Southwest extends status & companion pass, will let some vouchers convert to points


Literally while Greg and I were live and answering a viewer who asked “What gives?” with Southwest not having announced an extension on the Companion Pass and elite status, Southwest was busy doing just that. Today, they have announced that they are extending Companion Passes due to expire this year, they are extending elite status, they are extending the validity of some travel vouchers, ad they will be allowing travel vouchers to be converted to Rapid Rewards points, though the details on that last part are still murky. I’m actually very much underwhelmed here and at least kind of disappointed. I’m not sure how Southwest could have reasonably done much better, but I think their announcement here is less generous than we’ve come to expect. Note that all of this will take time to implement technologically. Don’t expect any of it to be done until at least a few weeks from now.

Companion Pass extension

Southwest has announced a Companion Pass extension today. Those who have a Companion Pass that expires at the end of this year are getting six additional months: Those whose Companion Pass benefits was set to expire on December 31, 2020, will now have a Companion Pass through June 30, 2021.

I guess that’s fairish. On the one hand, Companion Pass holders theoretically had all of January and basically all of February to use their Companion Pass before the COVID-19 pandemic really took off in the US and shut things down. If you view it that way and you figure that travel will then return to “normal” by August, they are essentially giving you back the six months you lost. If travel resumes sooner, you come out a couple months ahead.

That said, we know that nothing will be “normal” right away. Will people be using their Companion Pass the way they intended by August or September? It’s doubtful.

I think the biggest issue here is that summertime is obviously the most popular time to travel and I feel like those who had a Companion Pass this year are likely to miss out on most of this summer as things trickle back towards normal and will now have a Companion Pass that expires right as summer kicks into gear next year. At the same time, it probably wasn’t reasonable to expect Southwest to extend the Companion Pass by a full year at this early juncture when it’s possible that travel will resemble normal at some point this summer.

Essentially, my opinion is that this is OK. It’s not a bad outcome and makes some effort toward a customer-friendly solution.

On the other hand, for those who earned a Companion Pass already this year or who will now soon have one based on how Southwest is shortening the path to a Companion Pass this year, today’s announcement didn’t offer much. This time being lost from what would have been a nearly-two-year Companion Pass isn’t made up with today’s announcement. Again, that’s not totally surprising; I wouldn’t have expected an announcement today that extended a Companion Pass that ends in December 2021 into the year 2022. I imagine that those who already earned the pass will be marginally disappointed not to receive anything from Southwest though.

At the end of the day most folks who have already earned the Companion Pass likely did so via credit cards and are getting a pretty sweet deal that way even if they only use it for 12-15 months, so maybe expecting anything was expecting too much.

Elite status extension

Southwest has also extended elite status as follows:

For A-List and A-List Preferred Members who earned A-List or A-List Preferred status through December 31, 2020 and not through any type of promotion, we are extending your current earned status through December 31, 2021.

  • For Members enrolled in a promotion granting promotional A-List status or challenging a Member to extend promotional A-List status such as Status Match, Tier Challenge, Tier Experience, or a Corporate Status Challenge and who met the flight requirements by the promotion end date, we are extending your current promotional status through December 31, 2021. However, for Members enrolled in any of the above promotions and who to date have not met the flight requirements, we are extending the deadline to meet the promotion’s flight requirements to October 30, 2020.

That’s all good news. The elite status extension is on par with what other airlines are doing and could have easily been expected. The extension to meet status challenge requirements by October 30th should give most folks plenty of time to meet those requirements, so that also seems more than fair.

Reduced path to Companion Pass and A-list status

Southwest also announced modified requirements for earning elite status and the Companion Pass this year. Rather than reducing the requirements, Southwest is essentially juicing accounts with credit toward status and the Companion Pass. Everyone will automatically get these things added to their status and CP counters:

  • 15,000 tier qualifying points (TQPs)
  • 10 qualifying one-way flight segments toward tier status
  • 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points (CPQPs)
  • 25 qualifying one-way flight segments toward Companion Pass

Everyone is essentially getting a boost toward requirements in the form of these things added to their respective counters (note that they aren’t actually giving you redeemable points, just points toward the requirements).

Here’s their chart explaining it visually –  the far right column is what you’ll need to earn this year:

As you can see, requirements are reduced by varying percentages depending on what you’re looking to earn. While you’ll need to earn 43% fewer points to earn A-list Status (20K vs the normal 35K), the requirement to earn A-list Preferred status is only being reduced by 21.4% (55K points needed this year vs 70K normally) or by 20% in terms of segments.

I’ll be honest: I’m not real impressed here. Sure, travel has only been totally shut down for a little over a month, but I’m fairly sure that most of us aren’t going anywhere at all for at least another month and most of us will be very slow to pick up normal travel for several months beyond that at least. Only reducing the requirements for top-tier status and the Companion Pass by about 20% when most people will effectively lose out on closer to half a year of earning potential seems like a weaker gesture that I’d expect out of Southwest.

