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Can I Use a Companion Ticket Without the Primary Passenger?

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TPG reader Paige sent me a message on Facebook to ask about the Southwest Companion Pass:

“My husband, children and I are flying from Boston to Dallas on Southwest, with me flying on a companion ticket. There’s a plane change in Baltimore, where my husband needs to be the following day for business, so he was thinking of skipping the last leg. Would I still be allowed to fly?”

You can get a lot of value out of companion tickets, and the Southwest Companion Pass is undoubtedly the best of the bunch for domestic travel. Using this pass, your designated companion can fly with you on any Southwest itinerary for just the cost of security fees, so long as there’s an open seat. However, he or she has to actually fly with you, and the airline is strict about not allowing ticketed companions to fly solo.

Southwest addresses this unambiguously in the Companion Pass FAQ:

“The Companion Pass is valid for travel only when the Companion is accompanied on his/her flight(s) by the Rapid Rewards Member.”

When you add a companion to a Southwest reservation, your itineraries will be linked. The gate agents can see who has and has not boarded the flight, so they’ll know if the companion is on board without the Companion Pass holder. They won’t be able to close the passenger manifest when that happens, so you can bet they’ll come looking for answers. In all likelihood you’ll be pulled from the flight. If you’re traveling with children, they could be pulled as well, or may be charged $50 each to fly as unaccompanied minors depending on how old they are.

Even worse, if Southwest suspects that you tried to circumvent the program rules deliberately, you could forfeit your Companion Pass and have your Rapid Rewards account closed entirely. That’s a huge risk to take, and not at all worth it in my opinion. People may get away with it occasionally, but there are better options.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Southwest doesn’t charge change or cancellation fees, so rebooking is probably your best option. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

If Paige’s husband doesn’t want to make the extra round-trip, I suggest rebooking his itinerary to end in Baltimore, since Southwest has no change or cancellation fees. Assuming prices have remained steady, he’ll likely get a partial refund for the shorter flight, and he can still add Paige as his companion from Boston. Paige can then buy her own ticket from Baltimore to Dallas, and her husband can book his flight home separately.

One riskier option is to see if the flight to Dallas is overbooked when you get to the airport. If Paige’s husband volunteers to be bumped, the gate agents might make an exception and allow her to fly without him. The downside is that if it doesn’t work, then either her husband will need to fly back to Dallas, or she’ll need to buy her own ticket home at the last minute, which will likely be expensive. Rebooking in advance is the safer option.

For more on the Companion Pass and ditching itineraries in the middle, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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