Guide to Companion Fares & Companion Passes [2019]

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Companion pass, companion certificate, companion fare, or companion ticket. While the terms are very much alike, they all carry different definitions as to what constitutes a companion pass or ticket. Some airlines have designed their companion pass as a well thought out feature of their rewards program, worthy of attention and pursuit, while others have turned it into a lazy half-benefit, slipped into the backend of a credit card's benefits as an afterthought, and offering only marginal value.

Due to the massive difference in value between the best and the worst companion benefits, they can be broken up into two separate sections.

Travel Companions
Traveling with a companion is always better when the ticket is free.
  • Airlines that offer companion tickets or fares
  • Airlines that provide companion passes

A companion fare or ticket is simply a one-time pass for a companion to join you on a flight either free of charge or for a small fee, a 2-for-1 deal. A companion pass gives you those same 2-for-1 privileges, but over a longer period, potentially 1-2 years.

Needless to say, the value of a companion pass is significantly greater than that of a companion fare or ticket.

How to Earn Companion Tickets, Certificates, and Fares

The companion fares on this list are typically earned after meeting a modest minimum spend on a credit card, or on account anniversary when paying the annual fee. The exception to this rule is the American Airlines Companion Certificate, which requires a whopping $30K minimum spend.

Alaska Airlines Companion Fare

UPDATE: The value of the companion pass offered with the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card has gone up. For a limited time, new cardholders need to pay just $22 in taxes and fees for the companion pass, saving $99 off the $121 fare typically offered with this card.

Offered to holders of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card and Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card in the form of a discount code, the Alaska Airlines Companion Fare lets cardholders purchase one round-trip coach companion fare on Alaska Airlines from as little as $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees). The companion must be traveling with another passenger on a paid published fare, on the same itinerary, and booked at the same time. Both passengers accrue mileage on the fare.

The annual discount code is issued after the cardholder makes $1,000 of purchases on the card in the first 90 days of account opening, and is issued each year on account anniversary after that. The card’s both have a $75 annual fee, not waived for the first year.

Note: The companion fare may be used by anyone. If the original recipient of the discount code is not a traveler on the itinerary he/she must pay for the fare.

Delta SkyMiles Companion Certificate

If you hold the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, or the equivalent business level cards (Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express or Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card) you are eligible for a Delta SkyMiles Companion Certificate each year you renew the card. The certificate allows another passenger to fly with you free of charge, paying only fees and taxes of no more than $75 for round-trip domestic flights. Only the primary traveler accrues miles for the flight.

The SkyMiles Companion Fares are only valid for domestic flights and differ slightly in what they offer.

Note: Companion certificates are valid for one round-trip First Class or Main Cabin (depending on certificate type) companion ticket with the purchase of certain adult round-trip fares on published routings within the 48 contiguous United States. Seats are limited to specific fare booking classes. Residents of Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands must originate from there to the 48 contiguous United States.

UPDATE: Companions traveling on a Delta Companion Certificate are now eligible for complimentary upgrades and Delta Reserve cardmembers can also book Delta Comfort+ tickets. See the linked posts for details.

American Airlines Companion Certificate

There are two companion certificate options with American Airlines — one from a personal and one with a business credit card. Both certificates aren't the easiest to earn, nor are they the most generous companion fares available, but you've got options:

The AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard® provides a companion certificate, redeemable for up to 2 companions at $99 per ticket (plus taxes/fees) when you spend $30K on the card during your card-membership year (12-month rolling period). This card carries a $195 annual fee.

If you've got the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, the American Airlines Companion Certificate gets you a $120.60/$142.20 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees) domestic round-trip main cabin ticket after you reach $30K spending on the card. Valid for one year from date of issue on AA flights within the 48 contiguous United States. This card carries a $95 annual fee, waived the first year of card membership.

British Airways Travel Together Certificate

Earned by spending $30K on the British Airways Visa Signature® Card in a calendar year, the BA Travel Together Certificate can be redeemed for a companion fare on first, business, and cabin class tickets. The companion must pay all the accompanying fees and taxes (which, due to BA’s excessive fuel surcharges, can be expensive), and the companion seat must also be available as an award fare.

As BA’s fuel surcharges can be astronomical at times, the BA Travel Together Certificate typically provides the best value when used for premium class fares. The card carries a $95 annual fee.

