Is the Southwest Companion Pass still worth it in 2022?


I have for years called the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass the hands-down best deal in domestic travel, but is that still true in 2022?

Getting two passengers for the price of one every time you fly, whether on a paid ticket or award ticket, even when the primary passenger’s ticket is paid for with someone else’s miles, has long been a no-brainer massive value for anyone who can accept Southwest’s boarding process / lack of assigned seats, but is that still true now? For the first time since the middle of last decade, my family doesn’t have a Companion Pass in 2022 as I decided not to pursue one last last year. Was that a mistake?

Given what I expect will be increased domestic travel for many readers in 2022,  I wanted to revisit my 2020 comparison and my 2021 comparison to answer the question, “Is the Southwest Companion Pass still worth it in 2022?”. The answer is yes – at least on paper. Your answer may certainly be different.

Forget value, the timing may not make any sense

The primary focus of this post is the comparative value of the Southwest Companion Pass as opposed to booking award flights on the other major US carriers. While international travel certainly hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels, domestic travel continues to be on the rise and continues to be a preferable choice for many unwilling to risk quarantine or changing entry requirements abroad.

The decision about whether a Companion Pass makes sense for you starts with how much you’ll use it. For the latter half of the last decade, we used our Companion Pass many times each year, getting tons of value out of it. Unfortunately, the past two years were a different story; we also had a Companion Pass in my household during 2020 and 2021 and we didn’t get to use it a single time thanks to the pandemic. Despite any calculation within this post, keep in mind that the true value of the Companion Pass to you depends on how much you can use it.

But even if you would use it multiple times, is a Southwest Companion Pass worth it compared to your other award flight booking options? Assuming you’re booking for two passengers, it can probably save you some miles in most instances, but the margin may not move the needle for everyone.

Advantages of Southwest (diminished)

From the outset, Southwest has some advantages that make it attractive as compared to American, Delta, and United. Flexibility is one of the things I value most highly in my travel plans and Southwest offers the ultimate flexibility: award tickets can be cancelled up to about 10 minutes before departure for no penalty (I think the closest I’ve ever actually cut this is about 30 minutes before). If you book an award ticket, that means you can cancel up to shortly before departure and immediately get your points back and request a refund of the taxes to your credit card (though you do need to specify that you’d like a refund of the taxes rather than having them held as a credit for future travel). If you booked a cash ticket, you can similarly cancel up until just before departure and you’ll get a credit that is valid for a year from the date of booking.

That used to make Southwest really stand out because in past years you would have needed elite status with the other major carriers to get that kind of flexibility. However, COVID-19 has changed things on that front, with many airlines eliminating change and cancellation fees. You can (at least in many cases) get similar flexibility with the major carriers, so Southwest’s competitive advantage has been eroded from that perspective.

Still, one particular advantage of the Companion Pass benefit is that it works on both paid and award tickets. This means that you can add your companion for just the taxes (usually $5.60 one-way within the US, more for international destinations) whether you paid for your ticket on your credit card, you used your Rapid Rewards points, your company bought your ticket, or great aunt Suzy used her Rapid Rewards points to buy your ticket. That’s been a nice deal in two-player mode since you could use the companion’s rapid rewards points to book a ticket for the primary traveler and then add the companion for free.

Another advantage that could be huge for those who pack heavy is that Southwest includes two free checked bags per passenger. While you might be able to get one free checked bag by having the right credit card with the other airlines, you’ll always get two with Southwest. You’ll also always get a free carry-on — there is no basic economy.

A final strength of the Companion Pass in terms of award travel has long been that it is possible to get a great deal when planning far in advance. While the major loyalty programs traditionally charged 12,500 miles each way for a domestic economy class ticket, Southwest has long had a more revenue-based program. This has meant that I have scored tickets to fly across the country more than once for fewer than 10,000 points one way. With the Companion Pass, that is less than 5,000 points per passenger. For a transcontinental flight, that was a steal for many years.

