One of the most advantageous offerings in the travel industry is the Southwest Companion Pass. This pass grants you the privilege of bringing a companion along for free (excluding applicable taxes and fees) on an unlimited number of Southwest Airlines flights until the pass expires. For frequent Southwest flyers, this benefit alone can easily amount to thousands of dollars saved annually.
However, the question arises: How does one earn this highly coveted golden ticket? To obtain the pass, you must earn 135,000 qualifying points (or complete 100 one-way qualifying flights) within a calendar year. This achievement will grant you the pass for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earned it and the entirety of the following year. While earning such a substantial number of points may seem daunting, you can expedite the process by taking advantage of the welcome bonus offered by a Southwest cobranded credit card.
Let’s delve into the steps to obtain the pass and explore how to maximize this incredible privilege once it is in your possession.
How to earn the Southwest Companion Pass
To earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you have two options: Earn 135,000 qualifying points or complete 100 qualifying one-way flights within a calendar year.
You can earn qualifying points through various means, such as by flying with Southwest or engaging with its partners. The latter includes making purchases via the Southwest shopping portal, reserving hotels with Southwest partners and using a Southwest credit card for your everyday expenses.
Opting for a Southwest cobranded credit card is often the simplest way to earn the Companion Pass since it allows you to earn points effortlessly, and the welcome bonuses count toward the requirement as well. Additionally, holders of a Southwest cobranded credit card receive 10,000 qualifying points annually, effectively reducing the total requirement to 125,000 qualifying points per year.
Southwest offers various credit card promotions that facilitate earning the Companion Pass.
You can earn a Companion Pass good through Feb. 28, 2025, plus 30,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening on the following cobranded credit cards: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card.
Additionally, Southwest offers the following business card sign-up bonuses:
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If you aim to earn the Companion Pass, we recommend earning your qualifying miles early in the year. This is because the pass remains valid for the rest of the current year and the entirety of the following year. For example, if you earn a Companion Pass in March 2024, it will be valid for the remaining nine months of 2024 and the entire year of 2025.
Related: I flew to Atlanta for the day to earn a 2-month Southwest Companion Pass — here’s why (and how it went)
How to use the Southwest Companion Pass
Once you’ve earned a Companion Pass, Southwest makes it incredibly easy to use.
Step 1: Set up your Companion Pass
After earning the Companion Pass, Southwest will send you a congratulatory email within a few days to acknowledge your significant achievement. To track your progress in real time, log in to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account on Southwest.com.
Upon receiving the email, click the provided links to set up your initial companion choice. You must provide your companion’s complete name (matching their ID), birth date, email address and Rapid Rewards account number.
Alternatively, you have the option to designate your companion by calling Southwest. However, since the online selection process is straightforward, there is no need to contact the carrier by phone for this particular step.
Step 2: Confirm flight availability for your entire travel party
Now that you have chosen a companion, it’s time to enjoy the exciting part: booking a flight where your companion can fly for free (excluding taxes and fees). But before you make a reservation, you must ensure there are enough available seats on the desired flight for your entire travel group. Adding a Companion Pass fare is only possible if a seat is available for purchase.
For instance, if you are a family of four planning to travel with one person using the Companion Pass, search for four seats on the Southwest website. It’s important to note that all four seats need not be in the same fare category. If only three seats remain with Wanna Get Away fares but there are also Anytime and Business Select fares available (in addition to the cheaper fares), you can proceed with your booking.
Step 3: Book flights for everyone other than your companion
To use your Companion Pass, the next step is to make flight reservations for everyone in your travel group, excluding the companion. For instance, if you are a family of four with one adult holding the Companion Pass and the other adult being the companion, you should initially book tickets for the Companion Pass holder and the two kids. The companion’s tickets should not be booked at this stage.
Most travelers will find it convenient to book flights online at Southwest.com. However, if desired, flights can also be booked over the phone with Southwest phone agents. You can pay for these flights with cash or Rapid Rewards points, as both methods are compatible with the Companion Pass.
