I LUV Southwest (Companion Pass) + Southwest Drink Coupon Giveaway

Southwest Airlines just announced the 40%-off Big Winter Sale today, so I’d like to take this opportunity to go over a few reasons why I LUV Southwest (as promised) and how you could start to do so as well. To thank you for your loyalty and continued support, TravelWhimsy and I also would like to give away 8 Southwest drink coupons (beer, wine, cocktail). Check out the giveaway details at the end of this post.

A bit of background before I start. We are both fairly new to Southwest. Prior to our South America trip, we had only flown Southwest once or twice (many many years ago). We don’t travel for business, but will both have achieved United Airlines’ Premier Platinum status at the end of the year with over 75,000 actual miles flown on United just for leisure weekend travel (more on this in a separate post – another promise). I’m afraid that my loyalty to United (started on August 13, 1998) is waning…

Some of you might have already read a post or two of TravelWhimsy’s new “Wacky Whirlwind Weekend” series to document our fall weekend trips, most of which are booked on Southwest. I will use some of the booking details from those trips to tell you why Southwest is worth my LUV.

Reason #1: Companion Pass (Up to 2 Full Years)

The Southwest Companion Pass lets you and your designated companion (changeable up to 3 times during the validity period) travel together for the price of one (cash or points). Companion tickets are only subject to a security fee of up to $5 per one-way itinerary.

You can fly 100 paid one-way flights (not segments) or earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year to earn the Companion Pass (valid for the remainder of the year + the following year).

*How We Got It: We transferred 366,000 Choice points (purchased in 2011 and 2012 via Daily Getaways) into 109,800 Southwest points at a net cost of 1.267 cents per Southwest point. Each Southwest point has an approximate value of 1.7 cents (or 3.4 when you use the Companion Pass), so we essentially prepaid for our Southwest travel at a 25% (or 63%) discount.

*How You Could Get It: I am assuming that you don’t want to pay for 100 one-way flights, so here are some ideas to get to the 110,000 points you need.

(1) Apply for two Southwest credit cards on the same day to score 100,000 bonus points (read MillionMileSecrets’ post for application links and other extremely helpful information). The 50,000 sign-up bonus offer comes and goes a few times a year. The annual fee is $69 per card, and you need to spend $2,000 on each card in 3 months to get the bonus points. [Important: Watch for your statement closing dates to make sure your 104,000 points post in January 2013. In other words, save your spending for December 2012 for the last statement cycle, so that you’ll maximize the validity period of your Companion Pass.]
(2) Spend another $6,000 in early 2013 on your new Southwest cards.
(3) If you and your family members have scored multiple blocks of the 16,000 bonus Wyndham Rewards points and still have them, you can transfer those points to Southwest. Every 8,000 Wyndham points can be converted to 2,400 Southwest points. [Names don’t have to match on Wyndham and Southwest accounts.]
(4) Similarly, if you have purchased lots of Choice points like us, every 6,000 Choice points = 1,800 Southwest points. Just make sure you transfer fewer than 60,000 Southwest points per day; otherwise the transfer will be rejected. [Names DO have to match on Choice and Southwest accounts.]
(5) Credit short car rentals or hotel stays to Southwest (600 points per rental or stay).
(6) Going through Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal.
(7) Rapid Rewards Dining.

*Word of Caution: Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points can be transferred to Southwest, but the transferred points are NOT qualifying points for the Companion Pass. Once you obtain your Companion Pass and need more points to book Southwest travel, transferring UR points to Southwest can be lucrative (~3.4 cents/point).

Reason #2: Flexibility (Cancel/Change Anytime with No Penalty)

If cancelled, non-refundable tickets booked with cash receive full credit valid one year from the ticketing date (the original record locator holds the credit).

Tickets booked with points get full point reversal when cancelled. Security fees paid with a credit card can be refunded (fees paid with a gift card can be used for future award booking and the original record locator holds the fee credit).

When we first booked our Seattle trip, we redeemed 14,521 points (Saturday morning to Monday morning). Two weeks later, we re-booked the same itinerary for 12,840 points. Another two weeks later, we re-booked with a slightly better itinerary (Friday night to Monday morning) for 9,240 points. At our cost of 1.267/point, this means $117 for two people (+$5/person security fees, so it really is $63.5 per person). I could also argue that those tickets were $5/person because we already had 50,000+ credit-card-sign-up bonus points in the account before obtaining the Companion Pass.

Similarly, our Denver trip initially cost 9,600 points, and was re-booked four weeks later for 8,100 points. That means $56 per person including fees.

Coincidentally, all the price drops were discovered on Fridays, but I also have seen similar lower fares on Saturdays/Sundays.

