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I currently have a Southwest Airlines companion pass and LOVE it. It has allowed my husband, sister, and mom to all fly with me for FREE! I am so sad that my companion pass will expire at the end of the calendar year, but will most likely earn it next year (especially with the help of applying for the personal and business Southwest credit card – more details below)! UPDATE: I have re-qualified for a companion pass through December 2013 due to getting both Southwest credit cards.
I have been able to use this pass on the following flights: New York – Detroit, Hartford – New Orleans, New York – New Orleans, New York – Ft. Lauderdale (twice), New York – Los Angeles, New York – Salt Lake City. If you value each round-trip at around $300, this companion pass has saved me $2,100! Of course, other airlines might have been slightly cheaper for the paying passenger, but not much.
To earn the companion pass: 100 qualifying one-way flights or 110,000 Qualifying Points in one calendar year. You can earn Qualifying Points with credit card spend, Rapid Reward partners (i.e, Marriott, Avis, Hyatt), and flying Southwest. Additionally, many have reported that the bonus points from credit card applications also count towards companion pass status!
Flying limitations: With the companion pass there are no black out dates or seat restrictions – if there is a seat available for purchase, it is available for your companion. The companion pass can even be used if points were redeemed for a free flight. This can result in both passengers going FREE (plus the ~$5 taxes/passenger)!
Number of times the companion pass can be used: Unlimited! There is no cap on the number of times the pass can be used.
Who can be a companion: Anyone can be your companion – friends, family, a complete stranger. However, the companion pass can only be switched up to three times during the validity of the pass. Since you need to allocate your companion when getting the pass, this allows you 4 people to use the pass (those people can be repeated and put back on as the companion as well but counts as one of your allowed changes). To change your companion pass, call Southwest Customer Service (1-800-IFLYSWA) and they will easily assist you on the spot.
Companion pass expiration: The companion pass is valid the remainder of the year it was earned plus the following calendar year. For example, if you earn the pass November 2011, you will have it for the rest of 2011, plus 2012. If you earn the pass in January 2012, you will have it for the rest of 2012, plus 2013.
Strategy to getting the pass: For those of you who do not fly frequently, getting 100 one-way flights is impossible as it requires 50 trips a year. However, getting 110,000 Qualifying Points is obtainable if you put in a little bit of effort. The bonus points for each credit card can only be earned once for each card type. Therefore, it has been reported that you can earn bonus points on both the personal card and the business card, getting you very to earning that companion pass! While the credit card bonus points alone won’t get you the companion pass, getting the additional points required is easy with partner activity and credit card spend. While I got the credit card under the Rapid Reward 1.0 program, I do not have personal verification that this works and that it will continue to work. I did, however, open up both the personal and business card last week so am taking the risk myself. I am 99% confident it works, just want to make you aware of that 1% uncertainty. The terms and conditions do not include whether these points do or do not count, but MANY others have reported they count, and no one has reported otherwise. The terms state that bonus enrollment points do not count, however, I read this as points you get when enrolling into the Rapid Rewards program, not the credit card program. UPDATE: I applied for this card in Fall 2011 and it worked and is still working!
The bonus points from the credit card offer are credited to your account after you meet the minimum spend requirements. So if you are just shy of getting the pass this year, then act quickly and get the points. However, if you are new to the game, I would suggest waiting to activate and make your first purchase after January 1st of next year. This will give you another year to make use of the companion pass! The points will also post to your account within 2-3 days of your statement close date.
Credit card to help earn the companion pass: As mentioned previously, there are three different Southwest cards – ALL of them have the same bonus offer after meeting the minimum spend requirements, but different annual fees and annual bonuses. You can view all three cards and the differences in this prior blog post. You can learn more about all Airline credit card offers here.