If you choose to purchase these tickets with cash, remember to include the Rapid Rewards numbers of all travelers in your booking. There is no need to miss out on earning points, as even children can earn frequent flyer points on Southwest.
Step 4: Make your companion’s flight booking
Once you have made flight reservations for all members of your travel group except your companion, it’s time to secure a flight reservation for that individual. To ensure that you don’t miss out on the ticket availability you confirmed in Step 1, it is crucial to book your companion as soon as possible. This is particularly significant for flights that tend to fill up quickly, such as during peak Christmas dates to and from peak travel destinations.
To proceed, the Companion Pass holder (the first adult in our example) should revisit the Southwest website and log in to their Rapid Rewards account. Access the “My Account” section located at the top of the homepage.
On the left-hand side of the screen, you’ll see a section called “My upcoming trips.” There, you should see the flight reservation you just made, along with any other upcoming trips with Southwest. If you have many flights reserved, you’ll need to click the “See all trips” link for all your reservations to appear.
Underneath your flight details, you’ll see a button that says “Add Companion.” Click on it.
You’ll find that the “Trip & Price Details” are already pre-filled with the flight information and the cost of the taxes and fees. In this case, for a domestic one-way trip, that price is just $5.60 for your companion to fly.
Click “Continue” to go to the next page that includes “Passenger & Payment Info.” There, you will find your companion’s name and identifying information filled in. With everything pre-filled, there is very little chance of a booking mistake.
Finally, you’ll be prompted to pay the applicable taxes and fees to secure the flight reservation for the companion. If you have a credit card already saved to your account profile, you can use that to expedite the process.
I have found that booking subsequent flights with a Companion Pass takes just a minute or two after you see how it works the first time. It’s that simple.
Additional Southwest Companion Pass tips and tricks
Although using the Southwest Companion Pass is almost always easy, there are a few quirks.
You’ll receive separate confirmation numbers
When you book flights for a group or family together, everyone will have the same confirmation number. However, with the Companion Pass, your companion will always be assigned a different Southwest confirmation number than the rest of the party. While this isn’t a big deal, it can matter for the strategy surrounding Southwest’s unique check-in policy.
When it’s time to check in, having two reservation numbers can slow you down in the Southwest fastest-finger game to get a prime boarding position exactly 24 hours before your flight. I recommend having two devices ready to check you and your companion in simultaneously. If you check in one person first and then the other person next, you may lose out on some of the best boarding positions.
Related: Is Southwest EarlyBird Check-In worth it?
You must call to change companions
While you can change your companion three times in a calendar year, Southwest Companion Pass holders should know that this requires a phone call. According to the airline’s website, you can also “tweet us at @southwestair, or send us a message on Facebook.”
The fine print on Southwest’s site says that it may take up to 21 business days for processing. In our experience, the companion is always changed nearly instantly. It will take a while for a new Companion Pass card to arrive in the mail for your new companion. Still, the change is usually implemented for online booking purposes within seconds.
Watch out for reservations close together with different companions
While you can change companions up to three times a year, you won’t be able to change your companion until you’ve completed all travel with your current companion. If you have two trips close together with different companions, things can get a bit tricky.
For example, if you have a trip with your child on June 1 and another with your spouse on June 15, you won’t be able to add your spouse as a companion to that second trip until after June 1. It is theoretically possible that the June 15 flight could sell out before June 1, leaving your spouse high and dry for the June 15 trip.
Although this situation doesn’t arise often, it’s an important consideration if you are planning to travel during peak times and/or on popular routes. If a flight does sell out, you may find yourself in the position of having to book a new flight for yourself at a higher price to find an itinerary with space for your companion.
Related: 15 lessons from 15 years of having the Southwest Companion Pass
Using the Southwest Companion Pass is a breeze, and bonuses on Southwest credit cards make it quite simple to earn. The Southwest Companion Pass is the perfect way to travel more often without breaking the bank.