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The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most rewarding travel perks available with airline loyalty programs. Essentially it is an unlimited Buy One Get One (BOGO) for you and a designated companion — even on award tickets! However, in line with most other companies that have devalued and changed their reward programs in the last couple of years, Southwest has announced some changes to the Companion Pass program effective January 1, 2017.

Southwest Airlines 737
photo credit: airlines470 N401WN LAX via photopin (license)

The Companion Pass

The Companion Pass is very straightforward. Once you have earned it, you are entitled to take a companion with you when you travel, free of charge. This applies whether you have purchased the ticket outright, or are flying on a Rapid Rewards award ticket. The only cost which needs to be paid is the security taxes for the companion.

The Companion Pass can be used as many times as you like during its period of validity. You need to pre-nominate your companion; however, you are allowed to change your registered companion up to 3 times per period.

Companion Passes can be earned in two ways. You can fly 100 flights on Southwest in a year, which is not an attractive or practical proposition, or secondly, by earning 110K points in a year. The second route is one of the main ways travelers have been earning the Pass in the last few years. So far, credit card spends and bonus sign-ups have counted, as well as transfers from hotel and car rental programs. This is where Southwest is implementing some changes from January 1, 2017; which points will count is being redefined.

Points That No Longer Count Towards the Companion Pass

With a subtle but significant change to their terms and conditions illustrated below, Southwest has closed the option of transferring points from car rental and hotel programs to earn the Companion Pass. While you can still transfer the points to redeem for an award flight, they won’t count towards the Companion Pass.

Historically, Chase Ultimate Rewards points could not be transferred and credited towards Companion Pass eligibility. While this remains the case, from now on other transfers into the Rapid Rewards will no longer count either. The good news is that Southwest co-branded credit cards signup bonuses and spending still count, which is one of the main strategies most people use to earn sufficient points for a Companion Pass.

Terms that no longer allow transferred points to count towards earning the Companion Pass

A Member who earns 110,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points or who flies 100 qualifying one-way flights booked through Southwest Airlines per calendar year will qualify for Companion Pass.  Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, points earned on Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Cards, and base points earned from Rapid Rewards Partners.  Purchased points, transferred points transferred between members, points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club, points earned from program enrollment, tier bonus points, flight bonus points, and partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not qualify as Companion Pass Qualifying Points.  Points earned during a billing cycle on a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card from Chase are not available for redemption or qualification for Companion Pass status until they are posted on your billing statement and posted to your Rapid Rewards Account.  Only points posted on your billing statements and posted to your Rapid Rewards Account during the same calendar year are available for qualification for Companion Pass status.  No points or Companion Pass Qualifying Points will be awarded for flights taken by the Companion using the Companion Pass.

These changes have killed one of the main loopholes used to boost points and earn a Companion Pass, since Chase Ultimate Rewards points could be moved to Hyatt, and then moved on again to Southwest to qualify for the Companion Pass. Alas, this is no more. Also, the changes close the loophole in Marriot Hotel + Air redemptions, which previously counted towards earning a Companion Pass.

Other Earning Options

Some options are still open to earn the Companion Pass. For instance, there are two Southwest co-branded credit cards, that will earn you a hefty signup bonus, nearly enough to qualify for a Companion Pass. Loading the cards up with shopping you intended to do anyway will yield more points, and shopping through the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program Shopping Portal will let you earn even more points towards hitting your Companion Pass goal.

Conclusion

Let's face it — this was too good of a deal and it had to eventually go away. However, there are still several options open and available to earn a companion pass, so to those who regularly use a Companion Pass you'll have to be more imaginative and jump through a few more hoops to earn it this / next year.

Don’t Transfer Points to Southwest for Companion Pass!
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Comments

  • I’ve heard rumors that Southwest is having trouble keeping their prices down for some financial reason. They are my favorite airline to fly domestically, and I hope that they can somehow compete with these other airlines.

  • This isn’t so much of a loophole closure but of a restriction in terms. More than likely there has been a recent glut of Companion Pass earners because of the SPG/Marriott merger who decided to take advantage of their favorable SPG points transfer and got themselves a Marriott Air/Hotel vacation package with SWA to get the Companion Pass. The world of travel is constantly changing but it seems like more than ever there is a plethora of sources for the information that points/miles travelers want, and because of those sources they all knew about the easiest way to get a Companion Pass and took advantage. SWA is merely reacting to the onslaught.

  • As I reside in Hawaii, Southwest is really not in my radar, but sad for all those folks who were waiting for the new year to transfer their points.

  • I wish WN would have given advance notice before making the change.

  • Woof. The mileage game is one of constant inflation/devaluation.

  • It’s nice to see a reasoned response to a changed deal that clearly was too good to last forever. Elsewhere I read the pitchfork brigade complaining about Southwest not handing out the companion pass to people who clearly aren’t going to fly 100 times in year but happened to have 270K Marriott points.

  • What bad news!

  • They left the CC enrollment bonus from Chase cards, as well as regular spend still open to qualification. It should still be doable, but of course, will require more effort and spend.

  • It is said that the United States is a country of innovation. I am always amazed at how airlines can come up with innovations (good or bad for the traveler) with which to tweak their FF programs.

  • Shame to see such a valuable perk going away. Wish they’d find a way to add value to their brand instead of punishing loyalty

  • Bradley Adam Russell says:

    This is great!

    Said no one.

  • Brian Gallagher says:

    I agree with Howie.

    While this does ‘stink’ for folks like us who want to use credit cards to get ‘free’ stuff… it is really all about protecting SW and protecting their brand. They are not trying to ‘hurt’ us, they are trying to make their brand stronger.

    We were really close to getting a Companion Pass about 3 years ago. In the end, I’m glad we didn’t get it, as we moved abroad a few months later and it would have been wasted on us. We used the points accumulated for a few flights to see family & that was that.

  • Such a sad loss.

  • Happy to hear about this now! It’s too bad that they’re restricting a common way I’ve used points in the past. Thanks for the heads-up!

  • Like every other airlines Southwest is also trying to devalue its loyalty program. I am not sure there is anything we as customers can do. We can only be diligent and closely follow the ever changing rules.

  • This just means that I will have to use my hotel points on hotels.

  • I’m only at roughly 4k Points – is there anything doable with these?

  • Did Southwest cancel this policy? I am hearing rumors that they might have.

  • It does look like an amazing opportunity and anyone who can should take advantage while itis still around.

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