The Ultimate Guide to the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass [2018]

Southwest Airlines Las Vegas

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The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is one of the best deals available in the travel world.

Though it might not fit with everyone’s travel habits, if it works for you, the value you can get out of a Companion Pass is limited only by your vacation time.

Let’s take a look and see what exactly this amazing deal is, how you can get one, and what you should do with it once you have it.

It’s time to learn all about the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass.

What Is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is the top-tier status or highest-level award that a member of the Rapid Rewards loyalty program can achieve.

It is fairly simple to understand and is one of the best elite-level benefits available for any hotel or airline loyalty program.

The Companion Pass allows its holder to book an additional ticket (their Companion) for every flight that they book with Southwest through the end of the term of the pass. All you pay for are the taxes and fees for the second ticket.

In effect, the member can use their pass to get 2-for-1 flights anytime they fly with Southwest Airlines. There is no limit to the number of flights you can use the Companion Pass on.

A pass holder can book their flight with either cash or points; once it’s ticketed, they can add a second passenger on for the same flight either via Southwest.com or by phone.

Hot Tip: Families can do even better with the Companion Pass. Need to travel with 2 parents and a lap infant? All 3 of you fly for the price of 1. What about 4 people in your family? With 2 Companion Passes, you only pay for half of your flights. Every little bit you save when traveling with a family is great, and the Southwest Companion Pass can really help you out.

Why You Want the Companion Pass

Think about it: someone flies with you every time you fly — FOR FREE!

All you need to pay is Southwest’s taxes. Within the United States, that’s just $5.60 per flight segment. This means even with a connection, your Companion can fly across the country with you for just $11.20.

Once you start booking your flights during the many fare sales that Southwest Airlines has throughout the year, your trips get even cheaper. Their flights can be as low as $59, and points redemptions drop to 3,000 points (or lower) during a sale.

Not only are you getting to fly for that price, but your Companion gets to come along with you. Using just 3,000 points to fly 2 people anywhere is an amazing deal! Once you take a look at some of the destinations Southwest flies to, you’ll be even more excited.

Where Southwest Flies

Southwest Airlines Destination Map
Having established a great network throughout the United States, Southwest Airlines has been gradually expanding their coverage area over the past few years. Photo courtesy of Southwest.com.

Southwest Airlines has always had a limited route network. For many years, in fact, they were an airline that operated only within the United States.

They are, however, constantly growing. Although Southwest began by servicing just a few cities, they have expanded over time to more than 80 U.S. destinations. You definitely can’t get everywhere within the United States with Southwest Airlines, but you can come close.

In addition to flying within the U.S., Southwest now serves several destinations in Central America and the Caribbean.

Want to lie on the beach in Aruba? Southwest can get you there. How about cave tubing in Belize? Southwest can you get there too.

From sun and fun spots in the South to fantastic ski destinations in the North, Southwest has this region of the world pretty well covered.

Southwest Airlines has also announced recently that they will be starting service from the West Coast to Hawaii, with exact routes being announced and tickets going on sale sometime in 2018. This will be a huge addition to their network, especially when you can use your Companion Pass to get 2 people there for the price of 1!

It is important to note that Southwest Airlines does not partner with any of the major airline alliances. If you want to travel beyond their route network, it will have to be on a separate ticket.

What to Watch Out For

Southwest Airlines isn’t for everyone.

They have a limited route network, and there are no fancy business or first class seats on their planes. They only fly Boeing 737 aircraft, and you don’t get to select your seats before boarding.

Boarding pass numbers are assigned according to the order of check-in, so passengers need to check in exactly 24 hours before their flight to get a low number. Otherwise, they could easily be stuck in a middle seat in the back of the plane.

Because checking in right at the 24-hour mark is not always possible, you can pay $15 for Early-Bird Check-In. With this service, Southwest will automatically check you in 36 hours before your flight, and you will get a great boarding number.

If you don’t mind dealing with these few items, then you should be fine flying with Southwest. To find more information about the airline, dig into our in-depth review of Southwest.

Now that we have the basics down for traveling on Southwest, let’s learn more about how you can take someone with you for free when you do.

How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

airport couple holding hands
Once you’ve earned your Companion Pass, that one person you love to travel with can come along every time. They just have to pay the taxes and fees for the flight. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com.

A Rapid Rewards member can qualify for a Companion Pass in either of 2 ways:

  • Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights, OR
  • Earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year

Once you qualify for the Companion Pass, it is valid for the remainder of that calendar year and for the entire next year.

