Southwest Extends – And Makes It Easier To Earn – Status And Companion Pass

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Southwest Airlines announced an extension of members’ elite status, Companion Pass benefits, and the validity of travel vouchers.

They’re also making it easier to earn elite status this year, as well as to earn a Companion Pass – the ability to take someone with you on your travels for just security taxes, whether you’re on a paid ticket or an award – valid through the end of 2021. You can even earn a Companion Pass from home when you’re not traveling.

Finally Southwest is extending the life of travel credits, in some cases giving up to an additional 2.5 years to use those credits.

Current Elite Status And Companion Pass Benefits Extended

Anyone with a Companion Pass valid through December 31, 2020 will have its validity extended six months, to June 30, 2021. The expectation here I think is that members did get a couple of months at the beginning of this year to use their benefits, and should be able to use them again later in the year. (And if they extended it a full year there’d be no incentive left to earn one for 2021..)

Meanwhile A-List and A-List Preferred members with elite status earned through December 31, 2020 will have their status extended a year, through December 31, 2021.

They’re also making an accommodation for people whose status was earned via a promotion (such as a status match; several times over the past year and a half they’ve offered 90 days of status and an accelerated path to keep status for a year for competitor elites and offer similar programs to corporate customers). Anyone with current status obtained via completing the requirements of one of these programs will also have their status extended through December 31, 2021 (even if it would have expired before that).

Anyone who is currently enrolled in a match or challenge promotion, and hasn’t yet completed its requirements to keep status, will have until October 30, 2020 to meet the requirements of the promotion. That generally means keeping status that long, as well, and then beyond if the requirements of the offer are met.

Status and Companion Pass extensions will take a few weeks to be reflected in member accounts.

Everyone Gets A Boost Towards Elite Status And Companion Pass

Southwest is reducing the qualification requirements for elite status this year, and also for earning a Companion Pass. Technically, rather than reducing the requirements, all members are being given 15,000 elite qualifying points; 10 flight segments; and 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 Companion Pass qualifying flights into their accounts.

That way someone who had, say, already earned 100,000 out of the 125,000 points required to earn a Companion Pass will already have done all that’s needed to earn one through the end of 2021.

  • A List Status which gets you priority boarding (great for picking the best seats) normally requires 25 flights or 35,000 points but this year will require just 15 flights or 20,000 points.

  • A List Preferred Status which comes with a 100% earning bonus and free wifi normally requires 50 flights or 70,000 points but this year will require 40 flights or 55,000 points.

  • Companion Pass normally requires earning 125,000 eligible points or 100 flights in a year but this year will require just 100,000 points or 75 flights.

What I like about the accelerated path to Companion Pass as a strategy is that it’s a great way to keeps members spending on the airline’s co-brand cards, and gives elites whose status has been extended a reason to stick with the airline (something to strive for) instead of becoming free agents without the need to re-qualify this year.

I earned my Companion Pass valid through the end of 2021 back in January. I earned it with a credit card initial bonus and a bunch of spend at the start of the year. However, while points transfers into Southwest don’t count, other activity like hotel bookings through their white-label Rocketmiles site do count.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card lets you earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. This $149 annual fee card provides a $75 travel credit with the airline each year; 20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies; and four upgraded boardings per year when available (when A1-15 boarding positions are offered at the gate, buy it and you’ll receive a statement credit for the charge).

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card lets you earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. You earn 3,000 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary, a nice incentive to keep the card.

Travel Credits Extended

Travel funds that had an expiration date – or with creation dates – March 1 through September 7, 2020 will have an expiration date of September 7, 2022. In some cases that means an extension of up to 2.5 years to use travel credits.

Southwest explains,

This gives Customers who had travel funds created in connection with this pandemic—or who won’t be comfortable traveling this summer—additional time to retake that same trip or explore a different destination.

However once travel funds are used to make a purchase, the expiration date of the travel funds will then follow normal ticketing rules and expire 12 months from the date of purchase.

The extension of travel funds “will take..a few days” to process.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

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  1. Any chance you know if the Southwest travel funds to point conversion option will be at a constant rate?

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