Travel Tuesday Top 10: Best Credit Card Companion Tickets Deals

by on June 12, 2012 · 66 comments

in AirTran, Alaska, Barclays, British Airways, Chase, Citi, Credit Cards, Delta, Southwest, Top 10, US Airways, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic

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Update: The offer mentioned below for the Platinum Card from American Express has expired. View the current offer here

In addition to earning cardholders frequent flyer miles or points, several travel credit cards offer another valuable perk: airline companion tickets and passes. To qualify for one of these tickets or passes, it’s usually a matter of meeting a certain spending threshold within a year, or just outright purchasing a pass that’s good all year long. Here are the top ten credit cards with a companion ticket benefit.

The “Travel Together” companion ticket is one of several great benefits to the British Airways Visa.

1. British Airways Visa: One of the main benefits of the Chase British Airways Visa is the “Travel Together” companion ticket you get when you spend $30,000 within a calendar year. The Travel Together Ticket works a little differently than most other companion tickets, because rather than having to buy a full-fare ticket and get the second one for free, you use this one in combination with an award redemption, so you’re basically getting two half-price awards. The true value in this lies when you redeem for premium awards since British Airways taxes and fees are so expensive that if you were just to use this for coach tickets, you wouldn’t be saving that much money. Just to keep in mind, the travel must be solely on British Airways (no Oneworld partners), the cardholder must be on all legs of the exact same itinerary as the companion, itineraries must be roundtrip and originate and end in the US, vouchers are good for 2 years after issue, and only one Travel Together ticket can be earned per card account per year. The British Airways Visa currently has a 100,000 Avios points sign-up offer. New cardmembers get 50,000 Avios after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months. Cardholders earn 2.5 Avios per $1 on British Airways purchases, and 1.25 Avios per $1 on other purchases and there are no foreign transaction fees. The annual fee is $95.

Update: The current offer for the British Airways Visa is 50,000 Avios with $2,000 spend in the first 3 months.

Delta Reserve Amex cardholders get an annual companion certificate with no spending requirements that they can use for first/business class seats.

2. Delta Reserve Card: One of the great benefits of this premium card from Delta and Amex is that in addition to the SkyClub Access it grants cardholders, each year they will also receive a free Reserve Companion Certificate that entitles them to bring along a travel companion on a roundtrip first/business or economy companion ticket with the purchase of an adult roundtrip fare on published domestic routings within the 48 contiguous United States. The primary traveler is eligible for mileage accrual so they can still earn those valuable Medallion Qualifying Miles (with class of service bonus, if they are flying in first or business class). To book, seats are only available in A and I fare codes in first class service (generally the cheapest first class fares available) and on L, U and T (discounted) fares in economy, and may not be available on all flights or markets. The other catch is, the primary ticket and companion ticket (the taxes and fees) must be purchased with the Delta Reserve card for which the companion certificate was issued. Delta also mentions that the Companion Certificate is transferable, however the primary ticket and companion ticket are not transferable once issued. Right now, the Delta Reserve card comes with 10,000 MQM’s with the first purchase, an additional 15,000 MQM’s and 15,000 SkyMiles if a member hits $30,000 in spend within the calendar year, and an additional 15,000 MQM’s and 15,000 SkyMiles if they hit $60,000 in spend during the same calendar year.  The annual fee is $450.

The Alaska Airlines Visa’s $99 companion pass can be extremely valuable, especially for first class tickets.

3. Alaska Airlines Visa Signature: The companion fare benefit that comes with this versatile card is a little different from the rest on this list. Cardholders are given a certificate code for a $99 companion fare (plus taxes, usually putting the total at around $110) within 1-2 weeks of their initial approval and then on every subsequent anniversary of cardmembership. The only restrictions for using this companion ticket are that two seats must be available, and the flights must be wholly operated by Alaska Airlines. Otherwise, the cardholder and their travel companion can use it for any fare class on any flight. Even better, both flyers still receive mileage credit and both qualify for upgrades based on the elite status of the higher flyer. One of the best uses of this companion ticket is for the cardholder to purchase a first class ticket to Hawaii and get the second one for just $99 plus taxes, essentially getting two half-price first class tickets to Hawaii. Right now, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card comes with a 25,000-mile sign-up bonus and you earn 3 miles per $1 spent on Alaska Airlines, 1 mile per $1 on everything else, and carries a $75 annual fee.