How to Earn an Airline Companion Pass

A companion pass differs from a companion fare in that it can be used multiple times, in some cases for almost 24 months. There are only two programs that offer a full companion pass, and there is a big difference in value.

Southwest Airlines Companion Pass

One of the holy grails of the frequent flyer community, the Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most rewarding benefits of any airline loyalty program. Take a companion with you on any flight for just the cost of fees and taxes, including award flights! The companion pass doesn’t come cheap, requiring either 100 individual segments or 110,000 Rapid Rewards points earned within a calendar year.

As with most rewards redemptions, however, timing is everything when it comes to earning the Southwest Companion Pass, and if you get that timing right, you can hold the Pass for the better part of two years.

The reason for this is that once you have earned enough points for the Pass, you receive it for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earn it, plus the whole of the next year. For example, if you earn it in February 2019, you’ll keep it until December 2020.

Southwest Airlines Aircraft

Important: Southwest has updated its policies for the Companion Pass, and as of March 31, 2017, members can no longer transfer points from outside sources to gain the companion pass. It's always sad to see the demise of a tried and true hack, but there are still a few options for gaining a companion pass without flying the required 100 segments via shopping portals, credit card spend, and signup bonuses like those detailed below. 

The fastest way to achieve the Southwest Companion Pass is applying for a combination of business and consumer Southwest co-brand cards.

Applying for both a business and consumer version of Southwest's co-brand cards, and meeting the minimum spend, will put you well within striking distance of acquiring a Southwest Companion Pass.

Final Thoughts

The value of a companion pass or fare can have a huge variance between airlines, with some barely qualifying as a benefit, and others worth selling a small part of your soul to acquire. We rate the Southwest Companion Pass as one of the most valuable frequent flyer perks available today, and signing up for the Southwest co-branded credit cards is the fastest and easiest way of attaining it. Of the companion fares, the two offered by Delta provide some of the best value, charging just the taxes and fees up to a maximum of $75 per round-trip.

For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card (Rates & Fees)

Guide to Companion Fares & Companion Passes [2019]
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Comments

  • Jonathan Otto says:

    It seemed like Southwest had pretty much halted route expansion entirely, so them being one of the Cuba launch airlines makes the SW CP an extremely enticing option.

  • Judi edwards says:

    Can you use more than 1 hotel when booking the 7 night stay using Marriott points?

  • Do you know if Alaska Airlines allows usage of the companion pass for open-jaw itineraries?

  • Any international passes?

    • The BA TTT can be used for international *award* flights, but as the post indicated, taxes & surcharges cane be quite high, in the neighborhood of $2000+ for F.

    • And as MP mentions below, the Lufthansa MC from Barclays, not covered in the post, offers an annual Economy Class Companion Ticket after $30k in spend, but there too, you’re looking at high taxes & surcharges when redeeming.

  • Doesn’t the Barclay’s Aviator Silver card also offer a companion certificate after meeting an annual spending threshold?

  • Nice detailed post! OP may want to mention that the SW credit cards are subjected to Chase 5/24 rule.

  • I just earned 50K Southwest RR points for signing up with the credit card and am awaiting approval of the business version for another 50K RR points. Since I already have over 10K points in my RR account, I am very excited to soon be able to cash in on the Companion Pass! This is going to be great for my partner and I! Southwest has only been expanding their routes and availability so we are looking forward to lot’s of trips at half the price!
    If Chase doesn’t overlook the 5/24 rule for the business card (which I have already appealed since I only have one other business card (not through Chase) – the others are personal, I have more than enough Marriott points to cash in for the companion pass before March 31st! I am so excited that this is within reach!

  • For the Marriott air +hotel package, does the trip have to be completed by march 31st? Or will the status be awarded as long as the reservation is made by march 31st?

    Thanks!

    • The package simply needs to be booked by then. The hotel itself doesn’t need to be booked until the 7-day certificate expires, which is a year, and depending on the agent you speak to, you may be able to get it further extended.

  • Too bad there aren’t more southwest type passes with other airlines….

