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How to use the Southwest Companion Pass

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 9/19/2019 Leslie Harvey
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One of the best deals in all of travel is the Southwest Companion Pass.

To qualify for this generous benefit, you must earn 110,000 Companion Pass eligible points in one calendar year. There are many ways to earn earn those points, including flying on Southwest, booking hotels and rental cars via the Southwest website and more. But there are much easier (and cheaper) methods you should know about.

Prime example: The sign-up bonuses from the Southwest credit cards count toward earning the Companion Pass, and right now some bonuses are as high as 80,000 bonus points.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card: 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months

Once you earn 110,000 Companion Pass eligible Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year, you will earn the Companion Pass for the rest of that calendar year and all of the following year. Chase issues five cobranded Southwest credit cards, and the sign-up bonuses and points earned from spending will count toward earning the Companion Pass:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Earn up to 60,000 points. Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. Plus, earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months your account is open — $149 annual fee.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: Earn up to 60,000 points. Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. Plus, earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months your account is open — $99 annual fee.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card : Earn up to 60,000 points. Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. Plus, earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months your account is open — $69 annual fee.
  •  Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card: Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. 9,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points awarded after each account anniversary — $199 annual fee.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. 6,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points awarded after each account anniversary — $99 annual fee.

Check out our post on the best Southwest Airlines credit card for your family to learn more.

Here are some of the cards with bonuses that count toward the Southwest Companion Pass. (Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Here are some of the cards with bonuses that count toward the Southwest Companion Pass. (Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Step 1: Set up your Companion Pass

As soon as you first earn a Companion Pass, you should receive an email from Southwest congratulating you on your big accomplishment. If you want to monitor it more closely, you can always check your status by logging into your Rapid Rewards account on Southwest.com.

When you do get this email, click on the links in it to set up your initial companion choice. Be sure to have your companion’s full name (as it appears on his or her ID), birth date, email address and Rapid Rewards account number handy.

Alternately, you can call Southwest to designate your companion. But given how easy it is to make the initial selection online, there’s really no reason to pick up the phone for this step.

a group of people standing next to a body of water: Imagine taking your companion to Hawaii for just the cost of the ticket’s taxes! (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Imagine taking your companion to Hawaii for just the cost of the ticket’s taxes! (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy)

Step 2: Confirm flight availability for your entire traveling party

Now that you have a companion selected, it’s time for the fun part — booking a flight where your companion will fly free (other than taxes and fees). Before booking, however, it’s vital to check to make sure that there are enough seats available on the flight for your entire traveling party. A Companion Pass fare can only be added if there is a seat available for sale.

a screenshot of a cell phone: Southwest Companion Pass - Search for Flight availability © The Points Guy Southwest Companion Pass - Search for Flight availability

For example, if you have a family of four who will be traveling (one of whom will be on a Companion Pass), search on Southwest.com for four seats. Note that all four seats do not have to be in the same fare bucket. So, if there are only three Wanna Get Away fare seats left, but there are also Anytime and Business Select fares available in addition to those three cheaper fares, your booking will still work.

Step 3: Book flights for everyone OTHER than your companion

The next step in using your Companion Pass is to book flight reservations as you normally would for everyone in your traveling party except the companion. This means that if you have a family of four where mom holds a Companion Pass and dad is the companion, you should book tickets for mom and the two kids first. Do not book flights for dad at this stage.

Most travelers will find that booking flights online on Southwest.com is very easy, although it’s also possible to book flights over the phone with Southwest phone agents if you prefer. You can book these flights with cash or with Rapid Rewards points, as either method works in conjunction with the Companion Pass.

If you are purchasing these tickets with cash, don’t forget to add the Rapid Rewards numbers of everyone in your traveling party to the booking. There’s no reason to leave points earning possibilities on the table — even kids can earn frequent flyer points on Southwest!

Step 4: Make your companion’s flight booking

After you have booked flights for everyone in your traveling party, except for the companion, the next step is to secure a flight reservation for that person. To avoid losing the ticket availability you just checked for in Step 1, I recommend doing this immediately after your flight is booked.