The Citi ThankYou Premier card comes with an annual companion ticket on domestic flights.

4. Citi ThankYou Premier: Cardholders get an annual complimentary domestic companion ticket valid within the continental USA with the ThankYou Premier credit card from Citi. However, the passenger is responsible for paying all fees, taxes and charges incurred in connection with the companion ticket, and these tickets must be booked through Citi’s travel provider partner, Spirit Incentives. Though details on this companion ticket benefit are scarce, it appears you have to book a paid ticket through Spirit Incentives in order to qualify for the companion ticket – so no using it on tickets booked using points. My suggestion would be to save the companion benefit for an expensive domestic flight and ensure that there is companion ticket space available. Some further details on the card itself: New cardmembers get 30,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in three months, and an additional 30,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of their second year of cardmembership. The $125 annual fee is waived for the first year.

There’s no limit to the number of companion tickets Amex Platinum members can use.

5. American Express Platinum: Among the host of perks that come with this premium card from American Express is a companion ticket benefit. Here’s how it works. There are over 20 airlines that participate in the program including Delta, Virgin Atlantic, Air France, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Japan Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch, Mexicana, AeroMexico, Lufthansa, South African, Etihad, Emirates, and others. There is no limit to the number of companion tickets cardholders are eligible for through the program, and there are no blackout dates—if you can buy a ticket on an eligible flight and there is space, you can get a companion ticket. However, only refundable tickets are eligible for companion tickets and international business and first class tickets are among the most expensive out there, so getting a second ticket for free isn’t necessarily the best deal out there – often two discount tickets can be cheaper than one refundable. In order to book a companion ticket, you must book through Amex’s Platinum Travel Service by calling 1-800-443-7672. The Amex Platinum currently comes with a 25,000-point bonus when you spend $2,000 within the first three months, Priority Pass Select lounge access, an annual $200 airline rebate and Fine Hotels & Resorts perks among other benefits. The annual fees is $450.

Though Amex isn’t currently advertising this benefit, the Delta Platinum card comes with an annual economy companion ticket benefit.

6. Delta Platinum Amex: Similar to the Reserve Card companion certificate, this is good for a complimentary companion ticket, however only in economy class. Seats are only available in L, U and T fare codes and may not be available on all flights or markets. Companion certificate is valid for one round-trip economy class companion ticket with the purchase of certain adult round-trip fares on published routings within the 48 contiguous United States. Primary Ticket and Companion ticket must be purchased with your Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express. While, Tickets are not eligible for mileage upgrades, Systemwide Upgrade Certificates, or Medallion Complimentary upgrades, it can’t hurt to ask at the gate especially if there are open seats in First. This card currently awards holders 20,000 Delta SkyMiles with their first purchase (5,000 of which are MQM’s), 5,000 more MQM’s when two additional cardholders are added to the account, travel perks like priority boarding and free checked bags, and carries a $150 annual fee.

US Airways Premier World Mastercard members receive two $99 companion tickets each year.

7. US Airways Premier World MasterCard: One of the benefits of this card is that the primary cardmember is eligible to receive a companion certificate valid for two $99 companion tickets each year. The certificate is sent to new cardholders 6-8 weeks after the first purchase is made on the card and the annual fee has been paid, and then each subsequent year on the anniversary of the account opening and after the annual fee has been paid, the cardholder will receive the companion certificate (again, good for two $99 companion tickets). The companion certificate is valid for round-trip coach travel within and between the contiguous U.S. and Canada when the primary cardmember purchases a qualifying ticket with a minimum fare  of $250. Blackout dates and advance-purchase requirements are detailed on the certificates themselves. This card currently comes with a potential bonus of 40,000 miles: 15,000 miles for first use, 15,000 more bonus miles with $750 spend within the first 90 days, and up to 10,000 more bonus miles with a qualifying balance transfer within 90 days of account opening. Cardholders earn double miles on US Airways purchases and 1 mile per $1 on other purchases. The annual fee is $89.