Pressure from the big guys

However, what was long a steal just isn’t as obvious anymore. The domestic award travel landscape has changed pretty dramatically over the past couple of years (even before the COVID-19 pandemic), thanks to the following four things:

  1. It is possible to book United domestic awards via Turkish Miles & Smiles for 7.5K each way
  2. American Airlines has gone to dynamic pricing with frequent web specials from 5K each way
  3. Delta has continued dynamic pricing and increased the frequency of flash sales from 10K (or sometimes even less) round trip
  4. United has also gone to dynamic pricing, with some flights available for as few as 4K miles each way.

Each of these points comes with its caveats (Turkish can be hard to book, AA web specials are restrictive, Delta’s best prices are basic economy), but they are hard to ignore. While Southwest enthusiasts will rightly point to the fact that Southwest award tickets offer more predictable value compared to the cash price (whereas dynamic pricing on the other major carriers can be truly dynamic rather than always revenue-based), the fact is that there are now opportunities to book domestic awards for competitive rates on the major carriers and economy class availability can be decent on all three (though of course nearly nonexistent at peak travel times). Add in the fact that close-in travel with Southwest is likely to cost an exorbitant number of points whereas a domestic United saver flight is still the same 7,500 miles plus $5.60 through Turkish whether booked 3 months in advance or 3 days in advance (if you can successfully book it) and you have some argument to be made for the major carriers if you want to be able to plan or change flights close to the date of travel.

How useful you find AA’s economy web specials or the Turkish sweet spot will obviously depend on where you’re based and prefer to fly, but the bottom line is that Southwest no longer enjoys the huge advantage in terms of award cost that it once did.


As I said in the original version of this post in 2020, and in the follow-up in 2021, I am not a computer programmer, so I’m relying on old fashioned searches to compare one city pair at a time. However, I wanted to revisit my quick comparison to take a look at the value of the companion pass for travel for two people versus simply being diversified in terms of having points in various programs.

My methodology is unchanged: I searched from five airports – my “home” airport of Albany, NY (both because this comparison is useful for me personally and because it represents a smaller market that is served by all of the major carriers), New York City and Los Angeles because of the fact that they represent two major US markets that are kind of “hubs” for everyone, Chicago because it is both a major market and a hub for both Southwest and United, and Dallas as it is both a major market and a hub for both Southwest and American. I searched a random date a few months in advance for travel from these cities to three destinations: Orlando, San Francisco, and Omaha. I picked Orlando and San Francisco in order to have one major destination on each coast and I picked Omaha in order to have one additional destination somewhere in the middle of the country that is served by all the major carriers in order to represent domestic travel to/from a smaller or more mid-sized market.

My sample size here is admittedly tiny. I literally searched one date, I intentionally picked a weekday (since I figured I could count on the lowest saver award availability from the major programs) and I didn’t discriminate in terms of the desirability of connections or anything else. I simply wanted to see whether or not Southwest was still competitive considering dynamic pricing and the current travel landscape. My expectation as I wrote the original version of this post and once again now in 2022 was that Southwest might be better in some instances but likely not by much in those instances and that they would be behind in others.

Here are my results for one-way travel in total points for two passengers on the cheapest option with each carrier on a random weekday. Note that the Southwest price is the price for one passenger since the Companion Pass makes the second passenger cost 0 additional points whereas the other airlines all show the total price for 2 passengers.

I’ve bolded the cheapest option for two passengers in each instance and noted the margin by which the option was the cheapest. I included both basic economy and main cabin on Delta but used basic economy as the comparison point where relevant.