That means if you can earn 110,000 points in January, you will get to keep your companion pass for almost 2 full years. If you earn your pass in December, you only get to keep it for about a year.

As you can see, timing is critical when earning a Companion Pass. The earlier in the year you can earn it, the longer the pass is good for. Who wouldn’t want a Companion Pass for 2 years instead of just 1?

Let’s see how we can make that happen.

Fast Track Earning With Credit Cards

Let’s be honest: it is possible to fly 100 flights to earn the Companion Pass, but that is probably not going to happen in the first month of the year.

It is realistic, however, to earn 110,000 points in a very short time —  and the easiest way to do this is with credit cards.

Chase offers the following Southwest Airlines co-branded credit cards:

CREDIT CARDCARD INFO
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card (Learn More)
  • 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first 3 months
  • An extra 6,000 bonus points at your cardmember anniversary
  • Annual fee: $99
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card (Learn More)
  • 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first 3 months
  • An extra 3,000 bonus points at your cardmember anniversary
  • Annual fee: $69
Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card (Learn More)
  • Earn up to 65,000 points
  • 7,500 anniversary points each year.
  • 75 Southwest annual travel credit.
  • Annual fee: $149

With sign-up bonuses typically in the range of 40,000-65,000 points each, signing up for one of these personal cards and the business card, and completing the required minimum spending for the bonuses will put you very close to (if not over) what you need for a Companion Pass.

New Chase Southwest Credit Card Rules

On April 5, 2018, Chase instituted a new rule on the personal Southwest credit cards.

Now you cannot get a second personal Southwest card if either:

  1. You are a current Southwest consumer credit cardholder; or
  2. You have earned a new cardmember bonus on a Southwest consumer credit card in the last 24 months

This means the companion pass shortcut is no longer possible by getting two Southwest personal cards.

However, one personal card and one business card are possible to get at the same time!

Getting Over the 110,000 Hump

If you aren’t quite to 110,000 points, put some household charges on the card: Christmas presents, home appliances, a new gym membership… anything will work. As long as you hit that 110,000 point total, the Companion Pass will be yours.

For some more ideas on how to earn the points you need, check out our guide to earning lots of Rapid Rewards points. It’s also important to say that transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards (or from anywhere else) will not count toward earning the Companion Pass. This used to be the case, but not anymore unfortunately!

How to Time the Companion Pass for Maximum Usage

You may notice that we have been talking about earning your Companion Pass in January, but also mentioned Christmas presents in the ways to meet spending that we listed above.

There’s a reason for that…and no, we are not telling you to buy presents 12 months early for next year!

The key here is that you need the points to post in January; you do not necessarily need to do all of the spending in January.

For example, if the minimum spending you need for the sign-up bonus on a card is $3,000, you can spend $2,900 of that in December after your December statement has closed. Those points won’t post until your January statement closes.

Once January begins, spend that last $100, and your sign-up bonus will post too. That way all your points will post in January, and you’ll be well on your way to earning the Companion Pass.

So in a nutshell, your spending would look like this:

  • Apply for one personal and one business card in November or December
  • Complete most of the spending after your December statement closes (so all points post in January)
  • Finish up your minimum spending the first week of January
  • …earn a shiny new Companion Pass to go along with the New Year!

What better way to celebrate? Maybe your resolution could even be to travel more with your favorite friend or family member!

Hot Tip: It is crucial that you do not complete the entire minimum spending requirement for your new card in December. If you do, that sign-up bonus will post in December, and you will be out of luck for earning your Companion Pass in January. Even though the points earned for purchases don’t post until your next statement closes, the bonus points post as soon as you meet the minimum spending threshold. Be careful!

Once You Have a Companion Pass

Congratulations!

You have successfully used the methods discussed above and earned enough points to get your very own Southwest Airlines Companion Pass.

Now what?

Well, now it’s time to take advantage of that pass and get some free flights. Let’s take a look at what you need to do.

Selecting and Changing Your Companion

Once you’ve earned your Companion Pass, the first thing you need to do before booking any flights is choose your official Companion.

Southwest allows you to select any 1 person to be your Companion at any given time. You can change that person up to 3 times a year, for a maximum of 4 Companions over the course of the year.

Here’s how it works:

Selecting Companion 1 is the easiest part. This can be done online, simply by clicking on “Enter Companion Info” in your profile and entering the person’s information.

You can now book flights and add Companion 1 for only the cost of the taxes.

Changing to Companion 2 requires a little bit more work. First, you need to cancel Companion 1’s ticket for any future Companion Pass flights where they’re scheduled to fly with you.

