10 Tips When Using the Southwest Companion Pass


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I’ve flown my family 2-for-1 with the Southwest Companion Pass over the past 15 years. It has truly saved my family tens of thousands of dollars and has allowed us to take trips that we might not have otherwise taken. In my opinion, it is by far the best perk in the entire travel industry and a benefit that most travelers should look into, especially those traveling with a family. In a nutshell, the pass allows a companion to fly with you for free an unlimited number of times during the life of the pass. It is truly a “no strings attached” benefit.

Best of all, the points earned from all Southwest credit cards count towards the pass. This means, depending on the offer, with the sign up bonus solely from a personal and business card, you might be able to earn the pass right away, upon meeting the minimum spend requirement.

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card:
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card:
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card:
  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card: Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Since I’ve had the pass for many many years, I’ve learned the in’s and out’s pretty quickly. But before I go into my top 10 tips, here’s a quick recap on how you can earn the pass.

To receive the Companion Pass, you need to earn 135,000 qualifying points within a calendar. Fortunately, the points earned from the above welcome offers count as qualifying points towards the pass. That means you can earn between 60,000 and 80,000 points from one credit card application, after meeting the minimum spend requirement. However, Chase allows you to apply for both a personal and a business Southwest credit card. So, if you’re eligible for both, that will earn you the pass right away once the points hit your account. But, even if you can only get the points for one card, that’ll still give you a large chunk of points towards the pass. And earning the remaining points is easy with regular credit card spend, Southwest travel or their online shopping portal.

But, you’ll want to wait until Jan. 1, 2024 to meet your minimum spend requirement. This is because you need to earn the qualifying points within the same calendar year. Once the New Years hits, your qualifying points will reset. And, waiting until the first of the year means that you’ll then have the points for the rest of 2024 and all of 2025 with the pass not expiring until Dec. 31, 2025.

So without further ado, here’s everything you need to know.

1. You can change your companion up to three times per year

With the Southwest Companion Pass anyone can be your companion. This can include a friend, significant other or child. Really, anyone can be your companion!

Although there are restrictions on how many times you can change your companion during the calendar year. When you first earn the Companion Pass, Southwest will ask you to designate your companion. Once this person is added onto your account, you can add them to any reservation you already have booked. You are allowed to change your companion three times per calendar year.

a girl in pink headphones using a tablet
My daughter is typically my companion on every Southwest flight!

If you need to change your companion, you can do so, but all reservations booked with your current companion will be canceled. You can then add your new companion onto any upcoming flights. You can also repeat your companion, which means you can go back and forth, but every change will still count towards your three times per year cap.

TIP: The first time you designate your companion, it does not count towards the “three changes” magical number. Also, if you earn the Companion Pass again for the following year, your number will reset. This will allow you to change your companion three more times during the new calendar year. Also, you can book your travel now, without being a pass holder and add your companion on later.

2. You must call Southwest to change your companion

Although you can designate your first companion through your online account, every time you need to change your companion you’ll need to call Southwest. Unfortunately, there is no way to do it online. When you call Southwest, they will cancel any upcoming reservations you might have for your current companion and add your new companion to those flights. There is no way to keep your old companion onto future flights.

a close up of a card
You’ll receive a new Companion Pass in the mail, but you can still book upcoming flights without having the physical pass.

Once the Southwest representative changes your companion, your companion is instantly changed in the system. Even though you will not receive the new companion pass in the mail for a few weeks, you can start booking your new companion immediately. You can even add them onto a flight for the same day, if needed. I’ve never once had to actually show the card to anyone at the airport.

TIP: If you are looking to change your companion again for future flights already booked and want to make sure there is a seat still available for them, add your current companion onto those flights even though you know your companion will change. That locks in a seat for them and when you go to change your companion at a later date, the representative will cancel the current reservation and add on the new companion to the future flight.

3. Add your companion onto your reservation right away

With the Southwest Companion Pass, there are absolutely no seat restrictions. The only requirement that there must be at least one seat for sale even if it is only one of those expensive Business Select fares available. When you book the primary passengers flight, you’ll want to add your Companion on right away. This will ensure that there is a seat for them. I’ve made this mistake in the past, and it isn’t fun.

a man and child in an airplane
As long as there is one seat for sale, you can book your Companion!

