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You’ve done your research, you’ve met the qualification requirements, and now it’s finally here–your Southwest Companion Pass. That little metaphorical golden ticket that opens up a whole new world of cheap travel options is now yours.
A Quick Refresher on the One Perk to Rule Them All
The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is one of the most popular perks in the points and miles world, and for good reason. Holders of the Companion Pass can fly with a friend or family member — or even their worst enemy, really, whoever they'd like — for free (plus taxes and fees). And it works for both revenue flights and award redemptions.
Southwest flies all over the United States (including Hawaii) and even serves a few international destinations like: Costa Rica, Mexico, Belize and more. Can you see why the Companion Pass can be so valuable?
To qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass, you need to earn 125,000 qualifying points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights per calendar year. Ways to earn the 125,000 qualifying miles needed include:
- Spending on a Southwest credit card
- Flying on Southwest
- Hotel stays
- Car rentals
- Rapid Rewards Shopping
- Rapid Rewards Dining
How to Check Your Companion Pass Progress
So, how do you know when you actually have the pass? Fortunately, Southwest makes it incredibly easy to find out. Whether you've earned the Companion Pass through the sign-up bonus offer or the hard way earning points with Southwest, the process to check is the same.
Just head over to Southwest's website and log in to your Southwest Airlines account. Navigate to the “My Account” button at the top right. Once to the page, scroll to the area labeled “My Rapid Rewards” and your Companion Pass progress will be listed right there — along with a few other pieces of information.
How to Setup Your Initial Southwest Companion
Once you have earned your Southwest Companion Pass, you can either call in to set up your initial Companion or watch out for an email from Southwest. This email will redirect you to the correct place and allow you to set up your Companion. If you deleted the email, no worries, you can still visit Southwest to set up your initial companion.
Make sure you have their information on hand. Southwest will require you to have their full name as it appears on their ID, their birthdate, an email address, and their Rapid Rewards account number.
How to Book Southwest Companion Flights
Before you can book a free Companion flight, remember that you must also be flying. So, head to the Southwest Airlines website and log into your account. You don't actually have to log in to search for flights, but I find it easier if you do. Navigate down to the flight search engine and enter in your desired flight info–departure and arrival, dates, etc.
No need to select two “passengers” at this point. If it's just you and your Companion flying, you'll only need to select one passenger. But, this is also a good time to confirm seat availability. Southwest doesn't have any blackout dates for companions, but there must be a seat available. So, if the flight only has one seat left, you will not be able to book your Companion on it.
Continue with the search, select the flights you would like, and finish your booking. Once your flight is officially booked, visit the “My Trips” tab and navigate your way to the “Upcoming” section where your flight is listed. Select the “Add Companion” link. Make sure the info is correct for your Companion and once you confirm everything is as it should be, hit “Purchase.”
Who Can Fly With You
A Companion Pass holder is eligible to fly with one Companion for no additional charge (except taxes and fees). So, think of it as a 2-for-1.
You can officially change your Southwest Companion three times per calendar year. That's after you select your initial Companion, so you can technically select four companions. Before you commit to adding your companion, it's a great idea to have somewhat of a strategy in play. That way you don't end up being stuck with a companion you do not plan on flying with often, for whatever reason.
If you need to change your Southwest Companion, you must call 1-800-435-9792. Southwest states that you will need to allow up to 21 business days to process and mail a replacement card, but normally it doesn't take that long. The change usually takes place almost instantly in your Rapid Rewards account.
When Does it Expire
A Companion Pass is good “…for the entire calendar year immediately following the year in which you qualified.” If you somehow earn your Southwest Companion Pass on January 1, 2021, you will have it for the rest of 2021 and all of 2022.
However, if you earn the Southwest Companion Pass through the currently-available sign-up offer, the Companion Pass is only good through February 28, 2022.
As your Companion Pass gets near its expiration, you'll need to book and take your Southwest flights by December 31 of whichever year it expires. Flights scheduled to leave after this date will not qualify for the free flight any longer. For strategies on how to maximize the Companion Pass, check out this article.
Can You Still Live A Fulfilling Travel Life Without A Companion Pass?
As a mother of 4 young kids who loves to travel, you would think that getting the Companion Pass would be a priority for me. Well, I have a confession–I have never actually held one of these elusive little unicorns.
My journey into the points and miles world started before Chase’s notorious 5/24 rule was implemented. At the time, I — and plenty of others in this hobby — could never have imagined a rule like 5/24 being implemented. But, long story short, one day Chase clamped down, and my chance to easily earn the Companion Pass was over before it had even begun.
Clearly, the Southwest Companion Pass can hold immense value, especially for families and extra especially for families who enjoy traveling domestically. However, there are plenty of programs out there with amazing enough redemptions. I'm living proof of the ability to easily earn large quantities of miles. While maybe the value doesn’t always necessarily match the Companion Pass, they can still help you reach your travel goals.
The Southwest Companion Pass can offer amazing value. If you can earn one and it fits your travel goals, do it.
For one, Southwest's award program and redemptions are so easy to understand. It doesn't involve spending days digging around ExpertFlyer and calling centers in Australia in the middle of the night to try and grab a flight on an airline that may or may not actually have real availability. And their customer-friendly policies are hard to beat.
So, for simplicity's sake alone, the Companion Pass moves up several levels on the value scale.
But, I wouldn't necessarily recommend waiting until you're under 5/24 just for the sake of easily earning the Companion Pass. You may be better off revamping your strategy as the opportunity cost to wait may not be worth it.
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