Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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While Southwest started as a budget airline, it has since evolved into a major player with raving fans. Southwest is a great choice for getting around the U.S. (including Hawaii) and they even fly to some international destinations.
The Rapid Rewards program is one of the most straightforward, easy-to-use frequent flyer programs out there. While you won’t be able to score some of those coveted business or first class redemptions with Southwest, you can still get a lot of value out of the program. That’s because there are no blackout dates — if a flight is available to purchase for cash, it’s available to purchase with points.
Southwest offers 3 levels of elite status — A-List, A-List Preferred, and Companion Pass. In this post, we’ll explain each of these levels and show you how to earn them. Plus we’ll discuss whether or not Southwest elite status is even worth it.
Southwest Airlines offers 3 levels of elite status — A-List, A-List Preferred, and Companion Pass. A-List and A-List Preferred work in a similar fashion while Companion Pass is an entity all its own.
A-List and A-List Preferred are Southwest’s “traditional” elite status levels which offer benefits like upgraded seating and accelerated points earning.
Companion Pass is a status that offers a “buy one get one” benefit for up to 2 years.
A-List status is the lowest level of Southwest elite status but still offers some solid benefits.
Arguably the most important of all of these benefits is priority boarding. Unlike other airlines, Southwest doesn’t assign seats, so their boarding process is a little different. Having priority boarding ensures you won’t get stuck with an undesirable middle seat.
To earn Southwest A-List status you’ll need to fly 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.
To earn Southwest A-List Preferred status you need to fly 50 qualifying one-way flights or earn 70,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.
Essentially, you’ll earn A-List Preferred status if you fly 25 round-trips a year (that’s just over 2 round-trip flights per month).
While the requirements to earn A-List Preferred status are double the requirements for A-List status, the benefits, unfortunately, aren’t twice as good. You’ll earn more points on each flight and get free Wi-Fi, but that’s about the extent of the extra benefits.
Hot Tip: With A-List or A-List Preferred status, you’ll probably get an A boarding group, but it’s not guaranteed. However, if you don’t get an A boarding position, you’ll be able to board after the A group right before family boarding — which is still enough to ensure you don’t get stuck in a middle seat.
A qualifying flight is one that you pay for. That means flights you bought with Rapid Rewards points don’t count.
A one-way flight consists of your entire itinerary — extra legs of travel due to layovers don’t count. For example, if you fly from Dallas to Seattle but have a layover in Phoenix, that counts as 1 one-way flight for the purposes of A-List or A-List Preferred status (even though, technically, you flew on 2 flights).
There are 2 ways to earn tier qualifying points — revenue flights and select Southwest credit cards.
With either of these cards, you’ll receive 1,500 tier qualifying points for every $10,000 you spend with a maximum of 15,000 points ($100,000 in purchases).
Unfortunately, there is a long list of things that won’t help you earn A-List or A-List Preferred status on Southwest Airlines:
The Southwest Companion Pass, while considered an elite status, has nothing to do with A-List or A-List Preferred. It’s a stand-alone benefit that doesn’t build on the other statuses.
The Southwest Companion Pass is arguably one of the best benefits in travel today. When you earn the Companion Pass, you will be able to bring a companion on any Southwest flight for just the cost of the taxes and fees on the second ticket ($5.60 each way on domestic flights or about $75-$100 each way on international itineraries).
This benefit lasts for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earn it plus the entire next year — for a maximum of 2 full years!
The number of times you can bring a companion is not limited — plus you can even bring a companion on a flight that you purchased with Rapid Rewards points.
Hot Tip: None of the benefits from A-List or A-List Preferred status are included when you have a Companion Pass.
You’ll need to earn 135,000 qualifying points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights to earn the Companion Pass. If you have a Southwest credit card, you’ll get a 10,000-point boost to your qualification points, essentially lowering the number of points you need to earn to 125,000. The 10,000 point boost only counts toward Companion Pass qualification — they are not redeemable Rapid Rewards points.
Points that count towards the Southwest Companion Pass include:
Points that don’t count towards the Companion Pass include:
Hot Tip: The quickest way to get a large chunk of points that will count towards a Companion Pass is to earn the welcome bonus on one of the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards.
So now that you know all about Southwest elite status and how to earn each level, let’s take a look at the value of elite status, and if it’s even worth it?
The main benefit of A-List status is priority boarding. This allows you to board after the A group even if you have a B or C boarding position. That can be the difference between a comfortable flight in a window or aisle seat versus a cramped middle seat in the back of the plane.
This status essentially ensures you’ll never need to purchase EarlyBird Check-In to get a decent seat. Depending on how often you fly, this can be a great benefit. Since EarlyBird Check-In can cost between $30-$50 for a round-trip flight, you can see that the value of this benefit can be huge.
If you fly once a month and purchase EarlyBird Check-In each time, this benefit would provide $360-$600 in annual value.
A-List Preferred status includes a couple of extra perks including 100% more bonus points on your flights and free Wi-Fi. The free inflight Wi-Fi is a nice perk, especially if you like to get some work done while traveling. This usually costs $8 per flight segment, so for each round-trip flight you take, this benefit would be worth $16 (or $32 if each flight had a connection). If you fly once a month, you would get $192 to $384 in value from this perk yearly.
The Southwest Companion Pass can save you thousands of dollars!
Let’s assume that you and your companion fly once a month and your flights cost $300 each. With the Companion Pass, you would only have to pay for 1 flight each time, saving you $3,600 over the course of a year!
Even if you only fly a few times a year, the Southwest Companion Pass can save you hundreds and hundreds of dollars. While earning the Southwest Companion Pass isn’t easy, it’s 100% worth it!
Hot Tip: Southwest flies to many vacation spots including Hawaii and many destinations in the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico — and you can use your Companion Pass for flights to any of these tropical places!
Southwest offers 3 levels of elite status, each with its own benefits. A-List and A-List Preferred statuses offer nice benefits including priority boarding and free inflight Wi-Fi, plus accelerated points earning.
Companion Pass is a separate entity and doesn’t include any of the benefits that come with A-List or A-List Preferred. However, having the Southwest Companion Pass has the potential to offer thousands of dollars of value. This elite status allows you to bring a companion on any Southwest flight for just the cost of taxes and fees for up to 2 years. It’s a huge benefit and can offer lots of value to even those that only fly a few times a year.
To qualify for A-List status you need to fly 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points. To earn A-List Preferred status you need to fly 50 qualifying one-way flights or earn 70,000 tier qualifying points. To earn Companion Pass you need to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points.
Tier qualifying points are points earned from a revenue flight (one that you pay for) or points earned on select Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards. You’ll earn 1,500 tier qualifying points for each $10,000 you spend on the Southwest Premier card or the Southwest Priority card.
No, you can’t buy status on Southwest Airlines.
Yes, you’ll be automatically checked in if you have Southwest A-List or A-List Preferred status.
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