Southwest’s Companion Pass is one of the most lucrative airline benefits out there, and getting the Southwest credit card can help you earn it faster.

8. Southwest Chase Credit Card: Update: This offer is no longer available. View the current offer for the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card here.

This card doesn’t offer a companion pass directly, but the sign-up bonus, when 50,000, nearly qualifies for half of the companion pass (double that if you also get the business credit card bonus at 50,000). The great thing about the companion pass with Southwest is that once you hit the 110,000-point threshold are given companion pass (no need to redeem) and your pass is good not only for the rest of the calendar year, but also for the following calendar year, meaning if you scored those points in a hurry, you could have a companion pass for almost two years rather than just a one-use ticket. The other great thing about the companion pass is that it is good on either paid or award tickets, giving flyers extra flexibility.  The current sign-up bonus for this card is just 25,000 Rapid Rewards points down from a high of 50,000 last fall and winter. The good news is that you if you qualify for both a business and personal card you can get both for a total of 50,000 points that do count toward the 110,000-point qualifying level for the companion pass, but that still means you’d have to spend enough on the card to get an additional 60,000 points – 2 points per $1 on Southwest purchases and 1 point per $1 on everything else. Or you could transfer points in from a partner such as Hilton, Hyatt or Marriott to score the rest – though these transfers are generally poor value propositions, so I’d only suggest it if you just need to top up your Southwest Rapid Rewards account.

The Virgin America Visa comes with an annual $150 companion ticket discount voucher.

9. Virgin America Visa: While this card doesn’t come with an actual companion certificate, it does come with something similar. Each year, the primary cardmember is eligible to receive a $150 Virgin America Companion Ticket Discount Code. The first code will be sent after the account has been used for at least one purchase and the annual fee ($49) has been paid. The code can be redeemed for $150 off a companion ticket when traveling with another passenger on a paid published airfare on the same itinerary. 14-day advance purchase is required, and the Virgin America Visa card must be used to purchase the fare. This is great, because it can come off almost any fare, and if you find a cheap fare around $150, then it is basically like getting the 2nd ticket for free. The discount code is only valid on roundtrip ticket purchases and cannot be used on existing bookings. Minimum of 2 and a maximum of 3 passengers are required on an itinerary to use the discount and a maximum discount per booking is $150. While there are some Virgin America Visa cards with no annual fee, those are not eligible for this benefit.
The Bank of America Virgin Atlantic Black Card also offers a half off economy award when you spend $25,000 in a year, however taxes and fees on Virgin Atlantic are so high that I generally don’t recommend redeeming Flying Club miles for economy awards.

Be acrobatic with your points. Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest points then convert those into AirTran credits for the airline’s companion pass.

10. AirTran Companion Pass: This actually isn’t an Airtran credit card related companion pass, but can be achieved with the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold  sign-up bonuses, plus $20,000 spend total. If you get the full sign-up bonus from both cards, you will end up with over 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points and then you can actually transfer those points to Southwest, and then transfer those points to the airline’s partner AirTran. Working backwards, you need 100 AirTran credits for the companion pass. Now that Southwest and AirTran are merging their mileage programs, members have been able to transfer points/miles between the two since April. You need 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points to equal 100 AirTran credits, and since Ultimate Rewards is a 1:1 transfer partner with Southwest, that means you’d just need to transfer 120,000 Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest then transfer those points to AirTran to get the companion pass. Though the companion must have an A+ Rewards account of their own and must fly with the member who gave them the companion pass on any itinerary on which it is used, travel can actually be booked separately (so you can pay for the tickets individually if you’re just traveling with a friend), and the sponsor can actually change their companion once each quarter by calling A+ Rewards at 1-888-327-5878. Though the 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points you’d need to get the AirTran pass is 10,000 more than you’d need just for the Southwest Companion Pass, there are benefits to getting the AirTran one instead since AirTran has more international destinations than Southwest, especially in the Caribbean, so if you plan on taking a few tropical vacations this year, the pass could pay for itself.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • joe_bos

    You should consider removing the Virgin America entry and replacing with Virgin Atlantic Black card from BofA. It fit’s better into your post regarding companion tickets. Just sayin..