For those of us who have already earned 100K points from credit card bonuses / credit card spend / referrals, this solution will be all we need, so some readers will surely make out pretty well here. And truthfully, I’m not sure how much more Southwest could have reduced Companion Pass requirements. If they reduced the requirement to 80K points this year, there would be a huge number of folks who opened a single credit card and are most of the way or all of the way there.

However, this is kind of disappointing for people who either:

  • Actually fly Southwest and count on earning he Companion Pass through flight activity (I imagine almost everyone’s travel will be reduced by more than 20-25% this year)
  • Opened a credit card under a welcome bonus of only 40-60K points

I’m surprised there wasn’t a better solution for the first group. I’d think that many of Southwest’s more loyal fliers will have a hard time getting to those higher tiers this year and might therefore choose not to chase after them at all.

The second group “loses out” in the sense that they’re kind of in limbo: do they open a second Southwest credit card to earn a Companion Pass that they won’t be able to use much this year, or do they throw in the towel and hope for generous bonuses at the end of this year that offer the chance to earn a 2021/2022 pass with a single credit card early next year?

Again, none of this solution is lousy, it just isn’t as good as I expected from Southwest.

Travel credits extended

Southwest is additionally extending the validity of credits due to expire or recently created as follows:

Funds that are set to expire or funds that are created between March 1, 2020 and September 7, 2020, will have an expiration date of September 7, 2022.

That’s a good solution: those whose credits were about to expire get another 2 years to use them and those who have credits created in the near future will also have about 2 years to use them.

Travel credits convertible to points?

Finally, a potentially interesting nugget in today’s announcement is that those same travel funds that are getting extended will be able to be converted into Rapid Rewards points “at the same rate you would be able to purchase a ticket with points today”. I assume this means whatever the points price for the same flight would have been.

We have added a new benefit for our valued Rapid Rewards Members. Those Members who have travel funds that are set to expire or funds that are created between March 1, 2020 and September 7, 2020 will have the option to convert those travel funds into Rapid Rewards points at the same rate you would be able to purchase a ticket with points today.

We don’t yet know for sure what the conversion rate will be and like everything else above it will take Southwest some time to work out the technology end of this, so we won’t yet know for at least a few weeks. This could be potentially interesting because:

  • Points don’t expire
  • Points can be used to book a flight in anyone’s name
  • Flights booked with points can be canceled up until 10 minutes before departure and returned to your account and once again will not expire

On the flip side, travel funds are typically tied to the traveler on the original reservation and expire within a certain time frame from ticketing. I’d almost certainly rather have points than a travel voucher, so this should make for a nice alternative for folks with travel vouchers, but we’ll have to hold off on judgment until we see just what the conversion ratio is. If it were generous, it would potentially create an opportunity to buy a ticket and cancel in order to convert cash to points (or potentially convert certain types of other rewards to Rapid Rewards points, like Altitude Reserve points for instance), but we’ll see how that pans out.

Bottom line

Overall, Southwest likely met general expectations today but fell a little short of their usual bar for service that goes above and beyond. Oddly, I think their most loyal fliers get a less than stellar deal, but credit card rewards enthusiasts likely come out OK even if not quite as good as they may have hoped. Personally, I’d have rather seen Southwest wait a bit on an announcement in the hopes of a slightly more generous solution, but this will do for many of us.

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[…] travel funds can now be converted to points. This planned functionality was announced a few months ago, but Southwest was slow in bringing it live. Thankfully, the conversion is now live on the website […]


New promo for Southwest cardholders: earn unlimited double TQP til the end of the year. Link here:

[…] potentially 9,000 points toward the pass on $3000 spend. It beats getting there at 1x. Given the reduced requirements for the Companion Pass, it could make sense for some who opened only one credit card to spend towards it with […]


Nick you ignorant slut, (SNL reference) you must not have any SW cards to pimp.
To be disappointed and blasé about the great customer service gesture shows your bias against SW, for some unknown reason. First of all they didn’t have to give anything, so this is a pleasant surprise. While other major airlines waffle on whether to give refunds or vouchers, SW and their refund policy needed no adjustment. Does your favorite airline waive bag fees for everyone?, didn’t think so. Did any of the other airlines make any great concessions during this time?….not really.
In my case our CP gets extended 6 months. For an unknown reason we were given a-list status for 6 months this year, so that will be extended a year and a half. We have used a companion pass with southwest for at least 6 years, all because of CC bonuses, so even though we don’t use them, I find it considerate to those that earn CP or A-List the hard way get a break with extra points/miles/segments. Consideration for the customer, like this, is why SW is superior to other airlines. I am not a fan of their planes or lack of non-stop service or out of the way routings to some cities, but their superior customer service more than makes up for it.
I really don’t know what you expected, IMO the other airlines are doing the bare minimum, I’m still waiting for AA to redeposit my points on the last trip we cancelled with them….living in DFW we don’t use UA or DL, but I doubt they extended their customers status for a year and a half, their CP are basically coupons that I have never bothered paying to use. How many points/segments/miles are they giving to their customers, just because?
From the sounds of it they could be giving away free tickets and gold plated peanuts and you would still be unimpressed…..about like I am with your beloved Delta and their skypesos, or the great things Bonvoy has done to Marriott/starwoods…..those programs deserve to be considered with disappointment, not SW.


