How to use Southwest's Companion Pass, which gets you two-for-one travel on both paid flights and award tickets

Southwest Airlines

Southwest offers one of the most generous airline benefits around: the Companion Pass. With this perk, you can bring along a friend for free on all Southwest flights — both those that are paid and those booked on points. They’ll only have to pay for taxes and fees.

In early 2019, Southwest ran an amazing promotion that granted new credit card holders the Companion Pass for a year after they met a minimum spending requirement. Unfortunately, that offer is no longer available, but you can still earn the pass by flying, earning qualifying points, or a combination of both.

In fact, the three personal Southwest credit cards are currently running sign-up bonuses of up to 75,000 points — earning the full bonus would get you more than halfway toward qualifying for the Companion Pass, and unlike with last year’s enticing sign-up offer, you’d get the Companion Pass for the rest of the year in which you earn it, as well as the entire following calendar year. 

Once you’ve earned the Companion Pass, you’ll want to be sure you’re making the most of it, stretching the value of your dollars and your points used to book travel on Southwest. Here’s everything you need to know.

Refresher: How to earn the Companion Pass

You need to earn 125,000 qualifying Southwest points or fly 100 one-way flights in a calendar year to obtain a Companion Pass. 

If you don’t travel frequently, the good news is that Southwest credit card sign-up bonuses count as qualifying points toward the pass. You can open one of the three personal Southwest credit cards, and you’d be a good chunk of the way there.

If you can qualify for a business credit card, you could also open one of the two Southwest business credit cards to earn another sign-up bonus. With two sign-up bonuses, you could qualify for the Companion Pass without needing to earn any additional points.

With the following three cards, you can earn up to 75,000 Rapid Rewards points, which get you more than halfway toward qualifying for the Companion Pass. You’ll earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months, and another 35,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first six months:

There are also two Southwest business credit cards:

Getting started with the Southwest Companion Pass

As Companion Pass holder, you can book your flight to your desired destination using cash or points. Once your flight is confirmed, you can add a second passenger (your companion) for the same flight online or by phone.

Designate your companion

However, before you start scouring the site for flights, you must first designate who your companion will be. To do so, log onto your Rapid Rewards account at Southwest. On your Snapshot tab, click Choose Your Companion. Then, enter the information about your companion and follow the instructions until the process is complete.

If you prefer to speak to a representative, you can call 1-800-435-9792. After you complete the companion-designation process, a Companion Pass member kit and membership card will arrive in 7-10 business days.

Don’t worry — you don’t need to wait for your Companion Pass member kit to come in the mail before you start booking tickets!

Add your companion to a reservation

Once your flight is booked, visit the My Trips section of your account. Find your flight in the section titled “Upcoming” and click on the “Add Companion” link. Here, click “Continue” to proceed to the next step where you can purchase your companion fare and review the information. Once you hit the “Purchase” button to complete your booking reservation, you’re all set.

You can also book through a Customer Representative (1-800-248-4377) and notify them that you will be using a Companion Pass. This is a lesser-known alternative that could be more useful because it can sometimes take up to 24 hours before you can add your companion online (though in my experience it has never taken this long).

Who can I designate as my companion?

While the Companion Pass is good for only one companion, you can change who your companion is up to three times per year. One thing to keep in mind is that you can’t change your companion every month, so try to think of someone you travel with frequently, such as a spouse, friend, or family member.

Additionally, you can’t book future flights with one companion, change your companion, and then book more flights with the new companion. Any future flights scheduled with the first companion will have the companion ticket canceled when you change your companion.

How to change your designated companion

If you’re looking to change who your companion is, you can do this up to three times per year. However, you cannot make the switch online yourself — you need to speak with Southwest directly (1-800-435-9792). The process is straightforward. A customer representative will take the information about your new designated companion and make the switch for you.

Note that until your trips with your current companion are complete, you will not be able to book a new flight with your newly designated companion. For example, if you’re traveling to New York City with your sister in May, but want to fly to Los Angeles with your husband in June, you will not be able to add your husband as your companion until your trip in May is completed.

One workaround to this is that you can still book a flight for yourself, and then add your companion after flying the last leg of your previous trip (in this case the May trip) as long as there is still a seat available on the flight. If you use points and need to cancel for any reason, all of your points will be restored to your account.

Are there any restrictions?

One huge benefit to having the Companion Pass is that you can use it whether you book your flight with points or with cash. For example, even if you book a flight for yourself using points, your Companion Pass still qualifies so you can bring your companion with you for only the cost of taxes ($5.60 each way on domestic US flights). There’s also no limit to the number of flights you can use the Companion Pass on.

Bottom line

From the beach to the mountains, Southwest Airlines offers almost to breathtaking locations throughout the country, and beyond. Whether it be Mexico, the Caribbean, or Central America, there are endless vacations to dream up and fly to with your favorite person (even if your favorite person changes during the year).

$69 annual fee: Click here to learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card »

$99 annual fee: Click here to learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card »

$149 annual fee: Click here to learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card »

SEE ALSO: All our credit card reviews — from cash-back to travel rewards to business cards — in one place

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Source: businessinsider
How to use Southwest's Companion Pass, which gets you two-for-one travel on both paid flights and award tickets

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