  1. Albany
    1. To Orlando
      1. American: 26K
      2. Delta: 10K basic / 14K Main
      3. Southwest: 7,828 (best by 2,172)
      4. United: 25K miles (or 15K via Turkish or 20K via LifeMiles)
    2. To San Francisco
      1. American: 43K (one day sooner would have been 18K)
      2. Delta: 21K basic / 24K main (best by 2,038)
      3. Southwest: 23,038
      4. United: 25K
    3. To Omaha
      1. American: 20K
      2. Delta: 19K basic / 23K main
      3. Southwest:  9,449 (best by 9,551)
      4. United: 25K (20K via Aeroplan)
  2. New York City
    1. To Orlando
      1. American: 15K
      2. Delta: 9K
      3. Southwest: 5,357 (best by 3,643)
      4. United: 11.6K
    2. To San Francisco
      1. American: 20K
      2. Delta: 12K basic / 16K main
      3. Southwest: 8,060 (best by 3,940)
      4. United: 12.2K
    3. To Omaha
      1. American: 12K
      2. Delta: 19K basic / 23K main
      3. Southwest: 8,137 (best by 3,863)
      4. United: 25K (or 15K via Turkish or 20K via LifeMiles)
  3. Chicago 
    1. To Orlando
      1. American: 22K
      2. Delta: 9K basic / 11K main
      3. Southwest: 6,129 (best by 2,871)
      4. United: 11K
    2. To San Francisco
      1. American: 25K
      2. Delta: 11K basic / 15K main
      3. Southwest: 8,060 (best by 2,940)
      4. United: 25K
    3. To Omaha
      1. American: 15K
      2. Delta: 9K basic / 12K main
      3. Southwest: 4,199 (best by 4,801)
      4. United: 12K
  4. Dallas
    1. To Orlando
      1. American: 28K
      2. Delta: 14K basic / 18K main
      3. Southwest: 6,515 (best by 7,485)
      4. United: 25K
    2. To San Francisco
      1. American: 23K
      2. Delta: 13K basic / 17K main
      3. Southwest: 6,515 (best by 5,085)
      4. United: 11.6K
    3. To Omaha
      1. American: 15K
      2. Delta: 13K basic / 17K main
      3. Southwest: 6,515 (best by 6,485)
      4. United: 25K (or 15K via Turkish or LifeMiles)
  5. Los Angeles
    1. To Orlando
      1. American: 13K
      2. Delta: 21K
      3. Southwest: 6,361 (best by 6,639)
      4. United: 25K
    2. To San Francisco
      1. American: 13K
      2. Delta: 9K basic / 10K main
      3. Southwest: 2,269 (best by 5,731)
      4. United: 8K
    3. To Omaha
      1. American: 17K
      2. Delta: 19K basic / 23K main
      3. Southwest: 9,990 (best by 5,010)
      4. United: 25K (or 15K via Turkish)

Note that the margins included here assume that you value points equally across programs, which certainly may not be the case for you.

The results surprised me yet again. Despite the fact that Southwest ran the table the first time I looked at this and again the second time around, I expected that things may have flattened out. This time around, Southwest got unseated on a single itinerary out of my sample searches, but it won 14 out of 15 searches.

Out of those 15 trips, on average a Southwest Companion Pass would save you 4,545 points over your next best option assuming that you are booking two passengers one-way.

What do the results of the above mean?

The results won’t be significant for everyone. Again, the sample size was pretty small. However, I still find it very intriguing that Southwest continues to come out on top in almost every situation. That certainly makes the Southwest Companion Pass appealing on the surface.

That said, the margin by which Southwest is the best option for two passengers on domestic itineraries is thinning. I believe it was on a podcast episode last year that Greg made the point that he found it more interesting to look at how many points the companion pass saves you. With an average savings of 4,545 points/miles over my (admittedly small and totally unscientific) sample size, a Companion Pass may not provide as much value as it seems on the surface. If you’ll use the pass a dozen times a year and save more than 50,000 total points/miles, that would certainly be significant enough to make the pass attractive. On the other hand, if you’ll use it two or three times per year, the potential savings may not move the needle enough. If flying Southwest creates additional compromises — like connecting when you could have flown nonstop or operating out of a less desirable airport — then I think you need to analyze your value closely to be sure you’re getting the deal that you’re imagining.