Next, you need to call Southwest Airlines at 1-800-248-4377 to change your Companion. This is a fairly easy process and takes between 5 and 10 minutes. Once the change has been processed, you can begin booking flights with Companion 2.

If you want to change your Companion again, just repeat the same process. Cancel future Companion Pass flights, call Southwest, and make the change. Now you are ready to book flights with Companion 3.

To select Companion 4, simply repeat the process of making a change.

Hot Tip: We should note that Companion 3 can be the same person as Companion 1. If your spouse is Companion 1, you can change to your best friend as Companion 2 for a couple of quick trips over the summer, then change back to your spouse as Companion 3 for your next flight. It is important to be strategic with your Companion changes since you only get to make a change 3 times per year.

Using Your Pass

Rainbow Falls Hawaii
With ticketing for service to Hawaii beginning later this year, you will soon be able to take your Companion to see the beautiful Rainbow Falls in person. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com.

Using your new Companion Pass is fairly easy.

First, you need to book your flight. Remember, this can be done with either cash or points and at any available price.

Hot Tip: If you’re looking for redemption ideas, we wrote about the 5 best ways to use the Companion Pass for maximum value!
Once your ticket is booked, you can add your companion either through Southwest.com or via phone.

On the website, you will see a place to click that says “Add Companion.” This is located just below your flight information, next to the links to cancel or change your flight. Simply click there and enter the required information to add your companion.

To add a companion over the phone, just call reservations and let the representative know you will be using your Companion Pass to add another passenger to your flight.

Your Companion can be added up until the time of the flight, as long as there are still seats for sale. This is true even if the price has gone up since you bought your ticket; if there is a seat for sale, you can add your companion for just the price of taxes and fees.

The following rules apply to Companion Pass travel:

  • Your Companion must be ticketed and travel on the same flight as you
  • If you change your flight, you must also change your Companion’s flight
  • If you cancel your flight, your Companion’s flight will also be canceled
  • The Companion ticket is not considered to be a paid ticket, and therefore cannot have another Companion added

Bottom Line: Remember that you can now use those 110,000 points you earned to book award flights, with some as low as 3,000 points one-way. With your Companion Pass, you get 2 tickets for each award flight you book!

Final Thoughts

If you are a single flyer who always travels solo, the Companion Pass probably isn’t for you.

If you primarily like to travel to Europe, Asia, and Africa in business or first class, the Companion Pass likely isn’t for you either.

However, if you love traveling throughout the United States and to nearby countries, you have someone who regularly travels with you, and you don’t mind flying in economy class, the Southwest Companion Pass may very well be the best deal you will find in travel.

You’ll get 2 flights for the price of 1, every single time.

No matter whether you pay cash or use points for your flight, your companion always comes along for just the cost of taxes.

With Southwest adding flights to Hawaii in the near future, the Companion Pass will become even more valuable. Time your points-earning correctly, and you’ll be flying 2-for-1 to the Islands of Aloha for almost 2 years!

Seriously though, if you have the ability to earn the Companion Pass and your travel patterns match up with what Southwest offers, this is absolutely something you should strive to get.

Who knows…maybe we’ll even run into each other on one of Southwest’s 737s someday!

Featured Image photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com.

FAQ

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass is a pass that allows a Rapid Rewards member to add a second person (Companion) free of charge to any flight that they book with Southwest, as long as there is another seat available for purchase. The member only needs to pay the taxes and fees for the Companion.

How do you earn a Southwest Companion Pass?

A Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is earned by either completing 100 qualifying one-way flights or earning 110,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in a single calendar year.

How long is the Southwest Companion Pass good for?

The Southwest Companion Pass is valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which it was earned and the entire following calendar year.

How do I change my Companion Pass on Southwest?

Once you have earned your Companion Pass, you must designate a Companion to fly with you. You can then change your Companion up to 3 times per year that you hold a Companion Pass.

To change your Companion, you need to call Southwest at 1-800-435-9792 and provide your new Companion’s information.

Do I earn points on flights taken with the Southwest Companion Pass?

When a Companion Pass is used, only one of the two passengers will earn points for the flight. The member who holds the Companion Pass and buys the original ticket will earn points. The Companion is not considered to have purchased a ticket, so no points will be awarded for the Companion’s flight.

What is the value of the Southwest Companion Pass?

There is no set value for the Southwest Companion Pass. The pass becomes more valuable the more you use it.

If you were to use the pass only once for a flight that cost $250, then the value of your pass would be $250.

