The Southwest Companion Pass is Not Always the Best Option

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I’ve been a Southwest Companion Pass holder for around 10 years now. It is by far my favorite perk in the entire travel, points and miles world. It has allowed a companion to fly with me for almost FREE an unlimited number of times year after year. While I haven’t actually calculated my savings over the years, it is in the thousands. Because of the pass, Southwest is my go-to airline.

I am in the midst of planning a trip to California where my 4 year old daughter and I are tagging along with Mr. Deal’s work trip. So while we are all flying to LAX together, it will be a mommy and daughter solo flight home. Fingers crossed this flight goes way better then the same cross country flight two years ago! Of course my initial search was straight to Southwest.com. Unfortunately flying cross country on Southwest isn’t the best as their are no non-stop flights. My one-way flight from LAX to BOS priced out at $218. A semi-expensive flight if I needed to purchase two tickets, but because of the Companion Pass it was really as if each ticket cost $109. A steal for flying cross country especially during April vacation. I booked the flight on points and knew I could always cancel if a better flight became available.

I monitored the flight prices on both Southwest and every other airline for a few months and no other ideal options popped up. JetBlue was the only flight with a decent time, but the price was more then I wanted to spend. While I am typically very flexible with flight times – I am open to early morning flights or red-eyes if I need to, when I have one of my kids with me, flexibility gets thrown out the window. Instead I try to opt for good flight times that do not require my daughter to wake up early or go to bed super late upon arrival. Of course it is not always possible, but I try. Especially when I will be traveling as a solo parent on the flight and the last thing I need is a cranky 4 year old. My cross country flight with my 4 year old two years ago still haunts me!

As I was monitoring the prices, JetBlue lowered their non-stop LAX to BOS flight to $144. Now we were talking. It is a 11:45am flight, arriving at 8:15pm. My ideal flight time especially since we are going to Disneyland the day before and a late night is definitely in store. And with LA traffic it will take us some time to get to the airport that morning since we are sleeping in Anaheim. It is a similar departure time as the original Southwest flight but gets in two ours earlier.

I will be spending more money on this flight, but really not that much! So while I will not be able to use my Southwest Companion Pass, instead of paying $218 on Southwest, I am paying $288 on JetBlue. Only $70 more total for a non-stop flight. Although I am using JetBlue points (would have used Southwest points also) and have the JetBlue credit card. That means I will actually get 10% of the points back due to the credit card perk. That is equivalent to $28 in points so that actually means the difference I am spending to fly JetBlue is only $42! My daughter is also obsessed with JetBlue due to the individual TV’s, so I feel confident that this flight will go well, she is also a much better flyer now! The point equivalence of $42 is definitely worth a non-stop flight, with an earlier arrival time, and my own TV! I am actually excited that I might get 5 hours to watch what I want to watch on TV!

What is your threshold of forgoing the Southwest Companion Flight?

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Comments

  1. Excellent point. I find southwest can be really expensive. I have the companion pass and will probably miss it when I don’t but the major southwest airport for me 75 minutes away, in some ways it will be a relief not to have it!

  2. You are actually paying $150 more not $42 more because you would use Companion Pass and the way you calculated you removed CP from your calculation 🙂

    • @David – The $218 Southwest flight was per person. So for two people (including the SW companion pass), the total cost was $218. On JetBlue the cost was $144 per person, so a total of $288 total. So the difference is $42, not $150.

  3. We did same thing last time too. Southwest does not have “Red-eye” flight and no non-stop from LA area to Philadelphia. We booked American Airlines by using Avios points and only cost 25K for 2 people from LAX to PHL or ~$300 (1 Avios = 1.2 cents). With SW ticket cost around $250 so only $50 with Red-eye non-stop flight much better for fly back to East coast. By the way since we have Citi AA credit card so check in luggage was free too.

    If you calculate the cost of check in luggage, SW is usually better.

    By the way using Avios points also has advantage if we cancel the flight.

  4. I would never fly WN >2 hours, particularly with a child as there is no food for sale and I value E+ seating on longer flights. That being said, $200 is a good price for a transcon and $144 is a steal. These days I am happy to do it for <$400 RT.
    This is my first year in ages with a CP and I plan to use it as much as possible – but not for transcons. I've also noticed WN has many fewer nonstop between hubs – e.g. only 2 daily OAKMDW and one was way too early to be useful. Another reason to avoid WN on longer trips. Time is money and convenience and comfort have a value.

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