For many frequent travelers, the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is the holy grail. It allows you to choose a person to fly with you anywhere, for free. You read that right: your partner, sibling, friend, or family member can tag along everywhere you fly, gratis. In this article, we’ll show you how to get a free Southwest Companion Pass and how to use it.
If you’re interested in how to obtain a free Companion Pass, read on. Plan carefully, however, as you’ll want to time things to start as early as possible in the new year. It’s much less valuable to earn one over the next couple of months (and only get to enjoy it through the remainder of the following year)!
Earning the Companion Pass
Earning the Companion Pass can be a real challenge. Normally you have to earn 125,000 qualifying points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights, all with Southwest and all in a single calendar year. Due to Covid, Southwest has made it a bit easier. Thanks to the Southwest Boost, you “only” need 100,000 points or 75 flights. The Companion Pass is then good for the remainder of that year as well as the following calendar year.
Accruing 100,000 miles (also known as “points,” in some parlances) or 75 one-way flights in a single year seems impossible to all but the most frequent of travelers. Those are quantities that only seem accessible to those who fly very often (for work, perhaps), and have some control over the airlines with whom they fly. It’s all the more difficult given the Covid pandemic.
Southwest Credit Cards
Let’s focus here on the miles. The easiest way to earn Southwest miles is through credit card bonuses. Chase offers three different Southwest credit cards: the Premier, the Plus, and the Premier Business. With this cards, Southwest has made it easier than ever to get a free Companion Pass.
Read More About these cards here.
Currently, all three versions of the Southwest credit card offer 30,000 points when you spend $5,000 on the card in the first 3 months. If that spend requirement seems steep, it’s for a good reason. They are also throwing in a Companion Pass through 2/28/2022. It’s never been easier.
If you’re applying for these cards, it’s important to understand that they all fall under Chase’s 5/24 rule. This means that if you’ve applied for 5 or more lines of credit (all types of credit, not just with Chase) in the past 24 months, you’ll be denied for any of these cards.
If you’re just getting started with travel rewards, I would strongly recommend you instead prioritize the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve before looking into the Chase Southwest cards. The Companion Pass is an amazing deal, but the flexibility and large signup bonuses with the Sapphire cards are significantly more valuable to most travelers.
Using Your Companion Pass
Traveling with your Companion Pass is fairly straightforward. The pass has no blackout dates or seat restrictions, so you can book flight any time, in any class, and earn a free second seat for your companion.
To book your companion’s flight, first purchase and book your flight using cash or miles through Southwest, just as you would normally. Then, book a second flight for your companion, again through Southwest, but this time by selecting the “Rapid Rewards Companion Pass” booking option. You can do this easily online, or by calling in to Southwest’s toll-free reservations number.
Both your ticket and your companion’s must be on the same flight on the same date and time. If you end up cancelling your flight, your companion’s flight will also be cancelled. If you’d like to change your flight, you’ll also have to change your second ticket. You also have to show up and check in for the flight together, so make sure to bring the physical Companion Pass and, of course, valid forms of identification.
Changing Your Companion
If you have a Southwest Companion Pass, you should know that you can actually change your designated companion, up to three times each calendar year. Since there’s a limit on the number of times you can change it, it might be good to structure these changes around beginning- or end-of-year vacations. So, for example, start the year off by taking a trip with a sibling or relative somewhere. Then swap your companion to your partner, and enjoy free flights throughout the year. Finally, towards the end of the year, change your companion to another relative or friend, and take another trip.
Keep in mind that changing your designated companion can take up to 21 business days on the Southwest side — so plan carefully.
For New Travel Rewards Users
Unfortunately, due to Chase’s 5/24 restrictions, the Southwest Companion Pass is going to be difficult to earn for veteran travel reward earners. People who are new to the scene should strongly consider it as a second priority, after the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred credit cards. When timed correctly, though, the Companion Pass can save you thousands of dollars over the course of up to two years!
It allows you to choose one person to fly with you for free on Southwest every time you purchase a flight or redeem points for a flight.
You can use it as often as you’d like until the term of the pass ends.
The value depends on how often you use it. Because it allows a friend to fly with you for free, the value can easily grow to thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. Note that the pass does not cover fees or taxes.
Generally, it’s good for the remainder of the year in which you qualify and the following year. With the current credit card offer, it’s good through 2/28/2022.