The Companion Pass holder (mom, in our example) should return to the Southwest website and log into his or her Rapid Rewards account. Go to “My Account” at the top of the home page.

a close up of an airplane: Southwest Companion Pass - Southwest website front page © The Points Guy Southwest Companion Pass - Southwest website front page

Scroll down until you see a section called “My Trips.” There, you should see the flight reservation you just made, along with any other trips you have booked on Southwest. Select the applicable trip by clicking on it.

a screenshot of a cell phone: Southwest Companion Pass - Select Trip © The Points Guy Southwest Companion Pass - Select Trip

Look next for the small button at the top of the trip itinerary called “Add Companion.” Click on it.

a screenshot of a cell phone: Southwest Add Companion © The Points Guy Southwest Add Companion

You’ll find that the “Trip & Price Details” are already pre-filled with the flight information and cost of the taxes and fees. In this case for a domestic hop, that number is just $5.60 for your companion to fly.

a screenshot of a cell phone: Southwest Companion Pass - Trip Price Details © The Points Guy Southwest Companion Pass - Trip Price Details

Click “Continue” to go the next page that includes “Passenger & Payment Info.” There, you will find your companion’s name and identifying information filled in. With everything pre-filled, there is very little chance for a booking mistake in this stage of the process.

a screenshot of a social media post © The Points Guy

Finally, you’ll be prompted through the process to pay applicable taxes and fees and secure the flight reservation for the companion. If you have a credit card already saved to your account profile, it’s even quicker and easier to complete the booking.

I have found that once you go through this process once, you’ll be able to book subsequent flights with your Companion Pass in just a minute or two. It really is that simple.

Additional Southwest Companion Pass tips & tricks

Although the process of using the Southwest Companion Pass is almost always easy, there are a few idiosyncrasies that can arise. Companion Pass holders should also be aware of the following:

You’ll receive separate confirmation numbers: When you book flights for a group or family using cash, everyone will have the same confirmation number. With the Companion Pass, however, your companion will always be assigned a different Southwest confirmation number than the rest of the party. While this isn’t a big deal, it can matter for strategy surrounding Southwest’s unique check-in policy.

When the time comes to check in for your flight, this means you won’t be able to check in online together. If you are playing the Southwest fastest-finger game at exactly 24 hours before your flight to get a prime boarding position, I highly recommend having two devices ready to check you and your companion in at the same time. If you check in one person first and then check in the other person next, you may well lose out on some of the best boarding positions.

You must call to change companions: While you can change you companion three times in a calendar year, Southwest Companion Pass holders should know that doing so requires making a phone call. There is no way to change a companion online. The fine print on Southwest’s site says that it may take up to 21 business days for processing. In our experience, the companion is always changed nearly instantaneously. It will take a while for a new physical Companion Pass card to arrive for your new companion in the mail, but the change is implemented for purposes of online booking within seconds.

Watch out for reservations close together with different companions: While you can change companions up to three times in a single year, you won’t be able to change your companion until you’ve completed all travel with your current companion. If you have two trips close together with different companions, things can get a bit tricky.

For example, if you have a trip with your child on March 1 and another with your spouse on March 15, you won’t be able to add your spouse as a companion to that second trip until after March 1. It is theoretically possible that the March 15 flight could sell out before March 1, leaving your spouse high and dry for the March 15 trip. While this situation rarely arises, it’s an important aspect to note if you are planning travel during peak times and/or on very popular routes. If a flight does sell out, you may find yourself in the position of having to book a new flight for yourself at a higher price to find an itinerary with availability for your companion.

Bottom line

Using Southwest’s Companion Pass is a breeze. And right now, earning it is pretty easy, too — thanks to the sign-up bonuses on the airline’s credit cards. If you’d like your family to travel more often in 2019 and 2020, the Southwest Companion Pass could be how you achieve that goal.

Leslie Harvey is a mom of two children, ages 9 and 5, from the San Francisco Bay Area. She blogs at Trips With Tykes, is the co-host of the podcast Disney Deciphered and co-owns the Disneyland planning Facebook group, Disneyland with Kids.

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Featured photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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