Keep in mind that timing is everything. The typical strategy of earning a Companion Pass for nearly two full years by timing out credit card applications and minimum spending requirements makes a lot of sense to me as it increases the length of time during which you can extract value. If you can earn a Companion Pass that is valid for nearly two years (See our Southwest Companion Pass Complete Guide for more detail), the additional time may add up to more significant savings.

In my case, the timing just didn’t make sense for me to pursue a pass this year. First of all, I knew that I wouldn’t likely be flying much during at least the first quarter of this year and more conservatively I thought I shouldn’t count on my family getting much value out of the pass for the first half of 2022. Further muddying the waters is the fact that, like many award travel enthusiasts, we find ourselves sitting with significant balances of points and miles thanks both to canceled travel and incredible credit card bonuses during the pandemic. I didn’t feel like I could leverage the potential savings often enough and in the event that I am wrong and we travel more than anticipated I have plenty of transferable points and miles as well as points in specific airline programs to correct for my error in judgment. I also have a growing supply of United Travel Bank credit and some expiring airline credits that need to get used more urgently, which means that this year Southwest may not be my first choice option.

On the flip side, I know that plenty of people have been enjoying the chance to explore domestic destinations and the Companion Pass still can be a fantastic value for a couple in 2-player mode who live in a city well-served by Southwest. While I didn’t go after a Companion Pass this year, I will still likely fly Southwest at least a couple of times because of a combination of convenience and preference. I still love Southwest and will likely go after a Companion Pass again in early 2023 for the 2023 and 2024 years.

Keep in mind when planning your strategy that each member is now limited to a single personal Southwest credit card every 24 months. It is however possible to get one personal card and one business card. On the business credit card side, the terms only preclude you from the bonus if you have had that particular card in the past 24 months.

Typically, the best time to apply is from late fall into early in the new year since it gives you the opportunity to meet minimum spending requirements (and therefore earn the new cardmember bonuses) early in the year, the purpose being to accumulate the necessary points as early as possible in order to have the Companion Pass for as long as possible (if you earned the new normal requirement of 125K points in January, you’d have the pass for nearly 2 years since it is valid for the rest of the calendar year in which it is earned and the entire following year when you earn it the traditional way via points earned). Keep in mind that you can fill the gap via purchases, via the shopping portal, via referrals, or via points earned from flying Southwest (See our Southwest Companion Pass Complete Guide for more in each of the above). Note that you do need to be under 5/24 to get approved for a new Southwest card — and if you’re starting from zero, you may be better off waiting until the end of 2021 to apply so that you can earn a pass early in 2022 that will be valid until the end of 2023. Again, timing is everything.

Bottom line

For the third year in a row, I ran a comparison for to see how the Southwest Companion Pass stacks up against the competition. I expected that it would not be a runaway winner for Southwest given dynamic pricing on all of the major carriers. However, my results surprised me yet again because yet again Southwest generally came in well below the competition in terms of pricing for two passengers on an award ticket if you have the Southwest Companion Pass. That said, the margin is thinning and may not be significant enough to make the pass as exciting as it once was. On the other hand, if you can leverage the pass with regularity and time it out to coincide with your use case, the Southwest Companion Pass can still save you a significant number of points in aggregate.

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Stanley Hoffman

You ignore the two free bags. If you add one bag for each passenger the value changes significantly. Also Delta Basic has no carry-on.


Nick, for “San Francisco” did you include OAK (and SJC), or just SFO?

I’m not surprised by the results of your comparisons, but my guess is that you would get different results if you took into account similar times of day and total travel times. In my recent experience (at least looking at cash prices from/to SFO/OAK), Southwest almost always has the cheapest flight each day but it’s either at like 5:30am or has a 5-hour layover somewhere. And then for similar flight times, I rarely find Southwest to be the cheapest. So many times I’ve allowed myself to get excited at a $59 fare on the 30-day calendar only to click through and find that it’s a 5:30am flight on a Sunday, and that any flight at a reasonably useful time is $250 or more 🙂

Midtown Mark

Overall SW is great until there’s weather or mechanical issues and you’re stuck. Secondly, the herd is pretty annoying, especially if you don’t want to stand in line. As much as I despise the other carriers, I do enjoy the convenience of being able to sit in the lounge, a few minutes before the flight closes, and not be worried about where I’m sitting.