*Fare Watcher: You can save a trip you have booked or want to book under your account. When logged in, you can then click on “My Travel” and view all your saved trips. Every saved trip has a “Check Price” button you can click to quickly see if the price has dropped.


Reason #3: Efficient Service (Feels like a Greyhound Bus in a Good Way!)

In the past year and a half, we have been on many United/Delta/American flights (with many complimentary upgrades to first class), but I have to say that Southwest is run in a more efficient way and the employees seem genuinely happier. The Southwest flying experience reminds me of taking buses in college from Vermont to Boston/New York/Philadelphia. Here are some of my observations.

(1) No seat assignment ironically makes boarding faster and passengers less stressed.
(2) Airplane doors close and open much faster because there is always a gate agent assigned to each gate to take care of the high turnover of flights.
(3) Most flights have interim stops and transit passengers are allowed to remain on board.

Reason #4: Free Checked Bags (Great for Outdoor Activity Lovers)

Every passenger can check two 50-pound bags for free. We normally only travel with our Camelbaks and at most share one small carry-on, but for those of you who want to pack up your camping gear for a trip to a national park this could be a great money-saving benefit.

Reason #5: Putting a Lid on Fares (and Competition in Check)

We are lucky to live in one of Southwest’s biggest hubs. The benefits are two-fold. Not only do we get to take advantage of Southwest’s fare sale to cities with non-stop service from Las Vegas, we also get to enjoy other major US airlines’ retaliation fare sale. Almost all our cross-country trips in the last 18 months on United/Delta were results of Southwest-attacking fares – $140-150 all-inclusive. Before midnight on Thursday, October 11, 2012, you might be able to find great fares on United/USAirways/Delta/American, too.

Southwest Drink Coupons Giveaway

We have 8 Southwest drink coupons (beer, wine, cocktail on board) to give away to 4 readers. If you are flying Southwest before the end of year, leave a comment below to tell us what you think of Southwest or simply state that you would like to have the coupons. If we have more than 4 interested readers, winners will be randomly selected at noon PST on Tuesday, October 16, 2012.

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  • The companion pass is just so powerful. I think it is best for couples (travel) without kid as the saving is guaranteed.
    It’s value diminishes as the travel group grows. It really is not that easy to achieve multiple companion passes for one family.
    I do not fly Southwest for several reasons. Two big ones are 1) I am just not comfortable about the kettle call; 2) it is not a major hit in my airport.
    Keep the drink coupons for others in need.

    • Thanks for chiming in, Wany May. I just convinced my mothet-in-law to apply for two cards so she can take my mom or father-in-law along to travel with us. The pass can be great for retirees interested in traveling. A family with two kids can enjoy the benefits also if both parents are able and willing to apply for two cards (only if they pay off the balance every month of course).

  • Sruti

    we got our companion pass with southwest credit cards and spending, and using it for the first time in dec to go to new orleans.
    thanks for the giveaway!

  • Lindsay

    I LOVE our Companion Pass, which we earned in March with two credit card signups and some Marriott points transferred. We’re flying before the end of the year, so the drink coupons would definitely get used if I get chosen! 🙂

  • Jon

    I love Southwest. Got my first companion pass with them earlier this year and I am loving all of the free travel that I have already done with my wife (Vegas, Milwaukee, upcoming with Boston and Orlando)!

  • Joan

    Are the bonus Southwest Rapid Rewards Points earned by buying Marriott gift cards qualify for the companion pass?  Thanks!

    • Joan, just checked my account, and those bonus points do NOT count. This is probably a good thing because once you get your 2-year pass in early 2013 (vs. 1-year if you earn your pass this year), those points can be used to double your travel value.

  • Nguyen

    I love Southwest since it always has good fare from SMF to LAX and/or LAS.  We would love to have the drink coupons since we would have a flight to Florida next month.  Thanks.

  • Babs

    Love Southwest deals out of Spokane, WA. Going to see Bruce Springsteen in Portland on November 28th. Great timing for drink coupons!!!

  • JX

    Thanks Jimmy for the giveaway.
    My question for companion pass is:
    If I earned companion pass, do I have to travel in order to take advantage of CP? In other words, can I just book flight for the other 2 persons but paying 1 price?

    • JX

      Additional question:
      If you earned CP, does it also entitle you as an A-List Preferred member?

      • Again, the answer is no. A-List has to be earned through flying paid Southwest flights.

    • You are welcome, JX. Unfortunately, you will have to be one of the travelers.

  • H

    I too ‘luv’ my companion pass.

  • I like Southwest. I’ve flown them a few times and the only issue I have is that it seems to be the flights where all parents take their screaming babies.

