Should You Try for the Southwest Companion Pass?

Maybe you've never heard of the Southwest Companion Pass. Maybe you've heard of it and thought it was just one of those incredible, unachievable travel perks that only business travelers ever get. Actually, the Southwest Companion Pass is at the apex of both quality and achievability.

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The basics of the Southwest Companion Pass are simple. If you hold a companion pass, you designate a companion, and then any fare you purchase (or book with miles) on Southwest comes with a free fare (on the same flight) for your companion.

Companions in rides, companions in life (but not currently Southwest companions)

Companions in rides, companions in life (but not currently Southwest companions)

How do you get the Southwest Companion Pass?

This article over on The Points Guy covers the Companion Pass well, including how to get it. The short of it, though, is that you need to come up with 110,000 qualifying Southwest points. These include points from the signup for Chase's co-branded Southwest Cards.

Is the Southwest Companion Pass Good for Disney Travelers?

Southwest flies to the major airports for domestic Disney destinations: MCO (Orlando), SNA (Orange County) and LAX (Los Angeles). This at the very least means Southwest is worth knowing as a Disney traveler. However, the other half of the equation is whether Southwest flies to your home airport (or a local one). I prefer to fly our of ORD in Chicago (no Southwest), but Southwest flies out of MDW.

No Southwest flights out of ORD!

No Southwest flights out of ORD!

If you fly with more than one companion, the Companion Pass might not be so valuable. A family of four, for example, still has to pay for 3 fares. Southwest is generally low-cost, but often not the best option.

Finally, how much value can you get out of the Companion Pass as a Disney traveler? Over the course of a year, if you took four Disney trips, you might save about $800. That's significant savings, but maybe not so much in the overall scheme of things. On the plus side, you'll have those 110,000 Southwest points to spend (you don't have to lose them to get the Companion Pass). On the downside, you could have got 110,000 other points that might put you in a better position than having 110,000 Southwest points even with the Companion Pass.

Anything Else to Consider?

Of course. If you're planning to get your points through credit card signups, you'll spend a lot of "capital" to get 110,000 points. With "capital," I'm referring to the fact that your spending only allows you to get so many sign up bonuses in a year. Moreover, you can only get most sign-up bonuses every two years, and with Chase's 5/24 rule you won't be able to get most Chase cards if you've opened 5 accounts in 24 months. So employing a strategy that requires two cards and $5,000 of spending can really limit your opportunities going forward, and you're left with 110,000 Southwest points instead of 110,000 of some more flexible currency.

Concluding Thoughts

It's hard to identify exactly whom I would recommend the companion pass for, but it would require (1) that Southwest fly to your home airport and (2) that you have no significant travel goals other than Southwest flights in the next two years. Beyond that, it would be preferable that you be well short of Chase's 5/24 rule. Generally, you'd be on the safe side to focus on more flexible rewards and, if you want to save money on flights, considering the other low-cost carriers.

(Update: Upon Arriving has weighed in on this issue as well. Worth a read.)