  • Mary-Lynne Fisher says:

    I have had the Chase British Airways Visa for several years and have earned at least four companion vouchers. When I’ve been able to find award seats, the award is truly wonderful. But this year I have not been able to find award seats from the Southwestern US and as a result my current voucher will expire unused. I have another voucher with a later expiration date. I’m considering dropping the BA Visa because I’ve since opened a Chase Sapphire Reserve account and don’t need two Visas. I’d like to know others’ recent experience with this award and whether I will forfeit the award if I close the BA Visa.

  • So, the Amex companion fares are not available on domestic or economy fares?

  • Lufthansa Miles and More companion ticket (trips to Europe) have taxes so high that it becomes unusable.

  • Are there any other miles/points you can transfer to sw other than Marriott and spg via Marriott? I have the spg card and just got approved for the spg business card, but that still leaves me very short of the needed miles to gain in the next 2 months.

  • Ok thank you… after sign up bonuses and min spend I’ll be at 56k spg points. Any MS ideas that will not cause a red flag with Amex as I’ve read they can be sensitive to ms and flag for complete financial review.

  • Brian Gallagher says:

    We were 100 points away from the companion pass a few years ago on Southwest. Since then we’ve decided to route our efforts in other directions. We just don’t spend enough or fly enough to compete for any of the other opportunities described above.
    I think this is a clear place where it is important to pick your travel goals at the start of the year and focus on those goals. Back when we tried for the companion pass it made sense for us – now it doesn’t. Much more of our current air travel is to asia, europe or the middle east.
    Also, we’re saving our marriott points for some specific things.

  • If the points transferred from hotel programs are done before the deadline in March but not enough to reach the 110,000 points for a companion pass, does it still count after the March deadline?

    For example, I have 20,000 points in Rapid Rewards, plan to apply for the credit card for another 50,000 points, transfer my current Marriott points to get 20,000 more Rapid Rewards. I don’t have enough points to do the hotel + air package. But if I continue to fly Southwest after March and accrue mileage, will the transferred points before March count?

  • If you look at the DOC of airlines, you realize that the price you pay for the companion is exactly the DOC times the longest transcontinental distance you can fly within the US. So airlines are selling them at cost, at least when fuel was at $100/barrel. Might be slightly profitable now for them.

  • great write up.. I need to learn more about companion passes.. this is excellent.

  • Could I just buy 110,000 Rapid Rewards with my Chase Ultimate rewards to qualify? I have over 400,000 Ultimate rewards

  • Could I purchase 110,000 RR with Chase Ultimate rewards to qualify?

  • Rosemarie Carlino says:

    My family member has earned the Southwest companion fare bcuz of business travel, he loves it!

  • Megan Montague says:

    I’m curious, why do you think Chase would provide both a Premier and a Plus card to the same person?

    I re-apply every couple of years to take advantage of the Southwest sign-up bonus, and recently got a new Premier card to try for a Companion Pass this year. (With the sign up bonus and charging three college tuitions, we have a shot at meeting the 110,000 points. ) Based on your blog I just applied to add a Plus card, and usually it’s an instant online approval. However, I got the “we need to review your application and will send a response by mail within 30 days.” That pretty much means, “No.”

    Did you mean that one could apply for both a personal and a business card?

    • Megan, Chase will approve someone for both a Premier and Plus card, under certain conditions of course. Keep in mind if you’ve applied for 5 or more cards in the last 24 months you’ll have a hard time being approved for another Southwest card — a restriction that Chase places on many of its card products.

      You could call up to verify that your application has been received and that there are no errors or omissions on the application. Many times when I apply for cards I’m not instantly approved and I need to call to verify my identity or provide additional information. One time I entered my wife’s SSN on my credit card application.

  • Very helpful info. I just received offers for Southwest for credit cards. Will now seriously consider options. I have American Airlines credit card but not willing to pay fee after first free year.

  • PLEASE HELP!

    At this link, there once was a complete step by step guide in how to acquire the SWA Companion Pass by getting the Marriott Rewards card(s) and AMEX SPG Card(s) by Husband/wife and then combining these points to acquire the SWA Companion pass BUT NOW this link is not showing this any longer??
    Please HELP me to locate this information and I need to complete the steps listed!

  • Question on Southwest Companion Pass —

    I want to book a flight from ABQ to SEA via DEN and then home the same way. I would do {2} one way tickets.

