Southwest Extends Companion Passes (Again), Offers a Status Boost for 2021

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We've seen a flurry of loyalty program updates over the last several weeks as airlines and hotels try to realign incentives to the 2021 travel climate. Up next is Southwest, who just announced a series of changes that Rapid Rewards fans should find familiar.

For 2021, Southwest will re-extend the validity of already extended Companion Passes (those earned in 2019). Moreover, the airline will give all members a boost towards earning 2021 A-List and A-List Preferred Status.

These updates mirror the alterations Southwest introduced last year. But with a new year and more perspective, does the “if it ain't broke…” notion really apply?

Extending Companion Pass (Again)

If you've read about points and miles for any time at all, you're sure to have heard about the Southwest Companion Pass. That's because, under normal (read: non-COVID) circumstances, it can provide a ton of value to those who earn one. Basically, when a Companion Pass holder books a Southwest flight, they can bring their designated companion for just the taxes. So, if you often fly Southwest with a partner, you can see how the value adds up quickly.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 threw a monkey wrench into the works of everyone's 2020 travel plans. In response, Southwest extended the expiration date of Companion Passes earned in 2019 for six months—from its typical December 31, 2020 expiration date to June 30, 2021.

Since travel still hasn't adequately recovered, the airline is again extending those same Companion Passes another six months:

  • Southwest Companion Passes earned in 2019 are now valid through December 31, 2021.
  • This does NOT apply to promotional Companion Passes or those that didn't previously receive an extension.

If this applies to you, you should see the updated expiration date reflected in your Rapid Rewards account shortly.

2021 Status Boost

Just like last year, Southwest has chosen not to lower its qualifications for elite status. Instead, it's giving all members a boost—accomplishing basically the same thing. (Note that to receive the boost, you must have opened your Rapid Rewards account before December 31, 2020.)

Within the next week, members will see the following added to their account:

  • 15,000 tier qualifying points (TQPs)
  • 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points (CPQPs)
  • 10 qualifying one-way flight segments towards tier status
  • 25 qualifying one-way flights towards Companion Pass

This boost makes it a bit easier to qualify for Southwest A-List elite status and the Companion Pass. This is particularly true for A-List. The boost essentially lowers the thresholds by over 40%.

earning the Southwest Companion Pass in 2021 is going to be easier

Spend Your Way to A-List

Southwest currently offers five co-branded credit cards available to new applicants. Four of these have the ability to earn 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 in purchases per year:

Prior to October 2021, Southwest limited cardholders to a max of 15,000 TQPs from $100,000 in purchases. However, Southwest has decided to permanently remove the cap for all its co-brand cards that earn TQPs. Just note that Southwest bases this on the billing cycle, not the calendar year (first day of January 2021 billing cycle through December 2021 statement date).

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  • Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
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  • 4X points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases
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  • 2X points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services
  • 2X points per $1 spent on rideshare
  • 1X point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Quick Thoughts

I liked these developments last year, and I still like them now. However, I have a couple of thoughts.

Early 2020 Companion Pass Holders

Companion Passes are typically valid for the remainder of the year in which they're earned PLUS the entire next year. For example, members who earned a Companion Pass in mid-2019 were originally supposed to have use of it for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020. Well, as far as travel goes, 2020 didn't happen. So Southwest has essentially given 2019 Companion Pass holders a do-over.

But where's the ‘LUV' for early 2020 Companion Pass holders?

Knowing that Southwest's policy works this way, we often advise Companion Pass seekers on how to earn it early in the year—enabling almost two full years of benefits. This is what many people did in early 2020. In terms of the Companion Pass, they have potentially lost almost the same amount of use. Don't they also deserve an extension? Considering travel in 2020 was just as non-existent for them as it was for 2019 Companion Pass holders, I think they do.

Spend Your Way to A-List AND Companion Pass

There's another cool quirk to note about removing the Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) cap for credit card spending.

Right now, the Southwest consumer cards are offering increased sign-up bonuses of up to 100,000 points. Moreover, the Southwest Performance Business Card currently offers new applicants 80,000 bonus points.

All of these points are Companion Pass Qualifying Points. And you need just 100,000 points to earn the Companion Pass after the boost. Combined with Southwest's 2021 boost, some high-spenders, and small business owners, can easily spend their way to the Companion Pass in 2021. And, if you're a particularly high spender, you can also spend your way to A-List status as well thanks to the lack of TQP cap.

The Southwest Companion Pass can be incredibly valuable for couples and travel duos.

Bottom Line

Southwest apparently liked the results from last year's program updates, as it's implementing them again for 2021. Members who earned a Companion Pass in 2019 can use it through the end of 2021. Plus, all Rapid Rewards members get a boost towards earning A-List status and Companion Pass in 2021.

