Southwest Airlines Family Oriented Airline Companion Pass International Travel Caribbean Nassau Bahamas

Travel Tips: How the Southwest Companion Pass saved us $2820.43 in less than one year

By: | February 9th, 2016 | 3 Comments


With gas prices on a rapid descent, anyone would hope that airlines would pass on the savings to their customers. Sadly, it is not the case. Airlines fares have remained constant, if not gone up in price. It is quite easy to blow fixed travel budgets while traveling as a couple and even easier while traveling as a family of five (we bring mom along too), hence the need for money saving airline perks.

The American Express Platinum card, one of our favorite travel credit cards, offers the International Airline Program where two fly for the price of one. However, this program requires you to purchase a first class or business class ticket at full face value in order for the companion to fly for free. This caveat limits the number of people who can benefit, since not everyone can afford a first class or business class ticket, even if they are getting a second ticket for free.

Alaska Airlines, through its credit card with Bank of America, has a program where a travel companion flies for $99 (taxes not included) roundtrip anywhere they fly. This would be a great deal for anyone looking to have their companion fly to Alaska for that unbeatable price. However, this deal is limited to once per year so wouldn’t help out frequent travelers as much.

American Express Platinum Two Fly For The Price Of One

American Express Platinum 2 Fly For the Price of 1

As you compare the various airlines perks, it is quite difficult to pinpoint one that is particularly generous. Wait, is it?

One airline we are quite fond of is Southwest Airlines. This is by far our favorite airline for domestic travels and we’ve even had some cheap and enjoyable nonstop flights to the Caribbean. We love it for its excellent fares, fun flight attendants, no frills seating arrangements (there are no first class or business class cabins or pre-assigned seats), easy and free cancellation/change policy, free checked bags (which offers huge savings while traveling with kids), and large selection of nonstop flights from our home base in Baltimore.

The Southwest Companion Pass is undoubtedly the most generous airline perk we have discovered. It is a perk that has the potential to save you a tremendous amount of money when traveling as a couple, as a family, or even with a favorite friend.

Southwest Companion Pass

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Companion Pass is a Southwest Airlines perk that allows you to choose a designated companion to fly with you for free (well amost free since you have to pay the taxes and airport fees which are $5.60 each way for most domestic flights). Upon reaching the Companion Pass status (more on this below), you simply choose your companion by either calling Southwest Airlines or by adding them through your Southwest Rapid Rewards account. It’s important to know that you can change your companion twice per year. So if you fly with your husband the majority of the year but then decide to treat your mom to a girls weekend, you can fly her for free as your companion.  You have one more chance to change it, so choose wisely since you’ll be stuck traveling with that person for the rest of the year. You can change it back to your husband, or anyone you would like. That’s part of the beauty and flexibility of this perk.

Southwest Companion Pass Awesome airline perk

As companion, I get to fly for free with Bertaut on any Southwest domestic or international flights. It’s that simple

The Companion Pass status is valid for a maximum of 2 calendar years. If you earn the status let’s say in January of this year, you will be able to enjoy the perks until December of next year. If you earn the status in December of this year, you will only have until December of next year to enjoy it. It is preferable to earn the status early in the year so you have extra time to get your money’s worth. Your companion can fly for free with you on one-way or roundtrip flights, whether you purchased your flight with money or points, and requires no advance purchase. Your companion still benefits from free checked luggage benefits as well as the no change or cancellation fees.

Great, the Southwest Companion Pass sounds pretty straightforward but how do I get it? Is there a catch?

Southwest does a great job simplifying the process to get the Companion Pass. In order to attain this unbeatable perk and enjoy all of its savings, you have to do one of the following:

  • Fly 100 one-way qualifying flights within a calendar year (January 1st – December 31st).
  • Earn 110,000 qualifying Southwest points within a calendar year

Once you complete one of those two options, Southwest will send you a nice envelope with a card welcoming you to the Companion Pass status. It is recommended to carry the card with you in general while flying with a companion though we have yet to have any Southwest staff member request to see the card during boarding.

