My Big Mistake with the Southwest Companion Pass

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If you read this blog regularly, you probably already know that I am a huge fan of the Southwest Companion Pass! For those new to the Companion Pass – it allows a friend/family member/companion to fly with you for FREE an UNLIMITED number of times during the life of the pass. That means that every time I fly Southwest (which is quite often!), my husband, daughter, mom, sister, or a friend has flown with me for free! And I’ve taken quite a bit of flights on Southwest over the years, saving me a ton of money!

Since I’ve had the pass for about 10+ years now, I know the in’s and out’s of the pass. But even knowing everything about the pass, I still made a HUGE mistake a few weeks back! My husband was flying to California for a work conference so I decided to meet him out there with my 4 year old daughter. We booked our flights about 4 months prior to travel, so this trip had been planned for a decent amount of time. Since it was school vacation week, ticket prices were relatively high so I booked with points and checked the prices every day to see if the price went down. And since I had the Companion Pass my daughter was free, so that helped with the high ticket prices. If the price of a Southwest ticket decreases, you can re-book and get your money back. Fortunately a few weeks later, the price went down and I was able to get about 3,000 points back – perfect!

Fly 2-for-1 with the Southwest Companion Pass

Fast forward a few months and our vacation was only a few days away. I happened to be on my Southwest account and noticed that I never added my daughter onto the flight as my Companion. This is typically not a problem as you can add your Companion onto the flight at any point — any time from when you book your ticket until the flight departs (although you might need to add it on a few hours prior, I am not 100% sure to be honest). Unfortunately though, when I went to add her as my Companion, the flight was sold out. Literally, the one criteria to being able to use the pass is there has to be at least one seat left for sale. And here I was on a sold out flight! It was the Friday leading into Spring Break so I was not surprised, although in a massive panic! I realized when I re-booked our flights month ago (due to the price decreasing) I never added her back onto the flight. Southwest requires you to cancel your Companion’s reservation when a change is made to your reservation and then requires you to manually add them back onto the flight. Southwest will not book your Companion Pass automatically!

My Southwest Companion!

So we are four days prior to departure and my 5 year old daughter does not have a seat! And every other flight that day was either sold out or triple in price. Southwest would also not make any exceptions for adding her onto my flight or change us to a different flight that had seats available without charging us an arm and a leg. Which I totally understand as this is their policy. While I was in a panic I was still optimistic that we’d be able to get her on the flight. We just needed one seat to open up. My husband and I literally checked the Southwest site every few minutes for an entire day and fortunately we were able to snag a seat! It actually ended up that 5 seats opened up the day before travel so seats do open up quite often on Southwest since you can cancel/change a flight for no fee.

While I am glad it worked out at the end of the day for us, this was definitely a lesson learned to make sure to add my Companion Pass onto my reservation immediately after making it! Southwest makes it incredibly easy to do as well online!

Have you ever been burned by a sold out Southwest flight?

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  1. Same thing happened with us! We were flyin our to see family and I realized ON THE WAY TO THE AIRPORT that there wasn’t a seat available for my son. Fortunately somebody ended up canceling about an hour before and we were able to get in, but man, that was stressful!

  2. I haven’t been burned and I typically wait until pretty close to the flight to add a Companion. I mostly do this because my plans change a lot and I end up booking mine and then cancelling eventually, so i get too lazy to book my companion until I’m 100% sure I’m taking that trip. After reading this, I may just go ahead and add companion early on. Glad it worked out for you!

    • @Sarah – I 100% agree. That is one reason I hold off on adding my companion as well. But, for a busy day (i.e., day school break starts) always add the companion on immediately!

  3. Yes, this has happened to me as well! The system used to not let you add the companion for about 15 minutes, and I somehow once forgot to go back and do it and didn’t realize it until check in! I crossed my fingers and started looking for alternatives, but fortunately a seat opened up later that day. Now I always double and triple check my reservations!

    • @Lynn – Yes I remember when the system had a lag. Fortunately it works a lot better now. Glad to see that a seat ultimately opened up for you!

  4. I’ve done that before too – a bad feeling in my stomach but, luckily a seat opened up after being sold out. Whew….

    BTW, I noticed you mentioned that you check for lower prices and rebook. I came across a program that automatically tracks southwest prices for you. It sends you an alert (by text or email) when prices drop so you don’t have to constantly check. It has saved me a bunch over the past year. Here’s a step by step guide to set it up:

    (Please delete if links aren’t allowed)

  5. I feel like these are the type of travel stresses that all parents go through at some point in their lives. Thankfully it all worked out for you.

    My wife and I went on a trip two weeks ago and I changed our redeye flight to land earlier. I ended up booking the new extra night we needed, but I forgot to book the hotel for the second night of our trip which was the one we needed all along. Of course by the time I realized the mistake, the hotel we were in was sold out. But it worked out since there was another hotel right next door so we just moved over.

  6. I did exactly the same thing before spring break when my daughter and I were returning home from a college tour. I noticed the mistake about 4 days before we left home. Our perfect 2.5 hrs nonstop flight Balt-Boston arriving 11pm became a flight DCA-Boston w a stop in MILWAUKEE, 7 hours total, arriving at 130a. Lesson learned for sure! And I also learned when they say 1 seat available, that’s exactly what it means.

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