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Recently, I traveled to Hawaii with my family and used the Southwest companion pass to return home (review coming soon). It was an extremely easy process but I also learned a few lessons that I want to share.
Here’s a little background and #1 reason why I LUV (pun intended) Southwest Airlines…
Southwest Airlines is one of the largest carriers in the United States. Some even consider it the “best budget carrier” and it’s easy to see why Rapids Rewards, the loyalty program of Southwest, is mentioned in many travel groups.
For travelers disheartened and fatigued with the hidden fees that often come with booking airline award tickets, the Southwest Rapid Rewards program is an oasis in the desert. With a plethora of domestic and international destinations (including Hawaii), the popular companion pass, and budget-friendly fares, it should be no surprise why Southwest gets a lot of luv (Wow, using the pun twice in a matter of minutes!? I’m getting good!)
THE #1 REASON I LUV SOUTHWEST AIRLINES
#1: THE SOUTHWEST COMPANION PASS!
Perhaps one of the most coveted features in the travel world is the highly touted Southwest Companion Pass. Southwest Airlines offers this pass to their most frequent travelers and committed Rapid Rewards members. The name is fitting as the Companion Pass is a benefit that allows you to bring a friend or family member with you on any Southwest flight essentially for free, regardless of whether you paid for your own ticket with cash (sorry, credit card) or Southwest points. However, you will be responsible for paying the taxes and fees for the companion ($5.60/flight domestically) every time you purchase or redeem points for a flight.
HOW TO QUALIFY
To qualify, you simply have to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year (this is an increase from last year where it was 110,000 points), and you’ll earn Companion Pass for the following full calendar year, plus the remainder of the year in which it was earned.
For example, if you qualify on December 31st 2019, your Pass is valid for 366 days (the remainder of 2019 and all of 2020). However, if you qualify on January 1st 2020, the pass is valid for 731 days (the remainder of 2020, and all of 2021).
One tremendous aspect of the Companion pass is the ability to change your companion up to three times annually (or up to six different companions during a two-year period).
EARNING SWA POINTS
If 100 one-way flights seems exhausting, you can earn 125,000 reward points from partners (e.g. rental cars, online shopping portal, etc.).
You will need to ensure that you earn, at least, 125,000 points. So, if you’re still short on meeting the 125,000 point qualification after the sign-up bonus and minimum spend requirement, you will need to earn the difference in points before you are able to earn the companion pass.
Timing is everything and the ideal time to apply for the Southwest credit cards are in November or December and finish the minimum spend in January. If all goes according to plan, your 125,000 point signup bonus should post in January thus awarding you the companion pass for the remainder of the year and the following year.
Note: Be aware that, typically, you are unable to obtain more than one personal card and one business card in a 90-day period from Chase. If you sign up for a business credit card, a personal credit card, and complete the minimum spend requirement on each, you’ll have more than 125,000 points making you eligible for the Companion Pass. AND YOU CAN GET 80,000 POINTS FROM JUST ONE CARD!!
All links will take you to the same landing page:
Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
Southwest Premier Credit Card
Southwest Priority Credit Card
If that wasn’t enough to sway you, let me add a little more to the plate.
Another awesome perk of the Southwest program is the ability for every passenger to check up to 2 bags for free. Yes, you read that correctly! And even better…this policy does not require you to possess their co-branded card to take advantage of it.
As a dad with an infant that requires a suitcase just for diapers and wipes, this is worth its weight in gold!
CHANGE/CANCEL YOUR TICKET
Ok…ok…if that wasn’t enough to sway you, let me add a little more to that plate…
Another consumer-friendly aspect involves changing and/or canceling a ticket bought on Southwest Airlines.
We all know that life happens and changing (or canceling) flights are never fun. Typically, airlines add additional and hefty fees to, both, ticket changes and cancellations making the situation even more stressful.
Thankfully, Southwest has the most flexible change and cancellation policy out of any US-based airline. Southwest allows you to change or cancel a fare within 24 hours of purchasing without penalty. They also allow you to change or cancel a reservation up to 10 minutes before flight time and receive a credit for the full amount of your fare, which can be applied to future travel within a year of the original reservation.
There’s no catch to the refund policy but varies by the fare class you booked and how you paid for the ticket. For example:
· If you paid for a Wanna Get Away?® with cash and then canceled the flight, you will get all of your money back in the form of a credit (also known as a “Southwest travel fund”).
· If you paid for a Wanna Get Away?® paid using Rapid Rewards points, all of your points would be returned to your account.
· If you paid for an Anytime and Business Select with cash and then canceled the flight, all of your money will be returned to the original form of payment.
· If you paid for an Anytime and Business Select paid using Rapid Rewards points, all of your points would be returned to your account.
It is important to understand that you can use “travel funds” toward the purchase of a future ticket. If the future ticket is less expensive than your original ticket, you do not owe any additional money. However, you are responsible for any difference in costs when changing to a flight that is more expensive.
With their generous change and cancellation policy, you have the unique opportunity to guarantee you receive the lowest price for your flight.
For example, once you purchase your flight, you are able to monitor any price fluctuations. If the price decreases (in points or cash) at any time, simply, change your reservation. Since it’s easier to change the flights when they’re booked as one-way tickets, it’s typically best to book the flights as one-ways than round-trips.
I listed the main reason (and a few backup reasons) that I find Southwest Airlines to be an amazing airline. If you are lucky enough to live somewhere Southwest has a presence, you can easily take advantage of all of the touted perks listed above.
|SWA HUB CITIES||SWA FOCUS CITIES|
|Atlanta (ATL)||Austin (AUS)|
|Baltimore (BWI)||Fort Lauderdale (FLL)|
|Chicago (MDW)||Nashville (BNA)|
|Dallas (DAL)||Sacramento (SMF)|
|Denver (DEN)||San Diego (SAN)|
|Houston (HOU)||San Jose (SJC)|
|Las Vegas (LAS)||St. Louis (STL)|
|Los Angeles (LAX)||Tampa (TPA)|
Additionally, if you are interested in completing a lot of domestic (and/or Mexico and Caribbean) travel and value the ease of booking tickets, not having to pay for checked bags, and having access to a flexible change and cancellation policy then Southwest is a no-brainer.
What has been your experience with Southwest Airlines?