  • iolaire

    Thanks for the AirTran info, I was not aware of that. So technically you could earn a SW companion pass with 110k points, gather another 10k points, and then transfer them over to AirTran ? If so that’s a great opportunity….

  • Pointsloverrr

    In regards to the $99 Alaska Airlines Companion Ticket – can that companion ticket still be used if the primary person is going to use points (whether it be from Alaska, Delta, BA, AA) to book there flight? If so, that sounds like a great deal to just tack on a $99 companion ticket onto an awards ticket.

  • mspswede

    I have been looking at attending a trade show in Abu Dhabi around Thanksgiving, flying from MSP. Oddly, fares are significantly lower ex-ORD, i.e. $4084 r.t. via LH on non-refundable fare type. So…I could book on my AX Platinum, deduct my airfare as business expense, bring my wife and hopefully meet up with friends who are on ex-pat assignment in India. I hope grandma and grandpa are available to come watch their granddaughters!

  • Grant Thomas

    I have the citi thankyou premiere card and have looked into the spirit incentives. along with the free companion ticket, they also have flights where rates are 10-15% off stated prices. these flights are more obscure with more connections, but you end up saving on all the flights you book through them.

    regarding the companion ticket, the availability is more scarce and you end up paying a little more than buying the ticket directly from the airline, but you do save between $200-400 in the end when you use the companion ticket. You get 1 free companion ticket each year you renew your account with citi ($125 annual fee) but if you take advantage of the companion ticket, you come out ahead.

  • Lark

    Typically, these companion passes do not work on the lower, ‘non-refundable fare types’.

    Your strategy sounds good, but my company would never let me buy the more expensive class of service required to qualify for the “Free*” companion ticket.

  • Dbennett

    No, the primary person has to pay for a ticket and it has to be solely on Alaska and booked on there website. Once you have the code, you log into your account and search using the discount code option. Fares will come up for the primary person and it shows what the companion ticket will cost (fees/taxes vary depending on route).

  • Dbennett

    Another benefit of the Alaska pass is it’s also good for one way trips. I have a lot of AA miles and go to Hawaii twice a year. We fly to Hawaii using the Alaska pass and use AA miles for the return trip. One round trip usually costs about $430 plus 35,000 AA miles for 2 people in coach. Lucky us, we’ve always gotten exit row seats on the PDX-KOA portion by asking at the airport. This may not be the best way to use the pass but you can’t beat going to Hawaii for roughly $430.

  • Hcry

    Do you know if the Delta Platinum Amex primary and companion tickets are transferable? That would make me very happy!

    Thanks for so much good info.

  • nsk

    I would’ve advise putting any effort toward accumulating Airtran credits because it’s on the way out, unless someone is ready to immediately book a bunch of travel between now and 11/2012.

  • thepointsguy

    Correct, but Chase transfers to Southwest do not count towards the companion pass, so you’ll have to earn it by flying or generated 110,000 in points via hotel transfers/credit card signups/spend, etc

  • thepointsguy

    You’ll still be able to use those credits/companion pass with Southwest, but agree that you should have a plan in mind before accruing lots of Airtran credits

  • thepointsguy

    Yes, but they need to be booked with a Delta Amex card

  • thepointsguy

    Correct- call Amex to price out the companion ticket eligible fare at 1-800-443-7672

  • thepointsguy

    That companion ticket is only on economy awards, which have huge taxes/fees. I added it in though for reference!

  • BigTex

    In regards to the British Airways companion pass…

    Because the travel MUST occur on BA metal, and they only have connections via London, one will always face the exorbitant transatlantic fuel surcharges on both tickets. This significantly devalues the pass and essentially mandates travelers spend $2000+ for r/t award redemptions.