However, if you were to use the pass 100 times for flights that average $250, then the value of your pass would be $25,000.

The Southwest Companion Pass is not limited to a specific number of flights, so it is really as valuable as you want to make it.

Can I change my flight on a Companion Pass booking?

Yes, you can change your flight on a Companion Pass booking, but your Companion’s flight must also be changed to the same new flight as you, or otherwise, be canceled.

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23 comments

  1. Marilee · July 31, 2018 · Reply

    If I book a flight with my companion pass and decide later that I would like to change my companion that will be traveling with me on that flight, do I have to cancel both flights and rebook or will they just update the new companion information on the existing reservation.

    • Michael McHugh · July 31, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Marilee

      I would call Southwest to confirm but you should be able to simply remove the existing companion on the ticket and replace that companion with a new companion. Southwest has a restriction on the number of times you can replace your companion in a calendar year, which is important to keep in mind.

  2. If my business points bonus post in November but my personal points don’t post in January will that still work?

    • Michael McHugh · August 26, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Shane

      Nope! You need the points to post in the same calendar year to earn the CP in that year.

      I earned the companion pass by having the required number of points all post in January so that I’d have 2 full years of the CP.

  3. Mauricio Garcia · August 28, 2018 · Reply

    I was told by Southwest multiple times that the 40,000 or whatever the sign up bonus points is at the time for a new credit card those points DO NOT count towards the 110,000 companion pass points….

    • Hey Mauricio – Sign up bonuses from Southwest credit cards DO count towards the 110,000 points required for the companion pass! I’m afraid you were misled!

  4. PRATIK SHAH · September 5, 2018 · Reply

    I applied for Southwest Chase Credit card in Oct 2017 and eligible for Companion Pass for whole 2018. I have booked for a trip for Nov -2018. But before this trip my one year to Southwest Chase Credit card is up and I have to pay an annual fee again. Now, question is “Can I cancel my Chase Credit card and still be able to use companion pass advantage for rest of 2018”?

  5. Hi there! Thanks for explaining this so clearly! Best article about this I have read. Quick question/clarification. Did I understand correctly that if I were to be eligible for a business card and opened a business card and a personal card (at the same time, and never having had a southwest cc before), it is the total combined points between the two cards that gets me to the 110,000 for companion pass status? In other words, southwest looks at both accounts and combines those to meet the requirement — it doesn’t have to be all under the same card/account? Thanks!

    • Hi Deanna – we appreciate the kind comments, glad you found the article useful! Southwest are adding up all the miles generated within ONE Southwest loyalty account. So, if you’re signing up to multiple cards under your name and they are being “credited” into 1 loyalty account, then you’re good…and “just” need to get to 110k. Let us know if you get the Companion Pass!

  6. Hi Alex,

    Thanks for this, its very insightful. I had a question on this part:

    “When a Companion Pass is used, only one of the two passengers will earn points for the flight.”

    Say if you spend your Rapid Rewards points on a flight instead of purchasing with cash/credit card, do I get points for booking the second flight or since I didnt purchase the flight with cash/credit card, I receive nothing?

    • Katie Seemann · October 27, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Jeff,
      If you use Rapid Rewards points to book your flight, you won’t earn any points for that flight or the companion ticket. If you purchase a flight with a credit card then add a companion, you would earn Rapid Rewards points on the original ticket. No matter how you pay for the first flight, you will not earn Rapid Rewards points on a companion ticket. Hope this helps!

  7. PRATIK SHAH · October 26, 2018 · Reply

    I applied for Southwest Chase Credit card in Oct 2017 and eligible for Companion Pass for whole 2018. Now say in Oct-2018, can I book a flight for 2019 and still be able to use companion pass?

    • Katie Seemann · October 27, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Pratik,
      No, your Companion Pass would only be valid for travel that occurs by Dec 31, 2018. You won’t be able to book travel using the CP for 2019 (although I wish that was possible!!!)

  8. Very helpful article! Quick question… we are trying to earn the companion pass in January for a flight we have planned at the end of January. I understand about earning the points in the billing cycle, however with the bonuses you said to wait and finish meeting the requirements in January? On the terms and conditions it says that it could take up to 8 weeks for the bonuses to post to your account. In the past when we earned points thru a card under my husbands name I noticed the bonus was just added on with the billing cycle. I just wanted to be absolutely sure on this one because we have a large purchase we were wanting to make in December (but would fall with in the billing cycle that ends January 7) but it would put us over the $3,000 required to earn the bonus. I don’t want to mess it up and earn the bonus too early or too late! Would love some more advice on that part. Does that all make sense??