Linda Murri

Thanks for this article. I’ve been feeling for a while that Southwest’s points/cost has gone up and the SW Companion pass isn’t as worthwhile as it once was. My companion pass just ended and I’m trying to decide when/if I should go for it again. Probably not for a few years.


Still worth it – BUT – biggest downer is that Frontier flies from more airports where we live to where we need to go and most of those flights are direct and at better times. I HATE that SW never has late or overnight flights which make them really inconvenient- need to take an extra day off work on either side for travel


I wish you had provided the lowest OOP cash fare of your city pairs, so that a person could calculate cpp value (or you could have done it) to see which program had the best value. I mean, we all know 1 mile/point does not equal $.01 from one program to another.

I’ve had a companion pass since 2014 thru cc sign up bonuses (that Ritz Carlton 140K back then – combine points, buy a Marriott travel package, and get a SW CP – was amazing) and plan to switch to my spouse getting one this year. As I make plans for domestic travel and I live near a SW hub, the flexibility of their program (especially the ease of getting lower fares without worrying about travel credits) makes it worth it to me.

Buzz W

This is my first time getting the full (non promo) CP. Southwest is strong out of San Diego so we should be able to take advantage of it. The biggest difference for me is I’m so used to being Elite (Gold on United and MVP Gold on Alaska) it’s a little strange being one of the herd. I’ll likely apply for a status match at some point but that’s a little tricky with Southwest.


Thanks for reconfirming my decision to go for the companion pass this year. The 80k and 60k business cards make it too easy, especially considering they don’t count towards 5/24.


We’re on year 5 with companion pass and it’s definitely losing luster for us. SLC has lots of connecting flights on WN but the new airport is a mile from curb to gate. Pricing is usually very similar for us for paid tickets. LA airport selection for nonstops is either expensive to SNA or inconveniently to LAX (we miss you LGB nonstops). And A-List isn’t that great a perk either, most flights we’re at the end of the A boarding group and have only once in the past year been as high as A22. My wife and I both have thought it’s time to drop loyalty and fly what’s the right option rather than sticking solely with WN.

Beth B

Nick, did you see the new referral offer for a companion pass through Feb 2023 and 30,000 points on the Southwest Cards? Didn’t know if you wrote this post because of that offer or it was just a coincidence on the timing.


Long time Companion Pass user here. Always plenty of points (to fly, not to qualify) as we transfer Ultimate Rewards from Chase bank cards.
SW provides a reliable, predictable product. Good legroom, no charge for seat selection and (we are in secondary city) no regional carriers.
Not a lot of recent domestic experience on other carriers, but if international experience is any indicator, SW flight attendants provide a more pleasant experience.
One data point on cancellation policy. 5 years ago, I had multiple bookings on flight home after birth of grandchild. I forgot to cancel a flight, but as it was an award booking and I was no show, points and fees automatically refunded. Has this policy changed?

Reno Joe

My goal is to pay for flights via points from credit card spend as opposed to points from paid flights. After reviewing the economics of SW time after time, it only made sense to my circumstances if and only if I were to have the Companion Pass. With its recent devaluation, SW will never be in the cards for me.


Nick… regarding eligibility to apply for a new card bonus… I opened my Business SWA card and personal card in Nov. I met the spend requirement in Jan for both.
When can I apply for those cards again? In Nov or Jan? (24 months down the road) And does the date that I close them have any bearing on when I can reapply for them?


Thanks! Very helpful


Believe it is 24 months after bonus. Close anytime before you apply for new card.

Physician assistant of credit

Are points from chase card refer a friend bonus still counting toward companion pass?


I can confirm that refer-a-friend 20,000 points counted on P2’s companion pass meter on 1/26/2022.


You can also change your companion within limits which is a nice feature