    Sure, relative to what it would cost for the actual business or first class seat it can be a deal, but this is a HUGE consideration when valuing the pass.


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  • thepointsguy

    Agreed- there is no way around the big fees and routing via London. That being said, TWO business class roundtrips from NYC to London for 80,000 Avios and $1,900 is still a great deal, in my opinion

  • Jer

    for the Southwest – do points transferred from the Sapphire Preferred count towards the companion pass?

  • Karl Mitchell

    I was going to say the same. It would normally save about $1200, giving only 1.6 c/mile, but if you happen to be flying via a VA route, 75,000 + ~$600 for two economy tickets is pretty decent, despite the high fees. Also, given the pretty decent earn rate of the Virgin Atlantic Black (as high as 2.1 miles/$ with spend bonuses) lit’s not a bad option if you’re only trying to do transatlantic flights on a budget. Plus, for British Expats, the Virgin Atlantic Black is one of the few miles cards that you can grab without an excellent credit rating, due to their dedicated expat application form, and so highly rated by those that are new to the US and building a credit rating.

  • JuiceBox2Go_com

    I scored the Southwest companion pass recently–with the 50k offers from the personal and business cards–and it just came yesterday! Of course I’d already booked some trips with it, but we’ll need the actual card when we’re ready to fly. Thank you for all your great points info! Where would we be without you? Nowhere fun–that’s where.

  • TPG Intern Ryan

    Ultimate Reward points transferred directly to Southwest would not count for the companion pass, however if you transferred to Marriott then from Marriott to Southwest those would count.

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  • Guest

    You have the wrong fee listed for the Delta Platinum Card. It’s actually $150, not $450. $450 is the Reserve Card Fee.

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  • Slava

    I’ve used it last year and from my experience “free companion ticket” amount to 60% discount and not 100% free ticket. Mostly a) same ticket would have I’d say 20% inflated price AND b) taxes and fees would add another 20%. But when the flight is overpriced for points even saving 60% is better than 0%.
    Also, I may add that now you can actually do your own search on their website for reward ticket. Couple of years ago one could do so only by phone and that was not easily done.

  • Brianbaigorri

    Hey TPG, thanks for the great post.

    Question: If I purchased NYC-London-Male with miles, could I use my companion ticket? From what I understand it is broken into two Avios rewards tickets, so not sure how the companion pass would work… Just trying to find a good way to get to Male!


  • DealsSeeker

    Wow, what a great post. Can one use the Alaskan companion pass with award travel? Thanks

  • Jack

    I also have the thank you premiere card (grandfathered into the $75 annual fee) and I am able to book a “companion” ticket as many times a year as I want, as long as flights are available. Is anyone else able to do this or is it just because I have had the card for several years now? I actually think this is a great card and the awards site often offers flights on cheaper airlines that other award programs don’t.

  • Donator

    Great post! Thanks for the summary. One minor detail that I wish I was mistaken about, but I think the Citi Thankyou card companion ticket is only for the contiguous US, rather than the continental US (which would include Alaska). Of course, contiguous and continental are frequently used interchangeably. But technically, Alaska is on the continent, too.

  • Jer

    so since I didn’t take advantage of this when I got my SW Preferred Visa Signature last year, could I get the business SW preferred business visa w/ 50k points and transfer 60k UR to Marriott, then to SW and then qualify for the companion pass for the remainder of this year and all of next year?? that’s pretty sweet…

  • Fred Mertz

    Do you get the companion ticket in the first year of the Delta Reserve or only when you renew?

  • Carwag25

    Jack, I have also had this card for many years (w/$75 fee) and am able to book companion tickets for an unlimited number of times. I do believe we have been grandfathered in, because it does not seem to be available on the more recent versions of the card.

  • TPG Intern Ryan

    Unfortunately no, mileage cannot be used as a form of payment for the paid ticket, however mileage credit accrual is allowed on both the paid ticket and companion ticket.

  • TPG Intern Ryan

    After the first year, when you renew the card, you receive the companion certificate.

