Battle of the Companion Passes: Southwest vs. JetBlue
JetBlue made waves this week when it unexpectedly announced a killer new Mosaic benefit.
Starting Jan. 1, Mosaic members can bring a companion with them on all JetBlue flights through May 20, 2021. This effectively gives these travelers half-price airfare when traveling with a companion — an excellent deal, especially after the bulk of travelers have stayed at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
This sounds great on paper, but how does it stack up to Southwest’s famous Companion Pass?
Good question, and it’s one I’ll attempt to answer in this article. Here, I’ll give you an overview of each companion pass and discuss their benefits, limitations and other things to know. Then, I’ll put them head to head in an epic Battle of The Companion Passes.
Let’s dive in!
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An in-depth look at the JetBlue companion pass
JetBlue’s Mosaic companion pass was announced in December and came as a huge surprise to JetBlue elites. The limited-time benefit allows all Mosaic members — regardless of how they earned status — to bring a companion with them on all paid flights between Jan. 1 and May 20, 2021.
One of the best parts of the companion pass is that it doesn’t need to be the same person on each flight. It can be a different person each time you travel, letting you treat friends and family members to free flights for the first-half of 2021.
Even cooler, you can bring companions with you on JetBlue Mint business class flights. Mint is widely seen as one of the best — if not the best — domestic business class products. This allows you to show your loved ones the joy of flying in a lie-flat seat across the country — something they surely won’t forget.
One thing to keep in mind: you have to call JetBlue to add a companion, so call the Mosaic line before you book your next flight.
JetBlue companion pass restrictions
Sounds great, right? It is, but there are a few restrictions to keep in mind.
The biggest restriction is that TrueBlue award tickets and Cash + Points redemptions aren’t eligible for the companion pass. This means that you have to pay out of pocket to bring a companion — bad news for those of us with large TrueBlue balances.
That said, we’ve seen some excellent JetBlue fare deals this year. Just this week, we saw the carrier offer Mint business class tickets for $299 one-way and $49 economy tickets. If you’re flying with a companion, this means a one-way Mint ticket is just $149 per person, which is an insane deal. Keep an eye out for more deals like this in the future.
Further, you’ll earn fewer TrueBlue and Mosaic qualifying points when you bring a companion. Each flyer will earn 50% points on the ticket’s base fare. This makes it harder for Mosaic members to earn elite status when flying with a companion.
So while these aren’t killer restrictions by any means, they’re important to keep in mind as you book JetBlue companion tickets.
An overview of the Southwest Companion Pass
Southwest’s Companion Pass perk has been around for years. You can use it to take a set companion with you on all of your Southwest flights, regardless of if you book with cash or points.
You can earn the Southwest Companion Pass by accruing 125,000 qualifying points in a single calendar year. These are earned by flying with Southwest, spending on a Southwest cobranded credit card, using the airline’s shopping portal and taking advantage of other points earning opportunities. Unfortunately, transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards do not count toward Companion Pass qualification.
Your Companion Pass is good for the remainder of the year you earn it and the entirety of the following year. So if you earn a pass in March 2021, it’s good through 2022. Try and earn your Companion Pass as early in the year as possible to get the most time to use it.
Southwest Companion Pass restrictions
As discussed, you can only use your Companion Pass with one companion at a time. You’ll set this companion online when you first qualify. Thankfully, you can switch your companion three times per year, effectively giving you four companions each year. You can change your companion by calling Southwest.
Only the Companion Pass holder earns Southwest Rapid Rewards points on each ticket. This is because the companion is not technically flying on a paid ticket, hence not earning points. It’s also worth noting that neither flyer earns points when the flight is booked with points.
Other than that, the Southwest Companion Pass is relatively straightforward. Just book your tickets as normal, and your companion of choice can travel with you for free.
Battle of the Companion Passes: which is best?
Now that you have a good look at both the JetBlue and Southwest companion passes, which is best?
On the one hand, the Southwest Companion Pass is great for travelers who fly with the same person on most of their trips. While you can change your companion three times per year, you need to do this strategically to avoid hitting the three change limit.
The Southwest Companion Pass is also best for the award traveler with lots of Rapid Rewards points. Since you can use your Companion Pass on award flights, you’re effectively doubling the value of your points. This is especially valuable when you consider the number of points you’ll earn as you work to earn the Companion Pass.
The JetBlue companion pass is a completely different animal. It was introduced without notice as a limited-time benefit for Mosaic elite members. It’s only good through May 20, 2021, and there’s no way to qualify for the pass organically. So even with its restrictions, it’s a great unexpected benefit.
In some ways, it’s best for single people and those who want to take different friends and family members on flights in early 2021. This is because, again, you can take a different companion with you on all of your JetBlue flight.