Lastly, if you hold the Southwest Premier Card, Southwest Priority Card, Southwest Premier Business Card, or Southwest Performance Business Card, you no longer have a cap on the amount of TQPs you can earn via spend.

While these program updates are great, I hope 2021 is the last year we'll see them.

How do you feel about Southwest mirroring the updates from 2020? Do you think 2020 Companion Passes should be extended too?

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Comments

  • judith F Field says:

    I think it is great, but my problem is that I haven’t been able to use all of my travel credits. I am afraid I am going to lose some of them before I can use the ones that expire September and October due to the fact that my husband is having surgery in August and can’t travel for a couple of months. I wish Southwest would extend them a couple of months.

    Thanks
    Judith Field

  • I have just written to Michelle Buckley, SWA Director of Customer Relations, about 2020 earned Companion Passes being extended through 2022 just as 2019 qualifiers were extended to December 2021.
    She promised to pass my perspective to executives. I don’t think they appreciate the fairness of this argument.

    Thank you for your concern. Perhaps if they hear from others, it would make more of an impression.

  • Christina L Nash says:

    I earned the Companion Pass for the first time early in 2020, after being a loyal Southwest customer for 30 years. So disappointing, we have not been able to use it a single time!

    However, I understand the financial stress that airlines are under this year, and I really appreciate all that Southwest has done for us as customers. I plan to start flying in the next few months. Thanks for the notice that we are getting a bonus towards the Companion Pass for Next year. I will have my husband go for that one!

  • Our concern is around the Boeing Max 737 that SW uses a lot. Not sure we want to go with that. We have flown only once with SW and the experience was pleasant but still. 🙁

  • This is an amazing promotion. Look forward to traveling again.

  • Pleased they’ve extended this again

  • This is great news for use running a business with a travel partner!! Thank you!

  • Bill Cowell says:

    With the coming account additions, it makes it easier to achieve status by reducing the thresholds. Although it would be nice to see the 2020 Companion Passes be extended (and I hope they do!) I am grateful for all they have done for us! This has been a really weird year in so many ways – and I am appreciative to Southwest for the changes they are bringing!

    • SW has mostly made the right decisions regarding its loyal customers in the face of the pandemic, so I think the odds of a 2020 pass extension are very much in your favor.

  • I think it is great they’re lowering the requirements back down. When I first got the CP years ago, I got the SW biz and personal and got the pass for about a year and a half of which I only managed to take ONE trip with because of business obligations. They’ve gone higher and higher every year making it nearly impossible unless you have a LOT of expenses to put on a card or get both biz & personal again which I’ve considered canceling both of my cards and waiting the time limit again. Not sure what it is with Chase? I actually have two personal cards, one was an old AirTran card that I haven’t canceled because it was one of my oldest accounts so I have just left it open and had SW drop the limit on it/add c/l to other Chase cards. Anyone know the waiting period before you can apply and get the bonuses again?

    • Oh wow! I remember flying AirTran a bunch back before the merger! Great little airline.

      As far as the sign-up bonus, the Southwest cards, Chase restricts getting a new card to: “(i) current Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards® Credit Card, or (ii) previous Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card who received a new Cardmember bonus within the last 24 months. This does not apply to Cardmembers of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Card and Employee Credit Card products.”
      Check out our full write-up about these cards here: https://awardwallet.com/blog/increased-southwest-credit-card-offers/

  • angelo fonseca says:

    we are hoping that other companies will also take actions to minimize the impacts of the pandemic and help their customers.

  • Southwest is leading the way again in giving people good reasons to fly their airline – the companion pass is the best perk in the airline biz…..hope the other airlines follow suit in some similar sort of fashion…this will be pivotal year for the airline industry as each airline will struggle to find a sustainable model in a much smaller aviation market.

  • It isn’t just ‘early’ 2020 companion pass holders who are getting the short end of the stick; it is anyone who actually earned a Companion Pass in 2020. I earned a CP in 2019, which has now been extended to expire 12/31/21, rendering the pass I legitimately earned in 2020 completely meaningless. Some type of additional extension or other benefits need to be given to those who earned 2020 passes.

  • Companion Passes has some disadvantages, boost points cannot be redeemed for travel or be transferred, donated or be redeemed through more rewards.

  • I def would like an extension for my companion pass earned in late 2020. Hopefully they send us some LUV, Too!!

  • We opened a new Southwest cc to qualify in March 2020 for companion pass. We went on 1 trip in 2020. A wasted year. We would like companion pass to extend to 2021 and 2022.

  • Travelfreek says:

    Heck yes! We haven’t been able to use our Companion Passes either. Extend the 2020 passes through 2022, please! And thank you!