TIP: Southwest does not immediately add your Companion Pass onto an existing reservation. You will need to manually do it, so do not forget!

4. The primary passenger can use points to book their flight

The best part about the pass is that even the primary passenger can use points to book their flight — meaning both passengers are essentially flying for free! Many other companion passes in the travel world require the first passenger to purchase a certain fare level seat. That is not the case with Southwest. There is no minimum cost for the flight and even points can be used, which is amazing.

Related: 7 Mistakes Not to Make to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

a woman and a child sitting on an airplane
We are both flying for free — am using my points for my flight and my daughter is on the Companion Pass

TIP: You can even use points from another persons account to book your ticket and still add on the Companion. For example, if your Companion has Southwest points, he or she can book you a ticket and then you can add them on as your Companion!

5. Your companion must check into their flight separately

Even though your Companion is attached to your reservation, they will receive a completely different confirmation number. With Southwest, you can check into your flight exactly 24-hours prior to departure. The earlier you check in, the better boarding number you’ll receive. Remember, Southwest does not have assigned seats and operates as a first come, first serve. You’ll board in the order of your boarding number, so getting the best boarding number as possible is important to ensure that all passengers in your party can sit together.

TIP: If you have a child 6 or younger in your family, the entire family can board during family boarding. This happens between the “A” and “B” groups. Boarding right after the A group is perfectly fine and your entire family should have no problem getting seats together.

6. There are no blackout dates

With the Southwest Companion Pass there truly are no blackout dates. Your companion can fly with you for free 7 days a week, 365 days a year. While the primary passenger might end up paying slightly more if you are flying during peak dates, the companions flight will still cost $0 plus the same amount in taxes/fees.

7. There are no route restrictions

With over 4,000 daily flights throughout the the US, Mexico, Caribbean and Central America, you can use the companion pass to fly for free to every single one of their destinations on every single route. You can even fly Southwest to Hawaii!

a group of people in a pool with a waterfall
Use your companion pass to fly to the Bahamas!

TIP: The only cost you are on the hook for are the taxes/fees. Domestic flights cost $5.60 per one way. International flights vary based on the country roundtrip taxes/fees can end up costing anywhere between $30 and $120.

8. You must “fly by” the expiration date, not simply “book by”

an airplane wing and land below
You can fly over December break, but make sure to fly home by New Years Eve (if your pass expires)!

Expiration dates can sometimes be confusing in the travel world. Some times you simply must “book by” the expiration date, while other times you must actually “stay by or fly by” the expiration date. I’ve had many readers inquire how the expiration date works for the Companion Pass and unfortunately it is the later. You must actually travel by the expiration date. For example, if you are earning the Companion Pass for 2024 and 2025, all travel must be completed by December 31, 2025, regardless of when you book your flight.

TIP: Even if you book as a roundtrip with the outbound in 2025 and the return in 2026, the pass will only apply to the outbound flight. But, to do this, you’ll have to book your Southwest flight as two separate one-way flights.

9. You do not need to wait to earn the Companion pass to book your flight

You can still go ahead and book the primary passengers flight first even if have not yet earned the pass. Once you actually earn the pass you can then add the Companion Pass reservation onto the primary passengers reservation. The two flights do not need to be booked together. You can even book a Companion Pass flight onto a reservation that was booked months ago. You just cannot book the companion’s flight until you have actually earned the pass.

TIP: Book the primarily passengers flight as early as possible to get the best price. If the flight happens to go down in price, you can always get a refund for the difference in either points or a credit depending on how you booked your ticket.

10. Cardmembers get 10,000 bonus points

A new cardmember benefit implemented this year is if you carry any Southwest credit card on the first of the year, you’ll earn 10,000 qualifying points towards your pass. That means if you apply now, you actually only need to earn 125,000 points come 2024. So if you’re only eligible for the personal credit card and not that business card you’ll only need 47,000 qualifying points in 2024. This is because you’ll earn 75,000 points from the welcome offer, plus an additional 3,000 points for your credit card spend when meeting the minimum spend requirement.

Overall…

The Companion Pass is an amazing perk, but knowing these tips can absolutely help you maximize your savings. Enjoy flying for free for the rest of the year.


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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As always, thank you for supporting the blog and enjoy traveling on a deal.

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