Additionally, luxury travelers will appreciate the fact that JetBlue’s companion pass works on Mint business class tickets. Southwest doesn’t offer a premium product, so there’s no way to use it on premium travel.
With all this in mind, I don’t think there’s a clear winner of the “best” companion pass. One is a limited-time benefit, and the other is an ongoing benefit with clear-cut qualification requirements.
However, in the short-term, I think there’s a ton of value to be had from the JetBlue companion pass. Airfare is cheap and the ability to take a different companion with you on each flight is a huge perk. This is especially true considering that you can now fly in Mint at an effective 50% discount.
Other companion pass options
Southwest and JetBlue aren’t the only airlines offering a companion pass. Alaska Airlines, American Airlines British Airways and Delta Air Lines each offer companion pass certificates with their respective cobranded credit cards. These are only good for one flight and are not ongoing benefits.
Here’s a look at the specifics.
Alaska Airlines Companion Fare
This fare lets the cardholder bring a companion with them on a single ticket for $121 ($99 plus any taxes and fees on the ticket, which typically start at $22 for a round-trip itinerary). Alaska has offered an introductory fee-free Companion Fare in the past, but it’s not currently available.
You can use the certificate to bring a companion with you on an Alaska flight anywhere in the airline’s route network. Anyone can use your Companion Fare (even if you’re not one of the travelers), but you must pay for the ticket with your Alaska credit card. Like the JetBlue companion pass, you cannot use your Companion Fare on award tickets.
I recommend using the Companion Fare on more expensive flights when possible. This will give you the most value for the certificate and offset the $99 fee (plus taxes) associated with the companion fare.
Related: Best ways to redeem Alaska miles
American Airlines companion certificates
You can earn an American Airlines companion certificate with three cobranded credit cards. These include:
- Barclays Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard — After spending $20,000 in a year, receive a companion certificate that lets you book airfare for a travel companion for just $99 plus taxes and fees.
- AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard (not open for new applicants) — After spending $20,000 in a year, receive a companion certificate that lets you book airfare for a travel companion for just $99 plus taxes and fees.
- AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard — After spending $30,000 in a year, receive a companion certificate that lets you book airfare for a travel companion for just $99 plus taxes and fees.
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® — After spending $30,000 in a cardmembership year and renew the card, receive a companion certificate that lets you book airfare for a travel companion for just $99 plus taxes and fees. (Account must remain open at least 45 days after account anniversary)
The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum Select, Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard and Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Silver cards have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
These certificates are valid on paid round-trip domestic economy class tickets within the continental U.S. on flights marketed and operated by American Airlines. Residents of Alaska and Hawaii can use the companion certificate for flights to the mainland.
Like Alaska, you’re best using the certificate on expensive flights to offset the $99 fee.
Current offer: 100,000 bonus Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
Unfortunately, you’re still responsible for paying the taxes and fees associated with your companion’s ticket. British Airways has high fuel surcharges, so you’re looking at $1,000+ per person in taxes and fees on a round-trip business class flight. That said, it can still save you a ton of money on expensive flights.
Delta Air Lines companion certificates
In my opinion, Delta has the most powerful of the three companion certificates.
You can earn a companion certificate by simply holding the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or their business counterparts. You’re awarded this companion certificate shortly after you pay the card’s annual fee.
The Delta Platinum’s companion certificate can be used to bring a companion on any Delta flight in the continental U.S. (or from Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands to the 48 states) so long as you’re flying in the L, U, T, X or V fare class. This limits you to using the certificate on Main Cabin seats.
On the other hand, the Delta Reserve card’s certificate can be used on Main Cabin, Comfort+ or First Class flights. This is great for those who prefer life at the front of the plane, and it makes the certificate more valuable if used on a First Class ticket.
One last thing: you’re responsible for paying up to $75 in taxes and fees on the companion’s fare. That said, you’ll generally pay far less than this cap as you’re restricted to booking flights within the Lower 48. There is no set redemption fee attached to the Delta companion certificate.
JetBlue’s new companion pass perk for Mosaic elite members is an excellent new perk. The timing is unfortunate, but it will undoubtedly help JetBlue stir up travel demand as the industry recovers from the coronavirus travel slump.
The airline’s companion pass stacks up nicely to the Southwest Companion Pass even though it’s more restricted. As discussed, you can only use it on paid tickets and it’s only valid through May 2021. At the same time, though, it’s a limited-time benefit that came as a surprise to existing elite members — not an earned benefit like the Southwest Companion Pass.
Regardless, both are an excellent way to save on 2021 travel. As a Mosaic member, I’m excited to take advantage of the benefit in the new year and am already planning trips with my girlfriend, family members and friends.
Photo by Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock
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