Most schools end the year in May these days .. not mid June


Thanks for the clarification…I guess I am the ignorant slut (heh heh). I do read a lot of boarding area and other travel blogs, so forgive me for thinking you were a Delta fan. I’m ok about the 6 month extension because I flew in Feb with them and depending on the situation should be back to flying domestically in July-Aug. Since we play a two player game I can always go for another CP near the end of the year or use the extension to let some more of my 5/24 fall off and get one next year…I’m sorry if I read it wrong but it seemed like you were very unimpressed with SW stepping up and doing something for their customers. I am a pessimistic skeptic when it comes to program changes from airlines or hotels. I have learned not to get my hopes up, set low expectations so I am not disappointed when they cut benefits. It also allows me to be pleasantly surprised when a program does step up and do something positive. Your post came across as “meh” for SW efforts. It is like expecting all airline credit cards to refund their annual fees and when they offer to refund half a year, gripe it is not enough. I agree for a small group the extension is understandably disappointing, but for most I think it is a positive thing.
I have a suggestion for you: how about an article of where and when you will go when operations get back to normal….I am bored with no vacations to plan and only have a rough idea of how to get back to normal by next summer…our first trip will probably be to visit family, or better yet meet them in Fla. once the beaches reopen, maybe go see the national parks, places with room to spread out. Rural vacations seem the safest right now. I pretty much give up on going to Vegas, cruises, or international all-inclusives until a vaccine is developed….


Are LUV Vouchers for Mechanical issues also categorized as travel funds? I have 2 vouchers expiring in May, I applied for trip in March that I had to cancel due to COVID, CS stated that May expiration date still applies.

Joseph Giorgianni

I’m more than marginally disappointed. I earned the Companion Pass early this year. Used it last month and had planned to use it 4th of July weekend and then in September. I imagine I won’t be flying in the next six months so that’s all lost to me.


After reading the details and example of how the new/ extended Travel Funds expiration dates will work (see: RRcoronavirusupdates), I’ll most likely take points because you potentially do yourself a disservice under this scenario: IF you use the travel funds (after they are extended to Sept 2022 expiration), but then cancel that flight thereby being refunded those travel funds back, those “returned” travel funds will now expire one year from booked date and NOT the Sept2022 expiration date, thereby shortening the length of time you get to use those funds, perhaps even by a year! For example: IF I use funds in Aug2020, cancel in Oct2020, those funds will expire Aug2021, not Sept2022, so I “lose” one year of the extension. So, be sure IF you use Travel Funds (after the date gets extended to Sept2022) that you WILL complete that flight or be able to reuse the funds returned within one year from booking that flight.

This is from the SWA site:
“It’s important to note, while these unused travel funds will be available until September 7, 2022, once the funds are used to make a purchase, the expiration date of the travel funds will then follow our normal ticketing rules and will expire 12 months from the date of purchase.“

So… as the saying goes: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.

I certainly appreciate that Southwest will be extending my Travel Funds that are expiring next month, but with the uncertainty surrounding future travel, I value the flexibility of cancelling points reservations and not worrying about those points expiring.

Ed M

The advantages of points over travel funds have already been well documented, so I’ll just mention here the three-pronged advantage of travel funds over points. And that is: using travel funds to purchase a ticket earns additional points, which leads to:
(1) additional points to redeem for future travel
(2) additional points that count toward A-List status
(3) additional points that count toward Companion Pass

As an addendum to (2) and (3), for folks trying to achieve A-List or Companion Pass via number of flights (normally 25 flights and 100 flights, respectively, but 15 and 75 for this year), tickets purchased with points do not increment your flights tally, but tickets purchased with travel funds do.

So I think the conclusion is: if you think that by 9/7/2022, you’re fairly sure that you can use up all of your travel funds that are set to expire (or are newly created) in the 3/1/2020-9/7/2020 window, then you’re better off keeping them as travel funds. If you don’t think you can use up those travel funds by 9/7/2022, then convert the portion that you can’t use up into points, but keep the rest as travel funds.


I think it would be $.014 per 1 mile, unless they changed their conversation scale recently. Still don’t see much of a downside to having points vs. vouchers.




So, my understanding is that if I booked some Southwest flights in January to get the Amex annual airline credit, cancelled them shortly thereafter to get travel funds which expire in January of 21, then I will basically get no extension whatsoever despite having been essentially unable to use the funds for at the very least 3-4 months?


My guess/hope is that you could buy new flight(s) with those funds and then cancel before Sep 7, 2020, making new travel funds “created between March 1, 2020 and September 7, 2020” that will then change to the Sep 2022 expiration. The good thing is that we have a few months to try some techniques to see what will work with their IT. So far my funds due to expire in June have yet to be updated to a new date.


Fantastic timing as I’m just shy of 100,000 CP-qualifying points and now don’t have to spend quarantine earning them 3 at a time trying to fill out surveys. I can see how it seems lackluster if you’ve already earned a pass, though.