How to use the Southwest Companion Pass

Jan 19, 2020

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One of the best deals in all of travel is the Southwest Companion Pass. It allows you to take along a companion for free (plus applicable taxes and fees) on unlimited Southwest flights for up to two years, depending on when you earn it. And, this excellent benefit is amazingly easy to redeem again and again.

How to earn the Southwest Companion Pass

To qualify for this generous benefit in 2020, you must earn 125,000 Companion Pass-eligible points in one calendar year — an increase from 110,000 qualifying points in previous years. Once you earn the required points, you will get a Companion Pass for the rest of that calendar year and all of the following year.

There are many ways to earn those points, including flying on Southwest, booking hotels and renting vehicles via the Southwest website and more.

Another way to earn those Rapid Rewards points is through credit card sign-up bonuses. Right now, you can earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card.

(Photo by The Points Guy)

In addition to the three co-branded Southwest personal credit cards, Chase also issues two Southwest business cards. Sign-up bonuses and points earned from spending on these cards count toward earning the Companion Pass as well:

The information for the Southwest Performance Business card, Southwest Premier Business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Check out our post on the best Southwest Airlines credit card for your family to learn more about these cards.

Photo by Eric Helgas
Here are some of the cards with bonuses that count toward the Southwest Companion Pass. (Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

How to use the Southwest Companion Pass

Once you’ve earned a Companion Pass on Southwest, believe it or not, Southwest makes it incredibly easy to use. Here’s how:

Step 1: Set up your Companion Pass

As soon as you earn a Companion Pass, you should receive an email from Southwest within a few days congratulating you on your big accomplishment. If you want to monitor your progress in real time, you can check your status by logging into your Rapid Rewards account on Southwest.com.

When you get this email, click on the links to set up your initial companion choice. You must have your companion’s full name (as it appears on his or her ID), birth date, email address and Rapid Rewards account number.

You can also call Southwest to designate your companion. But it’s easy to make the initial selection online, so there’s no reason to pick up the phone for this step.

(Photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy)
Imagine taking your companion to Hawaii for only the cost of the taxes and fees on a ticket. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/The Points Guy)

Step 2: Confirm flight availability for your entire traveling party

Now that you have a companion selected, it’s time for the fun part — booking a flight when your companion will fly free (other than taxes and fees). Before booking, however, it’s vital to check that there are enough seats available on the flight for your entire traveling party. A Companion Pass fare can only be added if there is a seat available for sale.

Southwest Companion Pass - Search for Flight availability

For example, if you have a family of four that will be traveling (one of them on a Companion Pass), search on Southwest.com for four seats. Note that all four seats do not have to be in the same fare bucket. So, if there are only three seats left with Wanna Get Away fares, but there are also Anytime and Business Select fares available, in addition to those three cheaper fares, your booking will work.

Step 3: Book flights for everyone other than your companion

The next step in using your Companion Pass is to book flight reservations as you normally would for everyone in your traveling party except the companion. This means that if you have a family of four where mom holds a Companion Pass and dad is the companion, you should book tickets for mom and the two kids first. Do not book flights for dad at this stage.

Most travelers will find that booking flights online on Southwest.com is very easy, although it’s also possible to book flights over the phone with Southwest phone agents. You can book these flights with cash or with Rapid Rewards points, as either method works in conjunction with the Companion Pass.

If you are purchasing these tickets with cash, don’t forget to add the Rapid Rewards numbers of everyone in your traveling party to the booking. There’s no reason to leave points-earning possibilities on the table — even kids can earn frequent-flyer points on Southwest.

(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Step 4: Make your companion’s flight booking

After you have booked flights for everyone in your traveling party (except for your companion), the next step is to secure a flight reservation for that person. To avoid losing the ticket availability you just checked for in Step 1, I recommend booking your companion immediately after your flight is booked. This is especially important on flights that regularly sell out (think: peak Christmas dates to and from Hawaii).

The Companion Pass holder (mom, in our example) should return to the Southwest website and log into his or her Rapid Rewards account. Go to “My Account” at the top of the home page.

Southwest Companion Pass - Southwest website front page

Scroll down until you see a section called “My Trips.” There, you should see the flight reservation you just made, along with any other trips you have booked on Southwest. Select the applicable trip by clicking on it.

Southwest Companion Pass - Select Trip

Look next for the small button at the top of the trip itinerary called “Add Companion.” Click on it.

Southwest Add Companion

You’ll find that the “Trip & Price Details” are already pre-filled with the flight information and the cost of the taxes and fees. In this case for a domestic one-way trip, that price is just $5.60 for your companion to fly.

Southwest Companion Pass - Trip Price Details

Click “Continue” to go to the next page that includes “Passenger & Payment Info.” There, you will find your companion’s name and identifying information filled in. With everything pre-filled, there is very little chance for a booking mistake in this stage of the process.

Finally, you’ll be prompted through the process to pay applicable taxes and fees and secure the flight reservation for the companion. If you have a credit card already saved to your account profile, it’s even quicker and easier to complete the booking.

I have found that once you go through this process once, you’ll be able to book subsequent flights with your Companion Pass in just a minute or two. It is that simple.

Additional Southwest Companion Pass tips and tricks

Although the process of using the Southwest Companion Pass is almost always easy, there are a few idiosyncrasies that can arise. Companion Pass holders should also be aware of the following:

You’ll receive separate confirmation numbers: When you book flights for a group or family together, everyone will have the same confirmation number. With the Companion Pass, however, your companion will always be assigned a different Southwest confirmation number than the rest of the party. While this isn’t a big deal, it can matter for strategy surrounding Southwest’s unique check-in policy.

When the time comes to check in for your flight, this means you won’t be able to check in online together. If you are playing the Southwest fastest-finger game at exactly 24 hours before your flight to get a prime boarding position, I highly recommend having two devices ready to check you and your companion in at the same time. If you check in one person first and then check in the other person next, you may well lose out on some of the best boarding positions.

Further reading: Is Southwest EarlyBird check-in worth it?

You must call to change companions: While you can change your companion three times in a calendar year, Southwest Companion Pass holders should know that doing so requires you to make a phone call. There is no way to change a companion online. The fine print on Southwest’s site says that it may take up to 21 business days for processing. In our experience, the companion is always changed nearly instantaneously. It will take a while for a new Companion Pass card to arrive in the mail for your new companion, but the change is implemented for purposes of online booking within seconds.

Watch out for reservations close together with different companions: While you can change companions up to three times in a single year, you won’t be able to change your companion until you’ve completed all travel with your current companion. If you have two trips close together with different companions, things can get a bit tricky.

For example, if you have a trip with your child on March 1 and another with your spouse on March 15, you won’t be able to add your spouse as a companion to that second trip until after March 1. It is theoretically possible that the March 15 flight could sell out before March 1, leaving your spouse high and dry for the March 15 trip. Although this situation doesn’t arise often, it’s an important consideration if you are planning to travel during peak times and/or on very popular routes. If a flight does sell out, you may find yourself in the position of having to book a new flight for yourself at a higher price to find an itinerary with availability for your companion.

Bottom line

Using the Southwest Companion Pass is a breeze. And right now, earning it is pretty easy, too — thanks to the sign-up bonuses on the airline’s credit cards. If you’d like your family to travel more often in 2020 and 2021, the Southwest Companion Pass could be how you achieve that goal.

Leslie Harvey is a mom of two children, ages 10 and 6, from the San Francisco Bay Area. She blogs at Trips With Tykes, is the co-host of the podcast Disney Deciphered and co-owns the Disneyland planning Facebook group, Disneyland with Kids.

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Featured photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.

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