    I have a companion pass and I want my companion to fly on the DEN-SEA-DEN segments. I know the return flight won’t be an issue since I will be on the initial flight from SEA -DEN; companion will get off and I will continue on; notifying FA that companion has left.

    It’s the flight to SEA. Since I would be starting in ABQ and companion wouldn’t be getting on until DEN, will that cause the companion not to be able to fly DEN-SEA??

    I realize I can fly ABQ-DEN a a single ticket and then do DEN-SEA, but that really increases the # of RR needed.

    Thanks for your insights.

  • The best offer was when SWA offered the companion pass for opening its credit card in certain regions.

  • Thanks for the info. Great summary. I’ve bookmarked for reference.

  • Goes without saying that the companion pass remains perhaps the best deal in travel.

  • I wish it was easier to get AA passes. Thanks for the info.

  • While it’s not an airline, it’s worth noting that the $79 annual fee Amtrak card from Bank of America offers a companion pass valid for a one way or round trip reservation. The card also provides a one class upgrade coupon and a free Amtrak lounge coupon. There is a 20,000 mile sign up bonus presently. The free card doesn’t provide the coupons.

  • I love this SWA Companion Pass. SWA is our go to airline from NorCal to San Diego where our kids live so getting the fare at 1/2 price when 2 of us fly is amazing. I have to find a way to re-earn this by the beginning of 2019!

  • Once my 5/24 clears again, sounds like I need to go for SW companion pass.

  • Great deals, and most often don’t get the love they deserve.

  • Companion pass acquired January of this year, good until 2019! Pretty proud of myself for pulling that off, really.

  • The companion pass is great for many people but since I travel with varied people, or alone, it doesn’t really interest me or provide much value. And I’m definitely not a fan of the Southwest boarding process.

  • Does anyone know if you can use the BA companion /Travel Together Certificate by booking on codeshare flights with a BA codeshare number but on AA metal, and would the taxes/surcharges be less in this case (taxes are lessthey are less when booking direct on AA flights on AA.com itself) ?

  • For Southwest example in the post, you mention “For example, if you earn it in February 2018, you’ll keep it until December 2020.” I believe there is a typo there and it should be “until December 2019.”

  • I believe the Barclays Aviator Silver card also offers a companion ticket upon meeting a spending threshold ($30k?)

  • Any info regarding United?

  • Lee Ann Bixler says:

    Good information on companion passes. Too bad they no longer allow hotel point transfers.

  • Eh, at this point I don’t see myself really trying hard for these. I can imagine that it’s hard to redeem some of these. Though I do wonder about the Southwest redemption, if it’s difficult. I have been reading about the boarding process and all the things people do to hold seats or try to look like someone they wouldn’t want to sit next to. It’s all very saddening and it doesn’t make me want to fly SouthWest.

  • good luck finding first class availability with the BA deal. Business is usually no problem, but first is almost impossible.

  • Thanks for the helpful guide.

  • Claire Wrigley says:

    Trying to patiently wait to get under 5/24 so I can get a companion pass. The biggest trouble then will be who to pick for my companion … my husband who gets business tickets booked for him anyway or my toddler who maybe left at home for some adult only trips.

  • I must be losing it. I have the AA Platinum card and never realized if I spend $30,000 I earn a companion certificate. I limit the amount I spend to AA purchases which are close to $30,000 for my family. I guess I have to make sure to up the spend to hit the $30,000 since I’m so close anyhow.

  • Andy Higgs says:

    I like the SAS option in Norway – if you spend enough with their co-branded Amex card you get a companion ticket but can also use it to redeem points with a 50% bonus – much easier than finding a companion who can travel on the same flight I find.

  • Thanks for this, I know what I’ll be doing very soon!

  • My wife and I alternate signing up for Southwest Rapid Rewards cards every 2 years so that we always have a companion pass between us. The companion pass combined with Southwest’s no fee rebooking policy is hard to beat!

  • The alaska pass allowed me to go to hawaii for very cheap from the east coast.

  • In a bit of bind. My daughter deploys in 1 week..she lives in CO. I am in IL and need to get 3 kids (age 4-7/ 7yr old is special needs) from CO to IL. Are there any airlines that offer companion fares or discounted fares for me to fly from CO with them? And no..i do not have any credit cards or frequent flyer miles etc… ANY HELP is greatly appreciated.

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