Katie Searcy | 

How to Earn a Free Southwest Companion Pass in 2023

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No one likes to fly alone. And with a Southwest Companion Pass, you don’t have to. Essentially a BOGO pass for your bestie, your spouse, or whomever else you designate, the pass is one of the most coveted perks of travel aficionados. But the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is notoriously difficult (and expensive) to get, mainly because the progress you make to earn it resets every time Jan. 1 rolls around.

But occasionally we get lucky and hear about a Southwest Companion Pass promotion — like the one that just happened Aug. 28 – 30 During one of those promotions, when you buy one round trip (or two one-way) Southwest flights by a certain date, you earn a free Southwest Companion Pass, but it’s only valid for an abbreviated window of time.

You still have other options for earning a Companion Pass year-round as we’ll explain below, but taking advantage of a promotion is by far the easiest way. These promotions never last long, so get them while you can! Between the promotional offers and our Southwest hacks, you’ll be traveling on a budget in no time.

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The Southwest Companion Pass unlocks BOGO flights for you and a friend.

two friends sitting in airport with luggage and looking at their phones

As detailed on their website, the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is pretty much a free plane ticket. You can choose one person to fly with you, free of charge. You do have to pay taxes and fees, which start at $5.60 per one-way ticket.

Other than their promotional offers, there are three main ways to earn a free Southwest Companion Pass:

  • Take 100 one-way flights in one calendar year.
  • Earn 135,000 Rapid Rewards points in one calendar year. Without credit card promotions, you’d need to spend at least $22,500 on Wanna Get Away fares to reach this level.
  • Sign up for a Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card to earn bonus points, plus points for almost all your purchases.

 

Can I change my designated companion?

Yes! You can change your designated companion up to three times. This policy applies to the Southwest Companion Pass promotion and to the Companion Passes you can earn with your Rapid Rewards points.

For example, if you earned a Companion Pass during the Aug. 28 – 30, 2023, promotion, you could only change your designated companion up to three times total. So you could change your companion twice during the validity period for the pass (Jan. 8 – March 8), and then if you earned a Companion Pass with your points later on in 2024, you would only be able to change your designated companion one more time in 2024.

TIP: Before you even think of scoring a free plane ticket for a friend, you’ll need to sign up for the free Southwest Rapid Rewards program.

 

More ways to earn a Southwest Companion Pass year-round:

1. Earn the companion pass by taking 100 one-way Southwest flights in one calendar year.

someone holding southwest tickets in line

You’ll need to purchase 100 one-way qualifying flights in one calendar year. That’s around one flight every three days … yowza. You can’t earn the companion pass by combining flights and points — you’ve got to choose one way or the other.

This is the hardest way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, so most people choose to accumulate their points instead.

 

2. You can also get it by earning 135,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in one calendar year.

person holding southwest rapid rewards paper

A slightly easier way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is to accumulate 135,000 Rapid Rewards points. You can earn points by using the Southwest Credit Card or just by purchasing flights with your Rapid Rewards account.

So how much would you have to spend on base fares between January and December to get 135,000 points? Here’s how it breaks down:

  • $22,500 on Wanna Get Away fares (earning at a rate of six points per $1 spent)
  • $16,875 on Wanna Get Away Plus fares (eight points per $1 spent)
  • $13,500 on just Anytime fares (10 points per $1 spent)
  • $11,250 on just Business Select fares (12 points per $1 spent)

Some Rapid Rewards points won’t count towards your companion pass, including purchased points, points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment, and tier bonus points.

TIP: If you book a Southwest Vacations package, you’ll earn points based on the air portion of the package. They sometimes have promotions that’ll let you earn additional points on the land portion of the package, too.

 

3. Get the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa credit card for bonus point offers.

a wallet full credit cards with the southwest rapid rewards card being in focus

Listen, spending even $11,000 on flights every year to get the Southwest Companion Pass isn’t sustainable (or even worth it). But if you have your heart set on getting the Companion Pass, the way to avoid a massive airfare spend is to get one of the four Southwest credit cards.

