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One of the bigger sweet spots in the domestic aviation market is the Southwest Companion Pass which allows qualifying Rapid Rewards members to bring along a designated guest on their trips for the cost of taxes and fees alone.
With Companion Pass holders allowed to change their designated guest up to 4 times in a year, this is a benefit that has very real monetary benefits and is a “must-have” benefit for any serious Southwest flyer.
Earning A Companion Pass
To earn a Companion Pass for 2020 a Rapid Rewards member has to fly 100 one-way qualifying flights or earn 110,000 Companion Qualifying Points by the end of the calendar year, but the qualification requirements for the qualification year starting on 1 January 2020 have just been increased.
From 1 January 2020 100 one-way qualifying flights will still earn you a Companion Pass but the new points requirement has been increased to 125,000 points in a calendar year. That’s an increase of almost 14%.
Fortunately, it doesn’t look as if Southwest has made any changes to how Companion Qualifying Points can be earned (more on that in a moment) so all the major points earning routes are still open, but this is it still a negative move for Rapid Rewards fans.
Earning Companion Qualifying Points
The easiest way to earn your way to a Companion Pass is by making the most of any welcome bonuses that are available on the various Chase Southwest Credit cards with the current bonuses ranging from 40,000 points on the personal cards to 60,000 and 70,000 points on the Business Cards.
if you don’t have access to the Chase welcome bonuses (or are not eligible for the cards) then these are the primary ways of earning Companion Qualifying Points:
- Flying with Southwest
- Stays at partner hotels
- Car rentals booked through partner agencies
- Spending on one or more of the Chase Southwest co-branded credit cards
- Spending made with select Southwest shopping partners and through the Southwest shopping portal.
Unfortunately there are also a number of easy ways of earning Southwest points which will not count towards the Companion Pass target:
- Purchased points
- Transferred/gifted points
- Points earned from program enrollment
- Tier bonus points
- Promotion bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards)
- Flight bonus points
- Partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards)
- Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Partner program transfers
- Purchased promotional tier qualifying points
Full details of the Companion Pass requirements and how to earn points can be found on this page.
A Positive Move From Southwest
The increase in the Companion Pass points requirement wasn’t the only announcement that SOuthwest made today – the airline also announced that it was following United’s recent move (and a move that Delta made some years ago) in eliminating the expiration dates on its currency.
With immediate effect, Rapid Rewards Points do not expire.
Over to you American.
A 14% increase in the point requirement to earn a Companion Pass cannot just be shrugged off (it’s significant) but it’s not in the same league as the recent changes we saw United put though to how Premier status is earned.
As long as the welcome bonuses on the Chase Southwest cards continue to count towards the Companion Pass target and as long as spending on the credit cards counts too, the Southwest Companion pass will remain a nice sweet spot in the domestic aviation market…that’s assuming we don’t see a 14% increase year on year!