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Southwest's reduced elite-status requirements are now live

Feb. 03, 2021
5 min read
Southwest Boeing 737 on Runway
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In January, Southwest unveiled its Rapid Rewards update for 2021, making it easier for flyers to qualify for elite status.

The Dallas-based carrier also extended Companion Pass perks for another six months and introduced a lucrative promotion to earn status through co-branded credit card spend.

Every flyer just received a head start at earning A-List status for 2022, so let's dive into the details.

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Earning A-List status in 2021 for 2022

To make it easier for flyers to earn A-List status this year, Southwest has given all existing Rapid Rewards members a head start to qualifying, even before stepping foot on a plane.

Specifically, Southwest added 15,000 tier qualifying points (TQPs) and 10 qualifying one-way flight segments towards tier status for all members with accounts active as of Dec. 31, 2020.

By giving flyers a boost, Southwest is effectively making it easier to earn status without actually reducing the qualifying criteria. The chart below will help you understand how many tier-qualifying points or flight segments you need to earn status.

Note that the chart only reflects earning status in 2021 for 2022. If you had status in 2020, it was automatically extended to Dec. 31, 2021. But, if you want to earn status through Dec. 31, 2022, you'll need to hit the requirements below.

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Status"Normal" requirements2021 BoostNet effective 2021 requirements
A-List35,000 TQPs or 25 flights15,000 TQPs and 10 flights20,000 TQPs or 15 flights
A-List Preferred70,000 TQPs or 50 flights15,000 TQPs and 10 flights55,000 TQPs or 40 flights

Related: Your complete guide to maximizing Southwest Rapid Rewards

Earning Companion Pass in 2021 for 2022

Southwest isn't just making it easier to earn elite status this year. The carrier is also making it roughly 20% easier to earn the much-coveted Companion Pass.

All Rapid Rewards members active as of Dec. 31, 2020, received 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points (CPQPs) and 25 qualifying one-way flights deposited in their accounts.

Therefore, to earn a Companion Pass in 2021 valid through Dec. 31, 2022, you'll need to complete the following:

Status"Normal" requirements2021 BoostNet effective 2021 requirements
Companion Pass125,000 CPQPs or 100 flights25,000 CPQPs and 25 flights100,000 CPQPs or 75 flights

Existing Companion Passes extended again

In May 2020, Southwest announced that it would extend existing Companion Pass benefits through June 30, 2021.

Well, in light of the depressed travel demand, Southwest will once again extend the Companion Pass.

Passes set to expire on June 30, 2021 now expire on Dec. 31, 2021, a full year after they were originally scheduled to lapse.

This is certainly welcome news to those who worked hard to earn a Companion Pass. Note that the extension doesn't apply to those who earned a promotional pass through the carrier's recent 'buy a flight, earn a two-month Companion Pass' offer.

More: All of the elite qualification changes you need to know about for 2021

Earn status through co-branded credit card spending

This year, you can earn Southwest status without stepping foot on a plane.

Co-branded credit cardholders can earn 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 spent using an eligible card from the first day of the billing cycle ending in January 2021 through the last statement of December 2021.

There's no cap on the number of TQPs you can earn through this promotion, so you could theoretically spend your way to A-List Preferred status (though it would require over $350,000 in spend). Historically, you were capped at earning 15,000 TQPs through eligible co-branded credit card spend.

You can mix and match flying and co-branded card spend, so it should be easier than ever to earn TQPs this year.

The eligible co-branded cards include the:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Best for frequent Southwest flyers
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Best for casual Southwest flyers
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card: Best for small-business owners
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: Best for businesses that need a lower annual fee

Note that sign-up bonus points and the points earned from everyday spending on all five Southwest co-branded credit cards count toward earning the Southwest Companion Pass.

Bottom line

Southwest's 2021 elite-status changes make it significantly easier to earn entry-level A-List status, which confers benefits such as priority boarding and same-day standby privileges.

However, the lump-sum TQP and flight boost only reduces the A-List Preferred requirements by about 20%, which could mean status is still out of reach for many.

Finally, existing Companion Pass members will enjoy another six-month extension, and those looking to earn one this year will need to complete roughly 80% of the pre-pandemic requirements.

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.