Well after a one year hiatus my wife and I are flying high with our shiny new Southwest Airlines Companion Pass! YES! We initially got our first companion pass in 2012 which expired 12/31/13. Then my wife got the Companion Pass in 2013 and it expired 12/31/14.
Last year (2015) we took off from achieving the Companion Pass since we had two big international trips and were expecting our baby so no need for many Southwest flights.
What’s the Companion Pass?
For those non-travelers or those who are still wet behind the ears, Southwest’s Companion Pass is the biggest perk for domestic travel in the US. It allows a traveler flying on Southwest Airlines to bring a designated companion with them on the flight for free (aside from the $5.60 tax). It doesn’t matter if you pay cash or redeem points for your fare you can still bring the companion with you. There are no limits as to how many times but the pass does expire. The companion pass is valid through the year you earn it AND THE FOLLOWING YEAR. Thus earning the Companion Pass early in the year affords you more time to use the pass. You can also change your companion up to three times.
How did we obtain it?
Good question!!! Well to obtain the Companion Pass you must fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points within the calendar year.
Or you can be like us and obtain points through credit card earning. There are a few ways to go about this but I am going to share how WE got it THIS TIME.
First I signed up for a Ritz-Carlton Rewards credit card through Chase and earned the 70,000 points that came with the signup bonus (first year annual fee was waived). I did the same with a Marriott Rewards credit card which came with 80,000 points (and a $89 annual fee). My wife then applied for a Chase Marriott Rewards credit card for 70,000 points (1st year annual fee was waived). We had around 225,000 Marriott points combined at this point.
My wife had a work meeting which was hosted at a Marriott Hotel using their event space and she gave her Marriott Rewards number for the booking which gave her around 20,000 Marriott points. We also had two Marriott/Ritz Carlton Rewards stays. Our 2015 trip to Ritz Carlton in Greensboro and 2015 trip to JW Marriott Cherry Creek Denver. Those (employer paid) trips along with Marriotts MegaBonus promotion earned us nearly 40,000 more points. Another 15,000 points or so where from random credit card spend and 1-2 old hotel stays. In the end, we had just over 300,000 Marriott points combined.
What does Ritz Carlton and Marriott have to do with Southwest??!! Well they are partners!! Southwest partners with several other travel providers (hotels and car rental). Thus we could move our Marriott points to Southwest and earn Companion Pass qualifying points that way. I had to call Marriott customer service (800) 321-7396 to make the points transfer with one of there customer service reps. It’s important to note we used Marriott’s “Travel Package” to make the transfer!!!! See the chart here!!! Only transfer your Marriott points to other airlines using this “Travel Package” method as your points are much more valuable and not devalued as they are when doing a normal transfer.
With our combined 300,000 points I booked a category 6 travel package and I selected the maximum amount of Southwest points which per the chart I linked to above is 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points (we also have 7 nights at a category 6 Marriott hotel too). Remember it takes 110,000 Southwest points to earn the companion pass! So after the transfer in from Marriott we had the Companion Pass and did not pay for any Southwest flights. And its only January 2016 and our (my wife is my companion in case you couldn’t tell) Companion Pass expires 12/30/17!!
Are there any negatives or downsides for us obtaining the Companion Pass?? Well honestly this method isn’t 100% perfect. For one we had to apply for three credit cards while in the past we only applied for two. Next, we only have a category 6 travel package certificate with Marriott now and I think most of these category 6 hotels are kind of crappy. Category 7 properties are much better so I may need to throw in 30,000 more Marriott points through my Ultimate Rewards balance to get a hotel I really want to stay at. Those are the main two negatives in my eyes but I feel the companion pass outweighs them.
In the end, we will end up burning 120,000 Southwest points and have lots of cheap airfare. Southwest is flying international to some tempting locations that we will most likely visit in 2017. The Companion Pass is a really nice perk and very easy to get. We actually have had positive experiences flying Southwest and I always enjoy getting a flight with free wifi to watch live TV. Have you gotten the Companion Pass? And whats your thoughts on it?
UPDATE: After obtaining our Marriott Travel Package Certificate, We were able to exchange our Category Six, seven night certificate to a Category Eight, five night certificate by calling Marriott. The five night certificate option is only for Marriott timeshare owners only and this “loophole” is now closed. The reason we did this is there were not really any category six properties we wanted to stay at but there are several nice category eight properties that we liked.