There are so many companion passes, companion tickets, companion vouchers, and what not that come from credit card perks, or just passive perks in a program. Many of them are very different and I wanted to take a minute to explain the different companion ticket options.
I’ll be looking at the companion tickets and passes offered by Malaysia, Air Berlin, Alaska, Us Airways, Lufthansa and British Airways. Some are passive perks built into the mileage programs, and some are vouchers with the credit card. Here’s what you need to know.
General Rules for “Companion Tickets”
- Companion does not earn miles
- You have to fly on the airline itself and it doesn’t work for partner airlines
- You have to call to book
I think the most important point here is that the companion does not earn miles for the flying and the first person, if on a paid ticket, will earn miles.
US Airways “Companion Certificate”
- Earned every year with the credit card
- Buy a $250 ticket, get a second (and third) ticket for $99 (plus tax + fees)
- Roundtrip within the lower 48 states or Canada on US Airways
- Economy or Business Class
- Up to two companions
- Must be flying on the same route
- Companion pass every year
I don’t think people realize the real cost of this companion ticket, but it does work for business class. So if you would pay for business class anyways, it’s a heck of a deal for the second person. But for an economy flyer like myself, since the card is only good for the lower 48, I have never used it over Southwest points, Avios, or another method. Add up the real cost with me for a second.
- $99 for the ticket
- $89 for the annual credit card fee (not waived the first year)
- + the difference of a cheaper airline
The first person has to pay $250 and fly with US Air. So there is a slight chance that the person who already has the card paid the $89 annual fee would be willing to take a US Airways flight that is say $350 instead of $300 with United, or any other competitor.
I’m definitely not saying that it can’t be a good deal, after all, you probably got the credit card for the 50,000 miles, but I am saying that I would not keep the card for this benefit. Get the 50,000 miles and use the companion ticket if you can.
Although, this companion ticket is unique in that it allows 2 companions. They would each have to pay $99, but for a ticket across the country (or into Alaska) that would otherwise be expensive, or for an expensive business class ticket… this could be especially valuable for a family traveling together.
Alaska Airlines “Companion Fare”
- Companion ticket for $99 (plus taxes) on paid ticket
- Earned from the credit card every year
Alaska’s companion ticket is very similar to US Airways’. It is earned from the credit card every year, which does not waive its $75 annual fee the first year. And the first person buys a ticket in full and the second person gets the same ticket for $99 + ~$22 in fees (they estimate).
Unlike the US Airways version though, you can not use your companion fare for anything but economy. This limits the value. They actually give you a code to plug in and buy online. Travel With Grant has a very detailed step by step post on How To Use The Alaska Airlines Companion Fare.
British Airways “Companion Voucher”
- Every year you spend $30,000 on your credit card (in a single calendar year).
- Good for award tickets and revenue tickets on British Airways
- Good for all classes
- British Airways has massive fuel surcharges for companion
- Travel must originate in the US
This is a big perk for some First Class flyers who are totally willing to drop ~150,000 miles and ~$2,400+ on two first class tickets. That is more than double the price we paid for 5 international economy tickets, all on cash and without miles. Actually, earning miles on all but 1.
Still, if you have this kind of money, it’s about the only good use of the companion pass because of the high fees. It works for both paid and points tickets, but the fuel surcharges (always over $516) get passed on. It would be better if it worked on intra-Europe flights, but it only works on flights starting in the US. Thus, people shell out the miles for a first class ticket, even though it jacks up the fuel surcharges to ~$1,200 per person, and the first person pays the inflated Avios price for First Class. I don’t get it.
Unlike the other cards which give the benefit based on the annual date of which they got the card, British Airways gives the Companion Voucher for each calendar year you spend $30,000 on the card.
Lufthansa “Companion Ticket”
- Companion on paid economy ticket
- “Booking class: both revenue and companion ticket must be booked in ‘H’ Class or higher (booking classes G, E, N are not eligible)”
- “ticket must be for travel departing from the U.S. to Europe/Middle East/Africa and Far East”
- Valid only on Lufthansa flights
Speaking of really bad deals, here is the companion ticket that I actually can’t find a good use for, no matter what your budget is. It’s absurd, and I don’t know why I’m going to bother explaining. Guess I’ll keep it short.
Buy a full fare economy ticket (“H class or higher”) and get the second person with just the fuel surcharges and fees. Despite Miles and More including more than Lufthansa, this companion ticket is only good on Lufthansa flights, and boy do they have some large fuel surcharges.
My quick summary is that you’ll pay double the price of the first ticket in “H” class+ instead of a discount economy. AND you’re still paying more than half of the second ticket in fuel surcharges. I can’t make sense of the deal. But, I’ll give a quick tip if you want to check prices anyways.
To find a valid full fare economy ticket, put this string of code in ITA Matrix’s advanced routing rules.
lh+ / f bc=h|bc=m|bc=b|bc=y
(Does this code work for others with flexible dates?)
MMS has a different way of finding the booking class code on Lufthansa’s website, found here.
Southwest Companion Pass
- Earn 110,000 Southwest Points earned within a calendar year (including credit cards) and get the Companion Pass
- Companion Pass lasts through out the end of the current calendar year, and through the next calendar year
- The account holder designates a person that can fly with them for free (plus airport taxes) for the duration of the Companion Pass
I’ve written about the Southwest Companion Pass here, and don’t need to beat this drum too much. But it is obviously the best Companion Pass for a number of reasons. It doesn’t cost money to use it, the second person costs no extra miles, and it lasts for as much as two years.
Air Berlin TopBonus Miles’ Companion Ticket
- Get 50% off a second economy ticket
- Available all the time to any members
Air Berlin is a little different as it gives the second economy ticket at a 50% discount. But this is only for award tickets, and it works for international flights. Pretty simple. The first person pays the full mileage price (plus taxes) and the second person pays 50% of the first person (plus the same taxes). Unfortunately the only transfer partner to Air Berlin topbonus miles is SPG, which is a very valuable set of points to give up.
Malaysia Miles “Companion Travel” prices
- A second person at 1/3 of the price for a business and first class award
I’m not too sure how to sum this up, but I’ll give my best shot: Use your Malaysia Enrich Miles for a business or first class flight on Malaysia Airlines, the second person’s ticket is 1/3 price. Of course, the taxes/fees are the same for each. Raffles (from Head For Points) pointed out to me the value of a business class ticket from Europe to Australia, it’s actually pretty reasonable, but especially so with a companion ticket. However, the prices are quite odd, so check them out here. Malaysia is a transfer partner of Citi Thank You now.
Different companion passes/tickets meet different needs.
Alaska and US Airways can be a good deal for people already booking expensive tickets. British Airways companion ticket is mostly for dopes with too much money, aka, people who want to try BA First Class at a pretty penny.
Air Berlin’s is just maximizing value for economy tickets, and Malaysia’s is maximizing value for Business class. Both good uses if you’d be booking those tickets anyways for two.
The Southwest Companion Pass is simply an awesome deal. And the Lufthansa one is simply an awful deal.
I hope this explains both how all the companion tickets/passes are different and how they work so you can determine if one is a good deal for you.