Southwest Makes It More Difficult To Earn The Companion Pass

While Southwest isn’t my airline of choice, there’s a lot I respect about the airline. For example, I love that they don’t charge for checked bags, and also appreciate their lack of change fees. Furthermore, one aspect of their frequent flyer program is arguably the best deal in domestic travel — I’m talking about Southwest’s Companion Pass.

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What is Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass lets you take a companion with you for free whenever you fly. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on an award ticket or revenue ticket, you can always have someone fly with you just for the cost of taxes. It’s an incredible, one-of-a-kind deal.

You can use it an unlimited number of times, though can only change your designated companion at most a couple of times per year (so you can’t have a different companion on every trip).

There are two ways to earn Companion Pass, and that’s either by taking 100 flights on Southwest in a calendar year, or by earning 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. However, as of today, Southwest is changing which points count towards Companion Pass.

Southwest is changing Companion Pass qualification

Southwest has just updated their terms & conditions in regards to what points count towards the 110,000 required for Companion Pass. The terms now read as follows:

Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, points earned on Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Cards, and base points earned from Rapid Rewards Partners.

Purchased points, transferred points transferred between members, points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club, points earned from program enrollment, tier bonus points, flight bonus points, and partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not qualify as Companion Pass Qualifying Points.

What has changed is that points transferred from hotel and car rental partners no longer count towards Southwest Companion Pass, while they previously did.

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Arguably one of the best ways to earn points towards Southwest Companion Pass was through Marriott’s Hotel + Air Packages, where you can redeem Marriott points partly for airline points and partly for free nights. For 270,000 Marriott Rewards points you could get 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points plus seven free nights at a Category 1-5, which is more than enough for maintaining Southwest Companion Pass.

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However, going forward those kinds of transfers won’t count anymore. This change doesn’t really come as a surprise, especially given that points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest Rapid Rewards already didn’t count towards Companion Pass.

Bottom line

This no doubt makes it more difficult to earn Companion Pass, though I think these kinds of changes were inevitable. This is one of the most generous offers out there for domestic travel, so it’s no surprise that they’re making it more difficult to earn. Points earned through Southwest’s credit cards (including the sign-up bonuses) will continue to count towards Companion Pass.

Are you surprised and/or impacted by these changes?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Comments

  1. Do southwest shopping portal points count?

    I’ve qualified in the past via portal points (combined with cc)

  2. I am not surprised by this – just thought they would give a warning. I was at 80k SPG points; so 10k away from having enough to transfer to Marriott for the Flights & Nights package :(. I guess I’ll have to try to do it the old fashioned way via spending & flying.

    Lucky, do you think a chase would approve me for the 2 SWA cards even though I already have 6 other Chase cards (United/Freedom/FreedomUL/Ink/Reserve/Sapphire)?

    Thanks,
    Daniel

  3. I wish companies gave notice of this. I was literally going to pull the trigger on a 7 nuight package this week. Now I have a whole bunch of Marriott points that I don’t want!

  4. I’m not surprised. I have this for about 1.5 years and just lost it today! It’s definitely the best deal and has saved me thousands in travel costs. I had both Southwest cards but dropped it to just the Premiere after getting the pass. I won’t be surprised if Southwest makes being an A Lister part of the qualification requirements since every airline employee I’ve talked with while I had the pass was surprised I wasn’t A List.

  5. This was blogged to death for the last 2 months! Should be no surprise to anyone given the repetition of how to do it with Marriott travel packages. Sometimes more is not better, it just killed the goose.

  6. So 90k Starwood can be used for the 7 night free hotel plus 132k United Miles. Or the Starwood could be converted to 110k Virgin America, which would then be convertible to 143k Alaska miles. Alaska miles are definitely worth more than United miles, but does 143 vs 132 make up for the free hotel?

  7. Agree with Vonda….this has been blogged to death and hardly a coincidence it’s gone now. Anyone want to buy 300k marriott points off me? Smh

  8. Some are acting as if the Marriott points are worthless. Transfer them to Starwood. Incredible value to be had there. Obviously this is a tough blow as I was planning on doing this tomorrow. I’ll just transfer my 270k Marriott back to Starwood and find value elsewhere. I would gladly buy your Marriott points if you think they’re worthless.

  9. Every two years my wife applies for a WN personal and a business card, after that I apply every 2 years and she takes a rest, been doing this for quite a while

    I will convert my SPG to AA at 1.25…or use them at the hotel…

  10. I rack up a ton of points on SWA booking my hotel stays via Rocket Miles, wondering if these points will still count towards the 110,000.

  11. Absolutely despicable move on the part of Southwest. Like many others, I spent the last couple weeks positioning points to Marriott and was planning to pull the trigger on a Marriott travel package tomorrow. I’m not surprised this benefit went away, but I am shocked that they did it with literally zero warning. This type of customer-unfriendly move is shameful.

    Add in their sausage-stuffed flying cattle cars, their lackluster in-flight options, their ever-escalating “Early Bird” check-in costs and their “revenue-based-except-when-we-don’t-feel-like-it” frequent flyer program, and I am less and less likely to overlook their shortcomings and vote with my feet. Thankfully JetBlue has started offering options close by, and not a moment too soon.

  12. Completely agree about providing warning. I have the points pending a family account transfer to consolidate and was going to pull the trigger any day. Even booked one SW ticket in anticipation of the 2nd ticket being the companion.

    Really SW? Give us warning. This is the only blog post I see about this so far and can easily see people transferring points thinking they will get companion pass.

  13. I don’t disagree with their ability to make this change, but completely unfair to do this without any advance notice. The timing on the first day of the year created problems for many SWA flyers who appreciated and used the companion pass via the Marriott vacation program. Without any notice doesn’t pass the “fairness” smell test even if it is legal.

  14. @Jim:

    So, the food is terrible, and such small portions, too?

    I mean, really, why would you fly on a cattle car airline (your words) with a companion, just to subject them to that terrible experience?

    Oh, you’d do it to save money and get to fly for free, even on a cattle car airline? Yeah, I figure.

  15. I stopped flying SW two years ago. Flight options and on time perfirmance to where i travel was frustrating. Plus they were more expensive for last minute travel. The only benefit was the change/ cancellation policy but again with unplanned travel i had this with usair/American. I had maintained complainion and A+ for three years before stopping.

  16. Seriously?!?!?
    NOW? when the majority were waiting to transfer their points at the start of the year? and without notice to boot?!?
    This was the only reason I was going to start flying SW. I guess its back to JetBlue and Alaska. Nonsense!

  17. $#IT!!!
    I just transferred 270 Marriott points last night before reading this!!
    They just changed it just like that? well they’d better give me my points back!!
    Unbelievable!

  18. That’s really messed up! At least give us some notice.
    I guess ill have to transfer these points to Alaska. And please no more articles on akaska mileageplan, because next thing you know Alaska will devaluate their program.

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