    • We haven’t encountered any crying babies on our recent SW flights. Our first SW flight this year from LAX to LAS (which I wrote about in the South America trip report) had a group of kids who ordered several rounds of drinks and were extremely loud and noisy during the short flight.

  • Love Southwest. Got the companion pass through credit card signup and double dipping a 20x  purchase in the Rapid Reward Shopping portal. One time someone gave me a drink coupon on my flight and it made my day. I’d love to win 🙂

    • Sounds great, Julie! Good luck!

      • Joan

        Hi Jimmy,

        I am debating on whether I should apply for the 2 Southwest cards or Chase Preferred Sapphire card.  Any suggestion on which card(s) I should get?  Any insights on this are greatly appreciated.

        • Hi Joan, this really depends on whether you see yourself flying Southwest often or not. If you are going to take advantage of the SW Companion Pass, then you should consider getting the two cards, because there is no guarantee that this offer will continue to come back or the bonus points will continue to count towards the Companion Pass.

          Otherwise, getting the Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Ink might be the way to go to maximize Chase UR points earning. If you don’t mind buying Vanilla Reload cards at Office Depot, having the Chase Ink (Bold or Plus, if you don’t have any other Chase premium cards) will get your almost 5x points for almost everything.

          • Joan

            Thanks, Jimmy!  I really appreciate your input..

  • I have been a southwest LUVer since I was a kid, and a cardmember for over 10 years now.  It’s pretty awesome when my biggest gripe against an airline is that it changed its drink coupon policy.  I still had a few of those conversation starter coupons without the expiration date on them, and a few flights ago, i was informed that all they’re good for now is making conversation with the unlucky guy in the middle seat.

    Speaking of southwest, do you know how to find out which routes their special planes fly?  I’ve flown southwest, about a zillion times, but I’ve only seen shamu and the rest from the gate.  Unlucky, I guess.

    Thanks for writing a great blog, and happy travels!

  • I have been a southwest LUVer since I was a kid, and a cardmember for over 10 years now.  It’s pretty awesome when my biggest gripe against an airline is that it changed its drink coupon policy.  I still had a few of those conversation starter coupons without the expiration date on them, and a few flights ago, i was informed that all they’re good for now is making conversation with the unlucky guy in the middle seat.
    Speaking of southwest, do you know how to find out which routes their special planes fly?  I’ve flown southwest, about a zillion times, but I’ve only seen shamu and the rest from the gate.  Unlucky, I guess.
    Thanks for writing a great blog, and happy travels!

    • Thanks for reading the blog, Erica! I am relatively new to Southwest, so I have no idea about their special planes. The few trips I have flown on SW had regular 737s with WIFI on board. You might want to check the Southwest sub-forum on FlyerTalk to get more information on those special planes. Good luck and happy travels to you, too!

  • Lee H.

    I’d like to have some SW drink coupons.  My wife and I love traveling with SW domestically and are excited by the possibility of them expanding to Hawaii and Internationally with the Air-Tran acquisition.  We’ve had the Companion Pass for several years and it makes traveling SOOOO much more possible… except it took us almost 2 years to realize you can use the Companion Pass when using an Award Ticket, so we missed out on some additional free flights.  The awarding of drink coupons seems so much more random than before… my activity with them is about the same, but I’ve received less drink coupons, so I’ve now run out =*(

    • Lee H., thanks for sharing your Southwest experience! The coupons we are giving away came with our Southwest credit cards. Good luck!

      • Matterino1

        I currently have 54K southwest miles in my account so I am at 51% to receive companion pass.

        Got 50K miles from SW Personal Visa I opened in March 2012 and met spending requirements.

        Today 10.18.12 I had Marriott transfer 30k points for 10k southwest miles.

        I received my SW Business Visa today and spent $1200 ($800 remaining to spend to hit qualifier for 50k SW miles)

        Southwest website when I login to my account shows that miles applied to
        Companion pass expire on 12/31/12.

        My question:
        Should I hit the spend requirement now so I can have companion pass valid for NOV And DEC 2012 and all of 2013
        Is it possible for me to delay spend so that I can have companion pass for all of 2013 and 2014???

        Any insight or help with this is GREATLY appreciated.


        • Matterino1, unfortunately, you are already too deep into qualifying for the Companion Pass this year and don’t seem to have a choice at this point. 

          If you wait till next year to qualify for the Companion Pass by delaying your remaining $800 spend, then you will still be about 60,000 points short… Is there a way for you to get another 60,000 points transferred into Southwest in early 2013? If not, I’d have to stick to the plan of qualifying this year. Not ideal, but still better than nothing, right?

          • Matterino1

            Shoot. Your right.

            Looks like I am stuck getting the pass for just remaining months of 2012 and 2013.

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