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Southwest Sweetens the Companion Pass Pot Again

In 2019, I managed to accumulate enough Southwest miles on both my and Erik’s accounts to qualify for each of us to have a companion pass, meaning we could bring one of our kids along for free every time we flew in 2020. We started off 2020 with a ski trip with friends to Idaho, and expected that 2020 was going to be a year of an unprecedented number of long weekend jaunts by air. We also booked tickets to fly home to Wisconsin for my parents’ 50th anniversary in March, and in June I was bringing my daughters to NYC to celebrate the oldest’s Sweet 16 with a week of Broadway shows.

Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.

I don’t need to tell you what happened next. That February trip was the last time we flew in 2020.

Because the passes we earned in 2019 were set to expire at the end of 2020, I got busy starting Jan. 1 trying to make sure I earned enough points to get the pass in 2021 as well. By March, I had already finished and was planning to shift all our spending to Erik’s card in order to earn his next Companion Fare as well. Then, after the pandemic made it clear that no one would be flying much in 2020, Southwest extended the expiration of 2020 passes through June 30, 2021. I felt a bit duped for having wasted a bunch of our regular spending on Southwest cards to earn a benefit that the airline just gave to everyone else for free, but oh well, at least we didn’t need to spend anything on Erik’s Southwest card for the moment.

Today, Southwest extended 2020 companion passes again. So those passes that were going to expire June 30 are now good through the end of 2021.

But that’s not all!

Southwest is also giving the following to all Rapid Rewards account holders:

  • 15,000 tier qualifying points (TQPs)**
  • 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points (CPQPs)**
  • 10 qualifying flight credits toward A-List and A-List Preferred
  • 25 qualifying flights toward Companion Pass

What does this mean for earning that Companion Pass in 2021? Well, you have to earn 125,000 points or fly 100 one-way flights in a year to earn a Companion Pass that’s good for the rest of the calendar year and all the following year. For example, Erik currently has 12,300 of those 125,000 points. Before this announcement, he would have had to earn an additional 112,700 points in 2021 in order to bring a kid free in 2022. (Flying 50 round trips was never in our reality even in the Before Times so I’ll just set that aside.) Now, he’ll only have to earn 87,700 more points, which we plan to accomplish with a combination of credit card spending, shopping through the Southwest portal, and possibly switching our cell phone plans. It sounds like a lot, but since we still have a bit of spending to do for our remodel, I’m confident we will get it done.

What about those other credits? Well, A-List members are Southwest’s privileged flyers, and they get benefits like automatically reserved low-number boarding positions. A-List Preferred get that plus free inflight Wi-Fi and a few other benefits. Normally, you need to fly 25 one-way flights to get on the A List, or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.

Tier qualifying points are a subset of all the Rapid Rewards points you can earn. You get the tier qualifying ones from actually paying for flights, and you can also get some from credit cards spending, but normally you can only get 15,000 tier qualifying points per year from credit cards. But as part of this announcement, this year Southwest said they are uncapping the TQP you can earn using certain credit cards. In 2021, Premier, Priority, Premier Business, or Performance Credit cardmembers can earn 1,500 TQP for every $10,000 they spend, meaning that it is now possible to qualify for the A List or A List Preferred without flying at all this year.

Personally, I don’t care about getting on one of those lists nearly as much as I care about earning the companion fares. Sure, it would be nice to be on a privileged list for 2022, but I mainly care about getting places for less money.

Finally, before you pat Southwest on the back for being so nice as to make it easier for us to earn those companion fares in 2022, remember that they just raised the bar on this last year. In what turned out to be epic bad timing, Southwest increased the requirement for earning a Companion Pass from 100,000 to 125,000 miles near the end of 2019.

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