Changing my Southwest companion — reader success story

Dec 4, 2019

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Kevin, who helped a friend join a recent weekend trip:

My friends and I were planning a trip from the Bay Area to Arizona to watch the San Francisco 49ers play the Arizona Cardinals on Halloween night. A couple of us booked our tickets on Southwest Airlines using points, since cash prices were pretty high. However, one friend didn’t quite have the funds to purchase airfare; he had recently evacuated his home for six days due to the Kincade fire, and while his house ended up being okay, he had to cover hotel costs. This got me thinking about how we could get him to Arizona inexpensively.

My girlfriend is currently listed as my companion for the Southwest Companion Pass, but since you get to switch your companion up to three times each year, I thought maybe I could add my friend instead. I called Southwest to find out how quickly the switch could be applied, and they said I would be able to add him as my companion immediately. They were correct, and I had them add him to my flight manually during that same phone call so I could assure he got a seat on the flight.

Right after our trip, I was able to switch the companion pass back to my girlfriend. The process was easy and took about 15 minutes; I just needed to provide personal info (including the companion’s address and Rapid Rewards number). Moral of the story: you can do your friends and family a solid by making them your companion and allowing them to fly for just the cost of taxes. Then you can just switch back to your regular companion.

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I think the Southwest Companion Pass is the single most valuable travel reward available, and a major part of its appeal is that it can be used on award flights as well as paid fares. Your designated companion can accompany you on any flight so long as there’s an open seat, regardless of where you’re going or when you book. Unlike other companion certificates, which typically require both tickets to be booked at the same time, Southwest also lets you add a companion even after you’ve already paid for your own fare. That flexibility helped in Kevin’s case, since accommodating his friend didn’t impede the rest of the group from making plans.

Kevin didn’t specify whether he and his girlfriend had impending travel plans; if not, then re-adding her as his companion may have been premature. To make the most of the three permitted name changes, I recommend waiting to designate a new companion until you’re certain that person will be the next to use your pass. The official terms state changing your companion may take as long as 21 business days; the change is processed much more quickly in practice, but note that timeline could be a pitfall if you’re booking on short notice. Finally, the annual limit is based on the calendar year, so you can afford to change companions more liberally toward the end of the year, knowing that your allotment will reset in January.

Related: 12 lessons from 12 years with the Southwest Companion Pass

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Kevin a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes. If your story is published, we’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured photo by Andrei Stanescu/Getty Images.

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