    • Jeff Brownson · November 13, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Kellie,
      We usually suggest waiting until January to make the last of the required spend just as an extra precaution. Although we have not heard of Chase awarding the bonus miles when spending is hit instead of at the end of the billing cycle, they could theoretically do it. Most likely, you would be fine making your large purchase in December as long as the statement doesn’t close until January. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that this will work as time goes on, but it is the way things have typically worked up until this point.

      As far as the terms saying up to 8 weeks, that would be the maximum time they have to award you the bonus miles. Chase almost always awards them within a few days of the statement closing, but if they weren’t awarded that quickly, you would have no real recourse until it passed the 8-month mark stated in the terms.

  9. Hi,

    Thank you for this article! Just to clarify, if I apply for a card in early December, I will receive the sign up bonus (usually 40,000 pts) and I will earn additional bonus points (typically 40,000 to 60,000) when I spend a specified amount. When I get the card in December, I can immediately start spending and the points from what I spend, the sign up bonus and spending bonus should all be posted on my first statement. Is that correct? So, I will then know how much more I need to spend in early January.

    Thank you!

    • Jeff Brownson · November 13, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Pam, I think you are misunderstanding the terms of the credit card offers. When we mention a sign-up bonus or a bonus for hitting a certain spend on a particular card, those are the same thing. You will not get a large bonus for simply signing up for the card and then another large bonus when you hit the required spend. You will only receive a single bonus (60,000 or whatever the offer is for) after the statement during which you meet the minimum spending closes. We just want to be clear that you shouldn’t expect to earn 80,000 to 100,000 points from a single card. Chase does not offer any points bonuses just for signing up for a card. They only offer them for signing up for a new card and hitting a required minimum spend.

      As far as your spending in December, miles earned from that spending and any earned bonus should count for next year’s Companion Pass earning as long as your first statement doesn’t close until January.

  10. I was notified today by Southwest Airlines that I was at 76 percent of the way to a companion pass. They were asking me to reach the goal of 110000 points by December in order tiara a 2019 companion pass. I signed up for a new personal card that should arrive in 7 days. The 40000 -pints will apply to my account as long as they post by December 31st per the website. Will I have to spend the $1000.00 on my November statement to get the points to post in time?

    • Jeff Brownson · November 13, 2018 · Reply

      Hey Chris, the exact timing will depend on when your statement closes. As long as your December statement closes with enough time for the bonus points to post before 12/31, you should be ok to earn the pass this year even if you haven’t finished the spending by your November statement date. Chase typically posts bonus points within a few days on the statement closing, but you should know that their terms state that they have up to 8 weeks to post the points. If for some reason your bonus points take a long time to post, you would not earn the Companion Pass this year. That being said, if you can, get the spending done as early as possible to give the points more time to post in case there is a problem.

      Also, I’m guessing you already know this, but for the benefit of others reading the comments, this Companion Pass will only be good through the end of 2019 because it is being earned in December of 2018. The Southwest Companion Pass is valid for the remainder of the year you earn it and the full year following that year. That is why most people try to earn their Companion Passes with credit card bonuses in January. That way they get almost two full years of validity.

  11. Ginger Held · November 13, 2018 · Reply

    How on earth do I find out where I am at this month with points? I have 96,900 points as of the closing of my last statement. I think that is as of November 3rd. I want to find out how many points I have so far for the month of November that is going to count toward my Companion Pass. Also, my closing date is the 3rd, so does that mean I would have to have all of my charges done and my balance paid by December 3rd to have for those points to post, or does your balance count without the payments? I hope that makes sense 🙁
    Thanks!

    • Jeff Brownson · November 13, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Ginger, the best way to figure out how many points you have earned so far this statement is to call Chase and ask them. Even then though, they may not be able to see that information until your statement closes. If that is the case, you can calculate the points earned by taking the dollar amounts for each charge you have made and multiplying them by the number of points per dollar for that category for your specific card. Add all of those up and remember to subtract any returns. That should give you a good idea of what you will earn.

      As of now, you will need to complete any spending by your December 3rd closing date, but the bill does not have to be paid by then. Points are awarded shortly after the statement closes, not when it has been paid. If you need more time to complete the necessary spend, you can call Chase and have them move your statement date. I’m not sure if it takes them more than one billing cycle to do that or not, but it is worth checking. Just ask to change your statement date to the 20th of the month and as long as that will be processed right away, you will then have a few weeks of December to finish up your spend.

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