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Fall Is Companion Pass Season, and I Don’t Care

Fall Is Companion Pass Season, and I Don’t Care
Anya Kartashova

Oh, fall: that beautiful time of year when the leaves turn yellow, and everyone with a heartbeat is applying for Southwest Airlines credit cards.

Why is October the right time to sign up for a co-branded Southwest card? Because of the coveted Companion Pass, of course. The famous two-for-one flight deal is valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which it’s earned plus the entire following year.

The key is to earn the 110,000 Rapid Rewards points required for the benefit in the same calendar year, preferably in the early months. It’s possible to earn the Companion Pass in January by applying for two Southwest credit cards in October and taking three months to meet the minimum spending requirements.

Is Southwest Companion Pass really such a great deal? Absolutely, but only if you can take full advantage of the perk. Having said that, it’s not for everyone, and I’m one of those flyers.

Here’s why I don’t care about Southwest Companion Pass.

It Takes up a Precious 5/24 Slot

To qualify for the Companion Pass, you must earn at least 110,000 Rapid Rewards points by either flying on Southwest Airlines or by making purchases on the co-branded Southwest credit cards. To make the goal closer, the sign-up bonus counts, and it’s possible to earn it with just two credit card offers.

Now, there’s a caveat. It’s no longer possible to earn the bonus by getting two personal credit cards, which means one of the offers must be a business card.

If you’re familiar with Chase, the bank that issues Southwest credit cards, you’re restricted by the 5/24 rule. What this means is that it’s not possible to get approved for a Chase credit card if you’ve opened five or more credit cards with any bank in the last two years.

By some miracle, I’m still eligible for Chase cards, but Southwest offers aren’t as high on my list as other options, believe it or not. I’d rather use my 5/24 slot for the World of Hyatt Card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card instead as I’m eligible to earn another bonus on it.

Southwest Covers a Limited Number of Destinations

For someone who prefers to visit various countries, Southwest doesn’t cover enough international destinations. Aside from a handful of locations in the Caribbean and Central America, the airline flies mostly within the United States.

Additionally, I live in Salt Lake City, which isn’t one of Southwest’s hubs or even focus cities. No matter where I go requires a connection and sometimes two. To make matters worse, Southwest has an inconvenient rule about booking long layovers. The longest connection one can have between flights is four hours long. This means I have to book two separate flights to most Caribbean destinations as those would require an overnight stop somewhere in the United States. This restriction makes it difficult for me to fly Southwest internationally.

Companion Pass Isn’t Useful Without a…Companion

No, I’m not that big of a loser, and yes, I actually have friends, but my potential companions don’t have the flexible travel schedule I’m blessed with. This might sound obvious (because it is), but buying two flights for the price of one requires two travelers, and no one I know is able to take multiple trips per year. I wouldn’t be able to extract much value from the Companion Pass.

I suppose the perk would be more useful if I could switch companions as I please, but Southwest has limits. After designating one person as a companion, I could change names up to three times per year. However, if I wanted to alternate my mom and my husband as my companions, each switch would count as a new companion, which isn’t ideal.

Final Thoughts

Don’t get me wrong. A Southwest Companion Pass is a fantastic perk for someone who flies domestically often and has a trusty travel buddy. I just happen to be one of those travelers who wouldn’t make much use of the benefit because of my travel goals. Fortunately, no single person has the same objective, and that’s OK. You do you.

Have you ever had a Southwest Companion Pass? How many times did you use it and where did you go?

View Comments (5)

5 Comments

  1. formeraa

    October 8, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    Agreed. Most of my travel is done by myself. I live in a city away from family and most friends. So, I travel solo on the plane. The Companion Pass has no value to me. If they would let me substitute another perk, I might be more motivated.

    Thank you for writing what I’ve been thinking for a while now…

  2. jamesteroh

    October 8, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    I haven’t flown southwest in years but back when they had the credit system I had a companion pass for four or five years in a row just due to all the credits I earned from things like their credit card and hotel stays and it always went to waste. When I flew on Southwest it was either for business or I was meeting someone flying in from another city who wasn’t on my flight. It’s my understanding that many years ago you could opt for seven free RR tickets in lieu of the companion pass and I would have found that valuable back in the old RR1 days. I wish they would have allowed you to select yourself as your companion and allow the seat next to you to be blocked with a card similar to the customer of size passengers. I would rather have a blocked middle seat on a lot of flights than being able to fly with a companion for free. The companion pass would be nice for someone with a spouse that doesn’t work or is retired and has flexibility in their travel.

  3. sdsearch

    October 8, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    Same here. All of my personal airline travel is done by myself. I live on the other side of the country from family, and most of my friends moved away from my city (to different cities around the country). And other than visits to friends and family, most of my trips are to do “slow” outdoor photography in a different location every trip, and no knowing anyone else near me who would be into doing that at the same time as me at the location as me (plus at least half of those trips being “overseas enough” that Southwest doesn’t fly there), a companion pass is useless to me.

    Last month I got the new Southwest Performance Business card, which gets 80000 bonus points as the signup bonus, and I’ll probably get awarded those points in December (rather than January), which would useless for the Southwest companion pass, but I don’t care a single bit.

  4. Snuggs

    October 9, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    “Is Southwest Companion Pass really such a great deal? Absolutely, but only if you can take full advantage of the perk” Thanks for the insight! Had CP three times, basically 6 years of free travel for spouse. Only used it because @ FLL, SWA is at T1, so no shuttle bus to car rental.

    IMHO
    SWA isn’t cheaper anymore
    The pitch has dropped by a couple of inches
    Peanuts are banned
    Dogs get to fly
    Pax allergic to dogs are removed and arrested
    Pay $50, get A2 boarding, and still get on the plane after 40 others.
    SWA Pilots are so traumatized by Boeing, now I’m afraid to fly SWA

  5. kwbtraveler

    October 9, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    My wife and I have had the companion pass for total of 6 years this coming January. She’s my partner and I love traveling with her. Plus Southwest takes us to most places we want to go; or at least to a place where we can catch a flight on one of our other favorite airlines. But, having a small (tiny) business does help with getting enough point to cover the pass. Happy flying.

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