Southwest Airlines is making some changes to its Rapid Rewards program, largely affecting the Companion Pass.
These changes will take place at the beginning of next year, according to an email Rapid Rewards members received from the Dallas-based carrier Friday.
Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming Companion Pass changes.
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Southwest Companion Pass changes
Southwest’s Companion Pass is a highly intriguing option for travelers who frequently fly with a partner. The pass allows you to bring your traveling partner along at no cost, on as many flights as you’d like as long as the pass is valid.
You can earn a Companion Pass through a couple of different avenues, including earning a steep number of Rapid Rewards points within a year’s time, or through the welcome offer associated with some Southwest cobranded credit cards.
There are some tweaks to the policy for next 2023, though.
Earning requirements changing
Starting on Jan. 1, 2023, Southwest is raising the qualifying benchmark for the Companion Pass from 125,000 points to 135,000 points.
Rapid Rewards members will also be able to earn the Companion Pass by flying at least 100 qualifying flights with Southwest.
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When it comes to the 135,000 points, though, remember that earning through air travel is only one of the ways you can work your way toward the threshold. Spending with Southwest partners – like on the airline’s shopping portal – or spending on a cobranded credit card can boost your progress toward earning the pass.
There is one piece of good news, though: While Southwest is raising the qualifying benchmark for the Companion Pass by 10,000 points, cobranded credit card holders will get a 10,000-point boost either at the beginning of the year (for existing cardholders) or within 30 days of opening an account (for new members).
It’s worth noting that Southwest last raised the Companion Pass requirements from 110,000 points to 125,000 points in 2019.
New boarding rules
Another change to the Companion Pass rules taking effect at the start of the new year should be good news: Companion Pass holders and their companions can now board together.
This should make it easier to find a place to sit without worrying about saving a seat (or at least attempting to) while the companion waits to board.
There are a couple of exceptions to this allowance: Companions won’t be allowed to board with the passholder if the passholder purchased a Business Select fare or upgraded boarding, or if the companion was added after they were already assigned a boarding position.
Again, this starts on Jan. 1, 2023.
Related: Everything you need to know about the best seats on Southwest Airlines
More ways to redeem Southwest points
Southwest also teased that members will be getting new ways to earn and redeem Rapid Rewards points starting in 2023, though the carrier did not specify what those avenues would be.
It will be interesting to see what these new earning and redemption options are. We could see new partnerships, revamped credit cards or other large changes to the program. That said, we’re hopeful that this doesn’t come as a devaluation to the program, as we’ve seen with other airline loyalty programs over the past two years.
Of course, TPG will be watching to see what other changes might be coming to the Rapid Rewards program.
Related: Your complete guide to maximizing Southwest Rapid Rewards
Southwest’s changes to its Rapid Rewards program for 2023 are a bit of a mixed bag for members: While the threshold for earning the Companion Pass is getting steeper, those with cobranded credit cards will immediately see the difference made up. Further, the boarding process should generally get a bit simpler for those using a Companion Pass.