Southwest Companion Pass Airline Perk Awesome Perk

Southwest Airlines Companion Pass envelope

What if I don’t fly 100 times per year, should I just forget about this and settle with paying for my companion’s  flights outright or using points?

For those who do not fly enough times per year to secure the Companion Pass, rest assured that you can still obtain this status without even flying on Southwest Airlines. Southwest is very generous with its Chase credit card sign-on bonus offers such as the one below.

One of the two cards offers that could help you reach the Companion Pass status. As seen on Chase credit card site

If you own a small business, you can get both a personal credit card and a business credit card. After you meet the $2,000 spending requirement within the first 3 months of opening the acount, you will have 104,000 Southwest points already. This leaves you just 6,000 points away from Companion Pass status. You just need to spend $6,000 more between your two credit cards since every dollar spent gives you one qualifying point. You may also transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio as well as Hyatt and Marriott points just to name a couple additional ways to cover the remaining 6,000 points. What’s more, you don’t have to trade in your points for the status, you get to keep them in addition to the status. So now with those 110, 000 points that you’ve accumulated, you could fly a family of five to Las Vegas and back (from Baltimore, depending on dates) paying only $11.20 per person for taxes.

In summary, thanks to the Southwest Companion Pass, we’ve managed to save a considerable amount of money while traveling both as a couple and as a family of 5. Excluding any money saved by booking on points using Bertaut’s sizable Southwest points bank or what we saved by not having to pay for luggage fees, we saved precisely $2,820.43 between Febuary 2015 and December 2015.

What could $2,820.43 get us? Using our savings, here are just a couple of trips we considered:

  • The five of us could have easily taken advantage of the Virgin America Hawaii promotion last November for flights to Hawaii and still have extra money for various activies. We actually booked the flights for Maui but later decided to take a well deserved dream vacation to an exclusive destination for Valentine’s Day 😉 More on that to come.
  • The five of us could have flown to New Delhi, India to see the Taj Mahal in April of this year using another favorite airline company of ours: Turkish Airlines. Though the thought of taking our nearly two-year old son on a 20 hour-long trip is not appealing.

Such tremendous savings allow us to splurge on unique experiences that create amazing memories with our children and mom on our world travel adventures. If we were to account for the additional savings on luggage fees, drinks and wifi (as an A-list preferred customer Bertaut receives free drink coupons and free wifi), and flights purchased with points, we estimate to have easily saved about $7,000. All the more reasons that we love Southwest Airlines and will eagerly fly with them both domestically and internationally.

We strongly encourage our readers to give another look at Southwest Airlines and earn the Companion Pass status using one of the methods we explained, since it is more attainable than you might think. It is still early enough into the year for those who do attain it soon to maximize its benefits and save a ton of money in 2016 and 2017.

If you have earned a Companion Pass status, how much have you saved? Where is the best place you’ve taken your companion for free? Do you care to share any additional ingenious ways to obtain the Companion Pass status beyond what we’ve explained? If you liked this post, please sign up for our RSS feed to be updated each time we publish a new post and our email newsletter to get more tips to travel like a millionaire.

About Bertaut & Alexis

Travel Tips: How the Southwest Companion Pass saved us $2820.43 in less than one year
Travel addicts and proud parents of two young kids who make exploring the world a priority while working full time. Bertaut & Alexis enjoy traveling like millionaires without spending a fortune and share their tips on how to get luxury for less.

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  • This is so inspiring! Thank you for sharing. I am looking for something like this, but in Canada there are limited domestic airlines which means big prices. I haven’t heard of many programs like this except for West Jet. Do you know if the Southwest Companion Pass is limited to US citizens?

    • BAT

      Thank you Steph! For a traveling family of 4 sometimes 5, the savings add up quickly. Sorry to read about the domestic airlines pricing up in lovely Canada. The Southwest Airlines Companion Rapid Rewards program and the Companion Pass are not limited to US Citizens. If you have plans for domestic flights in the US/Mexico/The Caribbean, you could easily sign up for their reward program and be on your way to earn free flights.

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