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How and Why to Change Your Southwest Companion

July 04, 2019
8 min read
Southwest Hawaii-21
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The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most coveted perks in the world of frequent travelers. The rewards are almost too significant to believe — two tickets for the price of one with no exclusions on routes or dates ... who wouldn't want that deal? This is a huge money saver for those who travel often with a companion and even more so for families.

But did you know that you can change your designated companion up to three times per year? If you time this well, it can unlock even more value, and today we'll take a closer look at how and when you'd want to switch your companion for another friend or family member.

Earning the Companion Pass

Before you can even think about changing your companion, you actually need to earn the Companion Pass. In order to qualify, you either have to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or rack up 125,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points within a calendar year. Although this may sound like a hefty and pricey goal, note that the Southwest credit card sign-up bonuses count towards that 125,000.

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, and Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Earn a Companion Pass® through 2/28/23 plus 30,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

As you can see, the cards offer a nice shortcut to the qualification thresholds, especially with the addition of the Southwest Performance card. Just remember that the personal cards implemented new restrictions on applications in 2018, so don't plan on grabbing more than one at the same time. And don't forget about Chase's 5/24 rule when you go to apply for any of the above cards.

Companion Pass Change Policy

One you have the pass and know how to add a companion, the next step is to actually change your companion when you want to take a different traveler along for your next trip. Here's what Southwest's terms and conditions have to say about this process:

"The Companion Pass card is not transferrable. The Member may, however, change his/her designated Companion and request issuance of a new Companion Pass card up to three (3) times each calendar year that the Member maintains Companion Pass status. Any reservation with the current Companion Pass would need to be cancelled before changing his/her designated Companion. Requests may be made by calling 1-800-435-9792. Allow 21 business days for processing and issuance of the Companion Pass card."

Note that this is based on the calendar year, not a rolling 12-month period. If you earn the pass now, you can change your companion three times in 2019 and another three times in 2020.

In addition, the policy allows three changes, not three companions. If you use all three changes during a calendar year, you could technically have four different companions at different points during the year. However, changing back to one of your earlier companions still counts as a change.

How to Change Your Companion

Let's now turn to the exact process for changing your designated companion on your Southwest Companion Pass. While it's not quite as simple and seamless as it is to add your initial companion, it's not overly difficult either. Here's how:

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  1. Call customer service at 1-800-248-4377: This should only take a few minutes — as long as you're not calling during a major weather event — so you won't have to set aside a ton of time to make the change.
  2. Give the agent your new companion's information: Make sure to have all of their information readily available so the process can be as quick as possible, including full name (as listed on his/her government-issued ID), date of birth and Rapid Rewards number.

The terms copied above say to allow 21 business days for processing, but it's usually a much quicker turnaround between the time you notify Southwest of the change and when it hits your account, typically taking around 5 minutes after the initial call. This should allow you to book your new companion on a flight shortly after making the change.

When and Why to Switch Your Companion

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael)
Recent retirees may be good candidates for switching their designated companions. (Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

If you have a designated travel partner who always accompanies you, then it probably doesn't make sense to change your companion. However, there are certain situations where you may want to consider swapping companions. After all, you are allowed to switch three times per calendar year, so might as well take advantage of it.

  • New empty-nesters: If the last of your kids has finally left the nest — and you had them as your companion to travel together and soak up those last few months before moving out — switch your companion to your partner and take advantage of your newfound free time without kids around. This is the time for you and your partner to see things you didn't have time to see before with family obligations.
  • Recent retirees: If you've recently retired but your partner is still working full-time, consider switching your companion to a friend or family member that has the same amount of free time as you. Take that spontaneous vacation your work schedule didn't allow you to do before — and then switch back to your partner for the next time he/she uses some vacation time.
  • Big trip, expensive flights: Maybe you have a big trip planned with a friend or family member that's not already your designated companion and flights are pricey. Cut back on the cost by adding them as your companion and splitting the price of one ticket between the two of you.
  • Parent/child weekend: The day-to-day grind of work and other responsibilities may make it hard to find quality time to spend with family. If you're a parent, consider switching your companion to your son or daughter and taking a special trip — just the two of you. This allows for some bonding time and may leave your partner some unexpected free time. This works the other way too: Add your mom or dad as your companion and take that trip you've always wanted to take — and only pay for one plane ticket.

Of course, these are just examples of when you might want to do this, but beware of the timing of the change so you don't inadvertently mess up other plans ...


Don't make the change too soon or you'll have a big problem at check-in. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

You can only have one companion at a time, and that individual must be your companion both at the time of booking and the time of travel. As a result, don't jump the gun and switch your companion for a future trip before you've completed any prior bookings with your current companion. If you do, the original companion will not be able to fly for free with you, as the system will no longer recognize him/her as your companion. That could create a nasty surprise at the airport.

RELATED: 11 Lessons from 11 Years With a Southwest Companion Pass

It's also important to note that if you do plan on switching companions for any future trips, you must do so before booking his/her seat. However, you can book your flight whenever you want, as reserving a companion ticket is a separate process and can happen at any time after ticketing. And since companion tickets aren't subject to capacity controls — you can snag any available seat for your companion — you shouldn't need to book your companion's seat very far advance.

There are certain situations, like the busy holiday season, where you may want to consider reserving future travel in advance. For example, if you're planning on traveling with a different companion during the holidays, hold the seat for your new companion via points and then cancel that reservation and add him/her free of charge after you've completed your other trip.

Bottom Line

The Southwest Companion Pass is quite the deal. If you are able to earn this awesome reward, be sure to take full advantage of all the perks it has to offer, including the three changes each calendar year. By strategically using these changes, you can spread the wealth of the perk among multiple friends and family members and create even more travel memories than you originally thought possible.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.