Southwest Airlines had previously extended Companion Passes set to expire on 12/31/20 (earned in 2019) to June 30, 2021. Today they have notified those passholders that they have again extended their companion passes to expire on 12/31/21. There has still been no extension for those who earned a companion pass in 2020 (those passes are also still scheduled to expire 12/31/21).
Again, this affects those who earned a Companion Pass in 2019. Those passes were originally scheduled to expire 12/31/20. Last April, Southwest announced that they were extending those passes until June 30, 2021. At the time, I called it “fairish”, saying that those who had earned their pass in 2019 had only had a month or two of 2020 travel before the pandemic shut things down, though at the time I think most of us expected that travel would resume at some point in 2020. My main critique at the time was that those Companion Pass holders would essentially be unable to use their pass for peak summer travel since they likely wouldn’t have been traveling during summer of 2020 and would only get the pass through the end of June 2021, missing out on July and August of 2021. Looking at it through that lens, I am glad to see the pass extended through the end of 2021.
On the other hand, those folks who earned a Companion Pass during 2020 have come up short on these extensions yet again since they have not gotten any replacement for 2020. To be clear, the pandemic isn’t Southwest’s fault. And from the airline’s perspective, a “normal” companion pass holder would have likely earned the pass late in 2020 and would have therefore only missed out on a couple of weeks of companion pass travel so far in 2021. Of course the issue here is that many readers will have earned the Companion Pass in very early 2020 expecting to get nearly two years of Companion Pass travel and thus far they have likely lost an entire year or so. Those whose Companion Pass was already scheduled to expire on 12/31/21 have not yet seen any extension. That continues to be disappointing.
Still, while I share in the disappointment about the lack of extension for those who earned the pass in early 2020, I’m not surprised that Southwest hasn’t yet extended those passes. My take all along has been that the airline didn’t design the pass for people who figure out how to time out credit card applications but rather to incentivize frequent travelers to choose Southwest over another airline. To that end, the pass’s target customer (likely a business traveler who typically earns their 125,000th point in November or December) hasn’t missed out much yet on a pass scheduled to expire on 12/31/21. I expect that will likely change as travel continues to be low and the pandemic continues to disrupt plans. At this point, it is hard to imagine travel recovering during the first half of 2021 and I could therefore imagine an extension coming at some point for those whose pass is scheduled to expire on 12/31/21. While Southwest obviously isn’t obligated to extend anything, I’ll be surprised if they don’t make a customer-friendly move. Unfortunately, based on precedent so far, I don’t expect to see any further extension announcement for at least the next several months. Hopefully they prove me wrong.
Overall, good news for those whose pass was going to expire in June 2021 as they will get an additional 6 months of potential travel — and hopefully they’ll be able to use it.
H/T: Doctor of Credit