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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.
- 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.
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express – Cardholders receive a domestic Main Cabin Companion Certificate; the card has an annual fee of $195.
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express – Cardholders receive a domestic Main Cabin Companion Certificate; the card has an annual fee of $195. Terms Apply – Rates & Fees.
- Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express – Cardholders receive a domestic First Class or Main Cabin Companion Certificate; the card has an annual fee of $450.
- Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card – Cardholders receive a domestic First Class or Main Cabin Companion Certificate; the card has an annual fee of $450. Terms Apply – Rates & Fees.
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.
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.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card – Earn 60,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card – Earn 60,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card – Earn 60,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. (Read our in-depth review)
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card – Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
With the current offers, applying for both a business and consumer version of Southwest's co-brand cards and meeting the minimum spend will get you the Southwest Companion Pass with points to spare.
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® Business Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card (Rates & Fees)
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