How and why I’m earning a limited-time Southwest Companion Pass for just $117.96
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It’s been a minute since there was a hotel or airline loyalty program promotion that was legitimately exciting.
The Hyatt Globalist shortcut promos that stacked nicely in early 2021 were enjoyable, but otherwise, things have been boring and predictable in a world that could use a little more fun.
Southwest Airlines likes to have fun, though, and a new Southwest Rapid Rewards promo not only made me smile, but actually led me to book a flight with Southwest that I otherwise might have flown on another carrier.
It might surprise some to learn that I’ve never had a Southwest Companion Pass. But thanks to a very limited-time Southwest promotion, if all goes to plan, I’ll have a promotional Companion Pass valid for almost two months in early 2022 for just the cost of a $117.96 round trip flight.
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The one trip to a Companion Pass promo
The basics of this fun promo are that you have to register and book one round-trip or two one-way paid (not award) Southwest flights between Sept. 7 and Sept. 9, 2021. You then need to travel on those flights between Sept. 7, 2021, and Nov. 18, 2021.
Once you’ve done all that, you will receive a limited-time Companion Pass for flights booked and flown between Jan. 6, 2022, and Feb. 28, 2022.
Normally, you have to earn 125,000 Companion Pass-eligible Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year or take 100 qualifying one-way flights to earn the regular Companion Pass, which is valid for the calendar year in which you earn it and the following year. So clearly I’m doing this the very abbreviated way.
There are no minimum spending amounts tied to earning the promo and no blackout dates or a maximum number of times you can use it during its early 2022 validity dates.
Why I’m taking part in the promo
The short answer is really: Why not?
I had one round-trip flight I needed to book pretty soon to go from Houston (IAH) to Orlando (MCO) anyway, and the options I’d been eyeing on United were around $200. It was actually cheaper to book with Southwest at a mere $118, so even if I don’t use the two-month Companion Pass, I’m not out anything extra.
The longer version is I knew that Southwest now operates flights from Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, instead of just from Houston Hobby (HOU) on the south side of town, I haven’t kept up with the nonstop routes flown from this closer to home airport. But, as it turns out, there are a number of routes including not only to Orlando, where I need to go on this trip, but also to Denver (DEN), Chicago (MDW), Las Vegas (LAS), Tampa (TPA), Phoenix (PHX), Nashville (BNA) and others.
And of course, if I am willing to drive a little further south to Houston Hobby, the list of nonstop Southwest routes grows exponentially.
Being able to fly out of IAH will make it easy to earn the Companion Pass. And having all of these destination options in the winter when (pandemic permitting) I’ll be eyeing not only a penciled-in ski trip but potentially a warm-weather getaway means I have some good destination choices to use the two-month pass at least a time or two.
I don’t have elite status with Southwest, but that doesn’t really matter since bags fly free and there are no first class upgrades or extra legroom upcharges anyway.
When done correctly, loyalty program promotions can be both rewarding and fun. This promo checks both of those boxes in a big way.
When the pandemic surged last winter, I canceled all my planned January and February travel. If I had taken advantage of last year’s version of this promo I wouldn’t have ever used the promotional pass. That could happen again this winter, so I don’t recommend spending a lot of time or cash to take a flight you otherwise don’t need given all the variables in the world right now.
But, it could also be that I will fly in January and February this time around. If that happens, it will be fun to bring along a friend or family member on those trips for just the cost of taxes.
Best case scenario, spending just under $118 on this flight I planned to take anyway will net me bringing someone on a couple of future Southwest for free.
Worst case, I’m not out any more than I would have spent on another airline and I get guaranteed happiness thinking about ways I could use the Companion Pass — even if it doesn’t play out that way.
Featured image by David Slotnick/The Points Guy.
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