  • thepointsguy

    Unfortunately Marriott points don’t transfer to Southwest at 1:1 (or even close) so you’ll need way more ultimate rewards to make it happen

  • Scott H

    The companion pass for Citi Thankyou Rewards can be booked at I just found that out and thought I would pass it along.

  • Gtsai5

    For the Delta Platinum, do you really get an 5000 additional MQM’s miles for adding 2 additional cardholders?

    Per the image shown, it seems they are just regular Skymiles for adding the cardholders.

  • LeeH_5

    I’ve used the companion ticket each of the past few years and have saved an average of $300 on the pair of tickets. We were even able to use the companion ticket over the Xmas holiday last year. My wife and I both have cards on the account, which allows us to each get a companion ticket, which is great for a family vacation.

  • TPG Intern Ryan

    It looks like those would be Skymiles, but there is no charge to add additional cardholders.

  • GuestQuest Vacations

    Good list! Take advantage of travel deals. Make sure you read the fine print. Read it twice if you have to do so. You don’t want to sign up for a rewards program without understanding it.

  • Roger

    Thanks for the great post! So, for the stupid question of the day – I currently use the Delta Gold Amex, but am considering upgrading to the Reserve card. Would I still be elegible to receive the 10,000 MQM bonus for first time use as a current Gold cardholder? this disclaimer from the AMEX site concerns me:

    † Welcome bonus offer not available to applicants who have had this product within the last 12 months or any other Consumer Delta SkyMiles Credit Card account within the last 90 days.

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  • robin.joshua

    Good, information! Among all these, I prefer VISA, for everything, whether its a shopping or buying travel tickets. Its is more reliable.

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  • saraanthony73

    Well, I prefer Visa and America Express, they have great accessibility and easy to use for lot many difficult transactions. I appreciated for this wonderful information shared via article.

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  • Kathy

    I have had the Delta American Express Platinum for a while now (years) and so has my husband. This year we did not get our companion certificate– either one of us. I have called American Express and they have told me that they are in the process of issuing them, oh, and they are so sorry for the delay. They don’t know why it is taking so long. My husband’s card renewed in July and mine renewed in September I think. I am trying to book a flight for January and they are holding me up. They tell me that they are “rushing” it and will call me when the certificate numbers are populated. Has anyone else had this problem. The tickets I am trying to book are for a holiday weekend and the tickets I don’t know if I should call back and push for a better answer. Ideas?

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  • New York Attractions

    You should consider removing the Virgin America imports and replaced with Virgin Atlantic black card from BofA. It fit better into your message regarding companion tickets.

  • Felicia

    I travel twice a year to NYC from Oregon with my 11 year old. I currently do not have a mileage card. I am paying full price for her ticket and mine. What is the best card to get to earn points for mileage? I spend approximately 2,000 a month on gas, grocery, bills, etc. A rewards card? Help, I am getting ready to book my flight in March.

    Thank you!

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  • Considering Air Miles Card

    Can I transfer my (chase ultimate rewards) to (Korean air sky miles) and then from (Korean air sky miles) to my (Alaskan Airlines account)?

  • Itan2Much

    Alaska Airlines changed their use of the companion fare ticket to “only” coach as of last August. Living on Maui, we used the “First Class” option all the time. You can still use it, but now have to spend 60,000 miles to upgrade the coach companion ticket to a First Class seat, but the mileage option has to be available on the flight you select.

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  • SAS

    Is there any way I can i use Delta rewards points to purchase Air Tran tickets?

  • SAS

    SAS again…forgot to mention i have the Delta gold AMEX card.

  • Daniel White

    Virgin America is really bad at handling the companion pass offered by its partner credit card operator. Beware. Also, it looks like any companion passes that you had from Barclay are worthless now that Virgin has dumped them and gone to Comenity, which I’m sure will find a way to make redemption even worse. I’ve written off two companion passes thanks to the BS I get from Virgin. Totally bounced back and forth from CC to Airline like a tennis ball. Call the Airline…. no no no, you definitely need to call the credit card company.

  • monicadissagrees

    can I buy companion ticket from US to Paris

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