There’s always a bonus point promotion going on for the Rapid Rewards credit card — the amount of points varies between years, though. We’ve seen a 50,000 points reward for spending $2,000 in the first three months of having the card and an additional 50,000 points after you spend $12,000 in the first year. That’s a whopping 100,000 points worth between $12,000 and $24,000 that you get for free.

Here are some more ways the credit card makes earning points easier:

  • You’ll get an extra two to three points per $1 spent on Southwest flights. (For example, the standard six points per $1 spent on Wanna Get Away flights gets upgraded to eight or nine points per $1.)
  • Get two points per $1 spent on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners and one point per $1 spent on anything else.
  • You’ll also get 3,000 – 7,500 points every year on your cardmember anniversary.
  • When you successfully refer friends to open a card, you’ll get 20,000 points per person, up to five times a year.

 

 

4. Once you earn the regular companion pass, it’s good for the rest of the current calendar year and the entire next year.

Southwest airlines plane

That means if you earned the pass anytime in 2023, the pass would be valid through Dec. 31, 2024. (Keep in mind that the “Promotional” Companion Passes that you earn for free usually have an abbreviated validity period of about two months. Since you didn’t really have to earn them the regular way.)

There’s no limit to the number of times you can use your Companion Pass — but just keep in mind that you and your companion must fly together when you use it.

Whether you pay with cash or your Southwest Rapid Rewards points, you can use the pass to get an additional ticket for your lucky chosen one — for free.

 

5. You can change your designated companion up to three times per year.

A little girl stands in line with luggage to go to Disneyland.

You can’t just bring whichever friend you want, whenever. You’ll have to designate your companion on your Southwest Airlines account, and you can only have one companion at a time.

You can, however, swap out your companion up to three times per calendar year.

 

6. Keep an eye out for free Companion Pass promotions.

A person using a laptop displaying the Southwest Airline website's page for Free Companion Pass.

We typically see promotions pop up in April and August that’ll let you earn a free companion pass good for two months after purchasing just one round-trip flight (or two one-way flights).

These promos are super rare, but we’ll always let you know as soon as we see one.

According to the fine print of the most recent offer in August, you’d earn your free Promotional Companion Pass after you registered and then purchased one round trip or two one-way flights by Aug. 30 at 11:59 p.m. CT. You then needed to travel by Sept. 30 on the flight(s) you booked. Once that’s complete, you’d get an email within 10 days to let you know you’ve qualified for the free promotional pass.

Then your designated companion can fly with you for FREE anytime between Jan. 8 – March 8, 2024.

TIP: We see these free Companion Pass offers pop up about once every 5 – 6 months. The prior promotion ended April 5, and it could earn you a free pass valid from Aug. 15 – Sept. 30, 2023.

 

7. Look for flight deals so you don’t overpay for your free Promotional Companion Pass.

To keep your out-of-pocket costs low, look for the cheapest round-trip flight (or two one-way flights) from your closest neighboring airport during a companion pass promotion. Even if you’re not sure where you want to go, just browse the Southwest flight deals page to find the lowest fares.

For example, I found a one-way ticket from Austin, TX, to New Orleans, LA, for as low as $45 during the recent promotion. That means I’d get my free companion ticket for just $90 out-of-pocket during the August promotion.

Here are a few other super-cheap, one-way flights I found that could have helped you qualify for the offer:

  • Atlanta to Miami, $59 one-way (departs Sept. 12)
  • Austin to New Orleans, $45 one-way (departs Sept. 23)
  • Nashville to Austin, $60 one-way (departs Sept. 20)
  • Orlando to Austin, $55 one-way (departs Sept. 20)
  • Washington, D.C., to Chicago, $69 one-way (departs Sept. 7)

Another easy way to save? Buy a $500 Southwest Airlines gift card for just $449.99 at Costco (a 10% savings), then use that gift card to pay for your qualifying flight(s)!

 

8. If the companion pass isn’t right for you, you can still save a ton of money using tried-and-true Southwest hacks.

A Southwest employee at the gate desk talking to passengers.

A great example of a hack is how Southwest announces their weekly fares on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. — and that’s exactly when you should look for the cheapest tickets. All you need to do is sign up for their emails.

These weekly Southwest deals only last about three days and usually end on Thursday of that week.

For more ways to save, check out our Southwest hacks next time you want to book a flight.

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