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The ACTUAL Rules For Changing Your Southwest Companion Pass

The blog world is like a big game of telephone.

I read the rules from someone, who got it from someone else, who got it… Well, you get the point.

I constantly read bad information about the Southwest Companion Pass, and it’s in the details. Today, I want to discuss one detail which is almost always a case of repeating bad information.

What’s commonly told is that you can get a companion pass for two years… which is true. Then it’s said that you can change the companion three times… which isn’t quite true.

The truth is that you can change your companion up to three times per calendar year.

 

Worse, I first understood this (before reading the T&C myself) to be that you could have 3 people. But now reading “change his/her designated Companion… up to three (3) times each calendar year”, it’s clear that the act of changing the companion is limited to 3 times.

Let’s discuss the details in how this would work. But first, if you aren’t familiar with Southwest, take a second to read up on one of the best credit card benefits ever. You can get 110,000 Southwest points, and a person can fly with you for free, even when redeeming points. Check out:

 

 

Changing Three Times

Changing three times means that you can have 4 different people.

Or it could mean that you have the same person twice. You could do a trip with your brother, then change it to your sister… then change it back to your brother. That would be two changes. Changing back still counts as a change.

 

Changes do not roll over. If you didn’t change your companion at all in 2016, you still “only” get 3 changes in 2016.

Because of this I recommend changing your companion before the new year. If you know you’re going to be flying next with someone who isn’t currently your companion and the end of the year is approaching, go ahead and change Dec 31.

 

You fly with the person who is currently your companion.

The person not only has to be your designated companion at the time of booking their ticket, but at the time of flying.

However, in general, you don’t have to worry about it because as long as there is a seat on the plane, you can get them a ticket. Let me explain.

 

Let’s say I want to fly with my brother as my companion in January, my sister in February, and my mom in March.

I’d book all three of my flights and wait to add them as a companion.

Even though I’d have different companions, I can worry about that later.

For example, I can add my brother as my companion now, and after our flight, change my companion to my sister and add her as a companion on a ticket. After the flight with my sister, same /same – I can then change my companion and book the next companion ticket.

Don’t worry, you can book the cheapest flights for yourself. And remember the points flights are fully refundable, you might as well book it for yourself. (With paid flights, refunds are issued as SouthWest credit.)

What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t matter if you book your flight at $100 and by the time you go to add the next person’s ticket the price goes up to $600. Doesn’t matter. As long as they are your companion and there is a seat available for the same flight you are on (regardless of price or price category), adding a companion will only cost the price of the taxes (which is ~$5.60 for domestic flights).

 

The only thing you would have to be worried about is the flight selling out, and personally I wouldn’t worry unless it’s a really tight change or a busy travel holiday. Even then I wouldn’t worry.

Ask my wife. I’ve added myself as the companion the day of the flight multiple times. Literally we arrived at the airport three times without myself having a ticket.

Seriously. Three times my wife had a ticket and myself (her companion) arrived an hour before the flight without a ticket. Now, that’s not advice! That was just laziness and being disorganized. If those flights were sold out I woulda been in big trouble.

However, one time I remembered two days before travel during a holiday and the first flight was fully booked when I remembered to check. We checked back obsessively and one seat opened up at an absurd price and I was able to book myself as a companion. Worked out.

 

Those are the time frames that are risky, and again, holidays. But the big risk is when the window is close enough that changing your ticket would be expensive.

See, Southwest usually raises their prices two or more weeks out. If you check before the price jacking, you could always change your flight for free. Remember changing a Southwest ticket is free, you just pay the difference in price. (Also, if the price goes down, you can change it and get a refund).

Thus, if your particular flight really is sold out by the time you go to add the companion, hopefully you can change to a different flight. Otherwise you do like us and check back and hope.

 

The actual terms and conditions:

The Member may, however, change his/her designated Companion and request issuance of a new Companion Pass card up to three (3) times each calendar year that the Member maintains Companion Pass status. Any reservation with the current Companion Pass would need to be cancelled before changing his/her designated Companion. Requests may be made by calling 1-800-435-9792. Allow 21 business days for processing and issuance of the Companion Pass card.

Well, here we have the details I’ve been referring to for three changes per calendar year, plus the phone number to do so.

Then it says allow 21 business days. In my limited experience, this isn’t true. You should perhaps allow 21 business days to get your new card, but the card doesn’t matter at all. You can do it all online. I believe my father-in-law booked a flight with a companion a few days after changing it.

 

Conclusion

Hopefully this is all you need to know about changing the companion ticket.

  • You can change three times per calendar year
  • You have to fly with your current companion
  • But you can book yourself now, then add a companion closer to the date of travel (as long as there is a seat)

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11 Comments

  1. very dissapointed with you Drew. Why have you not updated your stats page in over month and a half? I was really monitoring it for my personal inspiration

    Reply
  2. Drew I haven’t seen any post for a long time. I sure miss them!

    Reply
  3. The past 2 times I’ve changed my pass I was able to sign out and back in to my account and see the change immediately.

    Reply
  4. I think we all miss you. I know it’s not really our business but I would like an update as to why the post slowed down so dramatically. We are loyal readers after all. It seems like you wrote a post while you were in Belgrade that posts would slow for a week or 2 while you focused on some major project. Post have never been the same since then and no update on the project :( I miss my morning ritual of TiF.

    Reply
  5. “I’d book all three of my flights and wait to add them as my companion.”

    Actually, based on experience I think the very best thing to do is to just add your companion immediately. After each flight, call Southwest and have them switch your companion, and while you have them on the phone, have them also switch the booked companion to the new companion.

    This was crucial in at least one instance where my wife booked Companion 1 early even though she knew she’d actually be flying with Companion 2, but couldn’t switch until after the flight with Companion 1. By doing this, we effectively saved the seat for the flight, so that even after it sold out, Southwest could simply switch that one seat from Companion 1 to new Companion 2.

    Reply
  6. Drew, thank you SO much for this post. I am trying to get the companion pass this year and had questions about whether it’s 3 companions or 3 changes (i.e. 4 companions). You not only answered that but brought up the calendar year thing which I had no idea about and is a BIG deal.

    Reply
  7. While this post doesn’t help me personally, it’s wonderful to have you back.

    Reply
    • Ditto. I was just about to write a note to see if you guys are cool. Thinking of y’all, I am linking to some of your posts in coming weeks. Best info out there and I certainly can’t take the credit.

      Reply
  8. Okay, time to get back in the saddle and post more goodies or let us know what is going on…

    Reply
  9. Excellent post. Never seen anyone mention the “per year” fact before. Very helpful to know. Thanks

    Reply
  10. I have the CP and its set to expire Dec 31 2016. I am wondering if I can book any flights for 2017 so I can use my points and add my companion during 2016, before it expires?
    Also, if I close my southwest credit cards, what happens to the RR points I still have after Dec 31?

    Reply

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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