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The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most sought after frequent flyer benefits. It provides holders with the ability to designate a person who will fly with them for free on all Southwest Airline flights -- including all fare classes. Unfortunately, this benefit comes with a good amount of rules and fine print, which can be frustrating to some. We broke down the terms and conditions to clarify how people can get the Southwest Companion Pass, use it, and use it most efficiently.
How To Get The Southwest Companion Pass
In order to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass, an individual must earn at least 110,000 Qualifying Rapid Rewards points or fly 100 one-way flights booked through Southwest Airlines. The primary way most people will earn Southwest points is through flying with the airline. You get six points per dollar with Wanna Get Away fares, 10 per dollar with Anytime tickets, and 12 with Business Select.
Not all Rapid Reward points count towards qualifying for a companion pass. Only those earned from flights booked through Southwest Airlines, their partners, and their Chase credit cards are considered "qualified". When it comes to points earned from flights, only the base rate counts. Along the way to earning the Southwest Companion pass, you are sure to pick up elite tier status along the way (it has far lower point requirements). Upon earning the elite status, you’ll earn bonus points each time you book a flight –- these are what’s excluded from counting towards the companion pass.
The above restrictions can make qualifying for the Southwest Companion Pass difficult, unless you fly with the airline very frequently as part of your job. Even if you fly exclusively in business class, we calculate that you would need to spend $9,167 on tickets before earning the pass. Given that Southwest is a predominantly domestic airline, ticket fares tend to be on the lower end of the spectrum. For example, a round-trip Business Select ticket from JFK to LAX would cost $1,370. You would still need to fly six such trips before qualifying. Unless you are an extremely frequent flyer, most individuals may have a hard time hitting this threshold.
Strategies For Earning The Southwest Companion Pass Quickly
In order to maximize the time you have with the Southwest Companion Pass, it’s necessary to use all available methods of getting qualifying points. There are a number of different promotions and partnerships travelers can take advantage of in order to earn those points quickly.
Using A Southwest Credit Card
The fastest way of earning extra Rapid Rewards points is by using the airline’s affiliated credit cards that are currently offering a companion pass as part of their sign-up bonus offer. For instance, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is currently offering a companion pass and 30,000 points for users who spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months. This is a limited time offer that will end on 2/11/19. The companion pass is promotional and will be valid through 12/31/19.
Using Southwest Partners
The other way to earn extra qualifying miles towards a Companion Pass is by utilizing Southwest's partnerships with other partners. The airline's primary partnerships are with hotel chains. The most prominent among those are Choice, LaQuinta, Best Western, Hyatt, Starwood, and Marriott chains. You can earn up to 750 Southwest Rapid Reward points per stay at these properties, if you make the booking through Southwest's site. While this figure pales in comparison to the credit card bonuses, they can help push users over the hump if they are just short of earning the pass.
In some cases, the reward points can also be earned after your stay -- up to 12 months after. To do this, you will need to contact a specific number, which can be found on Southwest's website. While there have been mixed reports, the Rapid Rewards program Terms & Conditions leave it ambiguous whether it matters when those points post to your account or are earned. Therefore, it's possible for points earned from a hotel stay last year, to help you qualify for a Companion Pass, as long as they have only recently been applied towards your account.
In addition to hotels, Southwest also allows individuals to earn Rapid Rewards points through auto rental services, restaurants, and more (see their site for a full list). Remember that welcome offers for opening an account do not count for the Companion Pass. For example, you can currently earn 1,000 points for signing up for TurboTax -- these points would not be counted towards the 110,000 requirement.
How The Southwest Companion Pass Works
The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to designate one person who can fly with you for free. The only charge you will be required to pay for the additional traveler is a nominal fee of roughly $10, which covers government taxes. According to the airline, the average passenger airfare in 2015 was $154.85. That means, if used, such a pass could save the average flyer $144 per trip.
While earning the pass is complicated, using it is fairly simple. You must first book your flight separately. Once that is done, you can get the companion ticket by using Southwest.com or by calling 1-800-248-4377. The primary passenger and their companion are required to be on the same flight. If the original ticket is cancelled, the companion one will be as well.
Once you designate a travelling companion you may change them up to three times per calendar year.