With budget-friendly fares, up to two free checked bags, zero change fees, and free live TV, Southwest’s simple and transparent policies have made it the top choice of budget travelers.
Southwest also offers the best deal in air travel: The Southwest Companion Pass.
The Southwest Companion Pass is hands down the best deal in U.S. air travel, but unless you’re a travel hacker, you may not be aware of this fantastic and relatively easy-to-earn perk.
Southwest Airlines is consistently ranked as one of the top airlines in the U.S. and is our preferred airline for U.S. travel, but it isn’t for everyone. Before jumping into the Southwest Companion Pass, let’s cover the basics of flying Southwest Airlines so you can decide whether flying Southwest is for you.
Pros of Flying Southwest
Southwest’s company policy is Transfarency, which purports low fares and no hidden fees. Southwest definitely lives up to this policy.
Unlike many other airlines, Southwest is upfront about the price you’ll pay for fares and does not add fees on top of what’s advertised.
When flying with Southwest, you’ll be able to check two bags for free and bring a carry-on and a personal item on board. Additionally, Southwest doesn’t charge change fees if you need to move your flight, you’ll simply pay the difference in fare (if applicable).
What if you need to cancel your flight altogether? No problem!
You can cancel up to 10 minutes before your flight fee-free, and you’ll receive a refund either in the form of a travel credit (if you paid with a card) or rapid rewards points (if you booked with points) for Wanna Get Away fares.
On the other hand, if you cancel a Business Select, Anytime, or Senior fare, you’ll be refunded in your original form of payment.
Another major pro of Southwest Airlines is its Rapid Rewards program.
The Rapid Rewards program is free to join, and you can earn points from co-branded credit cards, flights, shopping in the Rapid Rewards portal, or transferring points from partner programs. You can also buy points if you want.
No matter the method, Rapid Rewards points are easy to earn, give you good value on flight redemptions, and there are no blackout dates when redeeming rewards points for travel. Furthermore, Rapid Rewards points don’t expire!
The last major perk of flying Southwest Airlines is the ability to partake in budget-friendly travel all over the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Southwest even recently began flying to Hawaii!
With over 100 destinations and 4,000 flights daily, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal for air travel within the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Cons of Flying Southwest
While Southwest definitely has more pros than cons, a few things about flying this airline may be deal-breakers for some travelers.
As mentioned above, Southwest only flies within the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean. If your typical destinations lay outside North America, then Southwest will not be the airline for you.
Furthermore, Southwest does not have a first-class section. While they offer Business Select fares, the benefit of this fare is priority boarding (position A1-A15) and a complimentary premium drink.
Additionally, Southwest has open-seating, and your position determines boarding order. You can check in 24 hours before your flight at the earliest, and the later you check in, the later your boarding position. Those able to board first get a better selection of seats.
Finally, although Southwest flies to over 100 destinations, the chances are that any significant distance flown will require at least one stop. Most direct flights with Southwest are short, and cross-country trips require you to go through Denver, Oakland, Phoenix, or Dallas.
What Is the Southwest Companion Pass?
While Southwest may not always be your preferred airline, the Southwest Companion Pass is hands down the best deal in travel.
Put simply, the Southwest Companion Pass is a companion fare that can be used for the rest of the calendar year in which you earn it plus the entire following calendar year.
For example, let’s say you earn it in April of 2022. In this scenario, you would be able to take a companion with you on any Southwest flight you take for the rest of 2022 AND all of 2023. You’re allowed to change your companion up to 3 times per year, which means you could potentially take 6 different companions with you throughout the time your Companion Pass is valid.
And the best part is that, unlike other companion fares, the Southwest Companion Pass means your companion flies for FREE, just pay the fuel surcharges (usually $11.20 round-trip for U.S. flights).
Also, unlike other companion fares, you can use the Southwest Companion Pass so your companion can fly free whether you pay for your flight or redeem points for it.
In other words, you can use points to book your flight AND then use your Southwest Companion Pass to add your companion to the itinerary. In this case, you’re essentially flying two people for free (just paying fuel surcharges) but only using points for one of the flights.
To our knowledge, there is no other airline that will allow you to use points to book your fare AND then let you use a companion fare, which is why the Southwest Companion Pass is the best deal in travel.
How You Get It
The requirements for earning the Southwest Companion Pass are straightforward but may be easier said than done.
There are two ways to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. You must earn 110,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year.
Unless you’re a frequent Southwest flyer, the most accessible way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass will likely be through earning 125,000 qualifying points within a calendar year.
You can earn qualifying points through the use of the Southwest co-branded credit cards, paid flights, and shopping in the Rapid Rewards portal. Note that points transferred from partner programs DO NOT count toward the Companion Pass.
With that being said, the easiest way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is to sign up for one or more Southwest co-branded credit cards and earn the sign-up bonus(es).
Southwest currently offers 4 co-branded credit cards with Chase (3 personal and 1 business), and each offers a sign-up bonus ranging from 40,000 to 60,000 points by meeting a minimum spending requirement within the first 3 months of opening the account.
Important: If you do not think you’ll be able to pay off your credit cards monthly, DO NOT attempt to use credit card sign-up bonuses to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. The interest you’ll pay will offset any benefits you might earn.
Why You Want the Southwest Companion Pass
It’s probably abundantly clear by now why you’d want the Southwest Companion Pass.
Once you earn it, you’ll be able to fly a companion with you for free for the rest of the year you earn it and for the entirety of the following year, just pay the fuel surcharges.
This means you can fly your companion for free as many times as you want during the period when your Companion Pass is valid. There is no cap on the number of flights you can take with your companion.
And the best part is that you can use points to book your fare, so both you and your companion can fly for just the cost of fuel surcharges.
Most earn the Companion Pass by earning 110,000 qualifying points, so if you go that route you’ll have a lot of points at your disposal. Plus, only having to use points for one person’s fare means your points will last longer, which means more opportunities to travel for next to nothing!
These factors make the Southwest Companion Pass the best deal in air travel.
When traveling within the U.S., it’s hard to find a better deal than Southwest. With its budget-friendly flights and the Southwest Companion Pass, Southwest is a no-brainer for budget travelers and travel enthusiasts alike.
If you play your cards right, you can possess a ticket to nearly free air travel within the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean for almost two years. Talk about travel hacking!