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One of the industry’s most lucrative perks just got much more valuable. The Southwest Companion Pass is widely regarded as one of the best frequent flyer perks in existence. Now, with the carrier announcing that it’s launching service to Hawaii, the Companion Pass is offering travelers even more value.
First, a refresher on the Companion Pass and why it’s so valuable. If you’re able to earn a Pass, you basically can fly two-for-one on all Southwest tickets (revenue and award), saving you a ton of money or points. Once you’ve got it, you can designate someone — friend, spouse, coworker, dentist, your second cousin’s great uncle — to fly (almost) for free on any Southwest flight. You just have to pay the taxes and fees on the ticket. Plus, you could get it for two whole years if you qualify for it at the right time, as it’s valid for the remainder of the year in which you get it plus the entire following calendar year.
While we don’t know much yet about Southwest‘s new Hawaii routes, there’s one thing for certain: The Companion Pass will offer even more value. Southwest’s entrance into the Hawaii market could mean good news for all travelers — even non-Southwest flyers. Traditionally, when Southwest enters a market with its low fares, it forces other carriers within the space to lower their fares in order to remain competitive.
So, why do these new routes make the Companion Pass even more valuable? Once the routes launch, pass holders will effectively be able to fly two people to Hawaii for the price of one. Planning getaways to the island state will likely require much less cash out-of-pocket. What’s even more appealing is that the Companion Pass works for both revenue and award bookings, so if you’re Rapid Rewards account is loaded with points, you’ll be able to use the points for just yourself and then bring your companion along for free. (Of course, after paying just the taxes and fees on the ticket.)
For example, let’s look at Southwest’s competitors. For a set of dates in November, Delta, Virgin America and Hawaiian are all offering round-trip from Los Angeles (LAX) to Honolulu (HNL) for $497. If you were to purchase two of those tickets, it’d cost you $994. However, if you had the Companion Pass, you’d be able to buy one ticket at a likely lower fare and fly with two people. As you can see, the savings here could be significant.
How to Get the Companion Pass
One of the nicest things about the Companion Pass — besides, you know, the nearly free travel — is that it’s fairly easy to obtain without even having to fly. Thankfully, the terms and conditions allow for points earned from Southwest co-branded credit cards to count toward Companion Pass qualification.
As for the qualifying part, you’ll need to earn 110,000 qualifying points or take 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year to earn a Companion Pass. As mentioned earlier, credit cards count toward that 110,000-point requirement. So, by signing up for two credit cards, you could come close — or even meet entirely — to reaching that amount. Here are the available Southwest co-branded credit cards that will count toward Companion Pass requirements:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
So, if you sign up for both the Premier Card and its business version and meet the minimum spending requirements, you’ll get 100,000 points right off the bat. Then, the money spent in order to meet the minimum spend could total enough to reach — or at least get close to — the 110,000 mark.
Note that on more than one occasion, there have been 60,000-point bonuses on all three cards — most recently in early October. When that sign-up bonus is around, you would automatically qualify for the Companion Pass just by meeting the minimum spending requirements.
Southwest is also known for targeting Rapid Rewards members for special offers. Most recently, the carrier targeted some California residents with an insane offer. If they signed up for, were approved and made one purchase with a new Rapid Rewards credit card, they would automatically earn the Companion Pass. If you’re based in California, keep an eye out for any other targeted offers. Other markets Southwest has flocked to with special Companion Pass offers include Phoenix, Denver and more.
At this point, we know that Southwest isn’t going to begin selling tickets on its new Hawaii routes until 2018. So, if you truly want to take full advantage of the Companion Pass, it could be worth it to wait until 2018 before you qualify. Given that it’s already mid-October, you would only get 14.5 months of use out of it. If you wait to qualify until January 2018, you would get a full 24 months of use with the Companion Pass — and you’d most likely be able to use it on the new Hawaii routes, as long as they launch in 2018.
Without a doubt, this is an exciting time for travelers. With the announcement from Southwest that it’s launching Hawaii routes, the value of the Companion Pass is now at an all-time high. The ability for two travelers to venture to Hawaii for the price of one could change the game. If you foresee yourself traveling to Hawaii — or any of Southwest’s other destinations — in the next two years, it could be a good idea to start planning your path to Companion Pass qualification now.
Featured image of the Na Pali Coast by Paul Mounce – Corbis / Contributor via Getty Images.