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How to Score Companion Passes to Get Free Flights — and Which Airlines Offer Them

How to Score Companion Passes to Get Free Flights — and Which Airlines Offer Them

This tool is one of the best ways to score a free flight. Here’s how to use it effectively.

<p>Stephen M. Keller/ Courtesy of Southwest Airlines</p>
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Stephen M. Keller / Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

If you’re a frequent flyer—or if you live in a Southwest Airlines hub—you’ve probably heard the term “companion aisle” a few times. After all, a companion pass is exactly what it sounds like: a certificate that lets you bring a friend on a flight (mostly) for free. Of course, there’s also the fine print that severely limits the power of a companion pass, so free long-haul business class tickets are rare. But you can actually get a free or heavily discounted plane ticket with a companion pass, usually in economy class.

In short, companion tickets are two-for-one deals, although their use is often limited by ticket class and route, and you’ll still have to pay taxes and fees. You must also be on the same reservation as your companion.

The most famous companion pass is probably the Southwest Companion Pass, as it is the only one that can be reused for at least one year. The rest of the attendant swoons, there are once-a-year perks for co-branded airline credit cards; their redemption value can often cover the card’s annual fee.

Here’s everything you need to know about major airline passes.

Southwest Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass is the airline’s highest status reserved for frequent flyers. Once they earn status, a passenger can designate one person to join them on each flight for free, though they are still charged taxes and fees, which start at $5.60. To earn the pass, you’ll need to fly 100 Southwest flights or earn 35,000 Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year — whenever you cross the threshold, you’ll earn Companion Pass status for the rest of the calendar year and next year.

Rapid Rewards points can be earned on Southwest airline tickets, partner hotel and rental car reservations, use of a Rapid Rewards co-branded credit card, purchases made through the Rapid Rewards shopping portal and dining at eligible restaurants. Keep in mind that Rapid Rewards credit card sign-up bonuses count toward status, so that’s one way to jump-start your Southwest Companion Pass journey.

Famous Companion Fare

This is not a true companion pass, but a companion discount. Passengers with the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card or Alaska Airlines Visa Business Credit Card receive a one-time code on each card anniversary that allows them to purchase a round-trip economy ticket for a companion for $99 plus taxes and fees. Existing cardholders have no spending requirement to earn the companion card, but new cardholders will need to spend at least $6,000 per year to earn it.

American Airlines Companion Certificate

Like Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare, American Airlines’ Companion Certificate is also a companion discount. Travelers with the following credit cards are eligible for the certificate after spending $20,000 or $30,000 in a calendar year, depending on the card: AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard; AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard; AAdvantage Aviator World Elite Business Mastercard; or CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard. The certificate is redeemable for $99 plus taxes and fees for one round-trip economy class ticket in the continental US. However, residents of Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands can use it on a return flight from their home airport to a destination in the continental US

British Airways Travel Together ticket

A true companion ticket, this ticket can be earned by British Airways Visa Signature Credit Cardholders who spend $30,000 in a calendar year. The ticket is valid for all classes — even business class — on return flights originating in the United States. Like all companion passes, you have to pay taxes and fees, as well as chargers, and British Airways mentions in the fine print how expensive this can be: “For a peak round-trip flight from Los Angeles to London, it can be $651.33 in economy (World Traveler) and $1,984.57 in Business (Club World).” Plus, you still get a big discount, as a standard airline ticket would also include those costs.

Delta Companion Certificate

Four credit cards issue Delta companion certificates on each card anniversary: ​​Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express and Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express, plus their corporate counterparts. The Platinum Companion Certificate can be used on one round trip within the continental US in Economy Class, while the Reserve Companion Certificate can be used in both Comfort+ and First Class. Although you’ll still have to pay taxes and fees, Delta caps the total at $75. However, availability may be limited, as companion certificates can only be used in certain ticket classes.

Hawaiian Airlines Companion Discount

Holders of the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard or Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Business Mastercard receive a one-time discount code for 50 percent off a roundtrip economy flight between Hawaii and North America during the first year of card membership. On each card anniversary thereafter, cardholders receive $100 off one connecting flight per year between Hawaii and the continental US in economy.

Lufthansa Companion ticket

After making one purchase with their card in their first year of ownership, Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard holders receive a companion economy class pass for a return flight from the US to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, or Asia on Lufthansa. It can only be used on certain fare classes and passengers are still responsible for paying taxes and fees. After that, on each card anniversary, cardholders receive another companion card.

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