Southwest's Companion Pass Is One of the Best Deals in Travel, and Now It’s Even Harder to Score

Alison Fox

Southwest Airlines’ Companion Pass is one of the most coveted and best deals in travel, but the airline just made it harder to get one.

The changes to the point structure for the Companion Pass comes as Southwest adjusted several facets of its Rapid Rewards program. And while one was undoubtedly good (points no longer expire), others made it harder to cash in on being a loyal customer.

As of Jan. 1, 2020, customers will now need to earn 125,000 qualifying points to obtain the Companion Pass for the following calendar year, up from the 110,000 qualifying points a customer needed before. According to the airline, you can still get your hands on the beloved pass if you fly 100 qualifying one-way flights — that won’t change.

If you’re already working toward a Companion Pass, you can still earn one by reaching 110,000 qualifying points by the end of this year.

With the Southwest Companion Pass, eligible fliers can invite one other person to fly with them for practically nothing, they just have to pay the taxes and fees.

“While the earn qualification for Companion Pass has not changed since 2011, the cost of providing the industry’s best perk has,” a spokeswoman for Southwest told Travel + Leisure. “This modest increase will ensure that we are able to continue to provide the fantastic perks our Companion Pass Members.”

While it may be harder now to obtain a Companion Pass, Southwest is making up for it by ensuring that Rapid Rewards points won’t expire. Before, a customer had to earn points at least once every 24 months to keep their account active. Now, that’s no longer a concern, according to the airline.

In addition to those changes, the airline made a small adjustment to its standby service for A-List and A-List Preferred members. While same-day standby is typically free for these members, starting in 2021, they will have to pay the government taxes and fees that result from a change.

While these changes make the Rapid Rewards program a little more cumbersome, it’s still one of the best perks in travel.

So start planning your next vacation — the pristine beaches of Hawaii sound really great to us right now and Southwest happens to fly to the islands directly from the mainland — and take advantage of the airline’s Low Fare Calendar while you’re at it. You’ll need to start racking up those points, after all.