carrier’s route network, there’s no first class, and in many cases there are much cheaper airlines (Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit, etc.).
Southwest Companion Pass FAQs
While the above hopefully is a good primer on Southwest Companion Pass, I figured I’d specifically address some of the most common questions about this program. In no particular order…
How many times can you use the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass can be used an unlimited number of times over the course of the membership year. So as often as you fly, you can also take a companion.
Can you use Southwest Companion Pass when you redeem points?
Yep, you sure can use Companion Pass when redeeming points or when paying cash for a ticket.
How often can you change your Southwest Companion Pass companion?
You can change your Companion Pass companion up to three times per year, for a total of up to four companions per year.
Does your Southwest Companion Pass always have to be the same person?
You can only designate one person as your Southwest Companion Pass companion at a time. You can change that companion three times throughout the year, but once you change it, you can only use the benefit for the companion who is currently designated.
Can your Southwest companion fly without you?
You can only use Companion Pass if you’re actually traveling with your companion. It sure would be nice if you could have a companion always fly for free without you even being on the flight, eh?
What’s the difference between Companion Pass and A-List status?
A-List is the equivalent of Southwest Airlines elite status, and requires flying 25 Southwest one-way flights per calendar year, or earning 35,000 tier qualifying points per calendar year. While most Companion Pass members will earn A-List automatically, that won’t always be the case, including for those who earn Companion Pass through a promotional offer.
Do Southwest Companion Pass points expire?
Earning Companion Pass is based on how many qualifying points you earn over the course of a calendar year. So every year that counter resets, and you’ll need to start over with earning Companion Pass.
When does Southwest Companion Pass expire?
Companion Pass ordinarily expires at the end of the year following the year in which you earned it. In other words, if you earned it on June 1, 2022, it would be valid through December 31, 2023. However, if you earn Companion Pass with some sort of a promotion, the expiration policy may be different.
Southwest Companion Pass is an exceptional value, as it allows you to have a companion travel with you while just paying taxes & fees, regardless of whether you’re paying cash or redeeming points for your ticket. The easiest way to earn Southwest Companion Pass is with Southwest Airlines’ credit cards.
What do you make of the value proposition of Southwest Companion Pass?