If you’re a frequent flyer, consider signing up for a loyalty program! There are various options from different airlines so it’s important to do a little research before choosing which one to join. Finding the perfect fit can be dependent on factors like elite status and perks.
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In this guide, we’ll go over the Southwest Airlines elite status program, briefly cover Southwest’s Companion Pass and their values, so you can decide if it’s worth it to join.
Southwest Airlines Elite Status & Companion Pass Overview
If you tend to fly with Southwest Airlines often, or you travel with one of their partners often, then you will be able to easily qualify for the Southwest Rapid Rewards program’s two elite statuses: A-List and A-List Preferred. To gain status, you will need to earn enough miles or fly enough segments in one calendar year.
|Priority check-in & security||x||x|
|Priority phone line||x||x|
Let’s talk a little about the Companion Pass that is offered by Southwest. The Companion Pass is by far one of the most valuable features of the Rapid Rewards program because it allows you to book an additional ticket for every flight that you take with Southwest through the end of the pass term, not including taxes and fees, starting from $5.60 one way. Once you earn the Companion Pass, it is valid through the end of the following year.
To qualify for either elite status or the Companion Pass, you need to earn a certain amount of qualifying points or fly a certain number of qualifying one-way flights in one calendar year:
|A-List||A-List Preferred||Companion Pass|
or 25 flights
or 50 flights
or 100 flights
Note that Tier-qualifying points are earned by purchasing tickets for Southwest flights or by using your Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, or Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card.
Points that count towards the Companion Pass include tier-qualifying points, as well as:
- Partner hotel stays and partner car rentals
- Dining through the Rapid Rewards Dining program
- Shopping through Rapid Rewards Shopping
- Opening and using a Southwest credit card
- Purchases from retail and service partners
A qualifying one-way flight is a trip from origin to destination, including any connections. For example, a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago counts as a single one-way flight, whether the flight is nonstop or has connections.
Be sure to check Southwest Airline’s website for any changes to the requirement and benefits for A-List and A-List Preferred status.
Southwest Airlines Elite Status & Companion Pass Value
Southwest’s lowest tier available within their Southwest Rapid Rewards program is A-List, which requires you to either get 35,000 tier-qualifying points or 25 qualifying one-way flights in one calendar year. For the purpose of this analysis, we’ll assume you earned 42,000 qualifying points with a $2,940 total spend ($0.07/point cost).
Points bonus ($160). Earn 25% more points than members with no status. Based on a $2,940 total spend, you’ll earn an additional 10,500 points (worth $157.50, we rounded this up to $160).
Priority check-in and security ($150). Because Southwest offers free checked bags for all passengers, their check-in lines tend to be longer than other carriers. That’s why having priority check-in is particularly beneficial when you’re flying Southwest.
Priority boarding ($250). Get a boarding position 36 hours before your flight. A-List priority falls behind higher-tier elites and those who paid for Business Select tickets. In the best case scenario, you’ll get to board with Group A. With this perk, you won’t have to worry about checking in 24 hours prior to departure to get the best boarding spot. You’ll also avoid paying the Early Bird Check-in fee, which starts at $15 one way, per passenger.
Free same-day standby ($75). Standby on an earlier flight at no charge for flights between the same cities and on the same date of travel. You’ll still be given priority over non-status travelers, but you have to pay the fare difference if a seat opens up on a flight outside the above terms. Note: This benefit only applies to Wanna Get Away tickets, because Anytime and Business Select fares already offer free standby.
Priority phone line ($50). Access the priority phone line when a major weather event or other problem arises.
The next tier up in the Southwest Rapid Rewards program is A-List Preferred, which requires either 70,000 tier-qualifying points or 50 qualifying one-way flights in one calendar year. To calculate the value, we’ll assume you earned 84,000 qualifying points with a $5,880 total spend ($0.07/point cost).
Points bonus ($1,260). Earn 100% more points than members with no status. Based on a $5,880 total spend, you’ll earn an additional 84,000 points (worth $1,260).
Priority check-in and security ($300). Same benefit as A-List status, but we calculated more frequent utilization.
Priority boarding ($600). Your boarding position is automatically assigned 36 hours before departure, and you’ll be prioritized over A-List members. Note: Business Select travelers have priority over A-List Preferred.
Free inflight WiFi ($400). Get free internet access on board. The service is available on all Southwest planes, and it usually costs $8 per day.
Free same-day standby ($175). Enjoy complimentary same-day standby on all Southwest flights, with priority over A-List members. Note: The same restrictions as A-List status applies.
Priority phone line ($100). Same benefit as A-List status, but we calculated more frequent utilization.
One of the most coveted feature of Southwest Rapid Rewards is their Companion Pass that can be earned after 125,000 qualifying points or 100 qualifying one-way flights within a calendar year. This reward is essentially “Buy One, Get One Free” on all Southwest flights, including award tickets. Once you earn it, there’s no limit to the number of times you can use your Companion Pass (until it expires).
Points bonus. With 65,000 points earned from flying in Premise #1, you’ll get 16,250 bonus points (worth $243.75) from having A-List status. And with 130,000 points earned from flying in Premise #2, you’ll receive 130,000 bonus points (worth $1,950) with your A-List Preferred status.
Priority check-in and security. Same benefit as A-List and A-List Preferred, but we calculated more frequent utilization for each Companion Pass premise.
Priority boarding. Same benefit as A-List and A-List Preferred, but we calculated more frequent utilization for each Companion Pass premise.
Inflight WiFi. Those in the Premise #2 situation enjoy the same benefit as A-List Preferred, but we calculated more frequent utilization.
Same-day standby. Same benefit as A-List and A-List Preferred, but we calculated more frequent utilization for each Companion Pass premise.
Priority phone line. Same benefit as A-List and A-List Preferred.
Companion Pass. The value of Companion Pass depends on how frequently you can bring a companion along on a flight.
Are Southwest Elite Status & Companion Pass Worth It?
Given the value estimates above, do you think Southwest Airlines elite status worth pursuing? Here are a few questions that will help you make your decision:
- Does Southwest Airlines fly to where you want to go? The great perks that come with their two elite statuses and Companion Pass are going to be useless to you unless you fly with Southwest regularly. Check Southwest’s service from your home airport and see how easily you can get to your destinations.
- Do Elite Status benefits matter to you? It doesn’t make sense to work towards Southwest elite status or Companion Pass unless the perks are worth your loyalty.
- How often do you travel? If you’re not a frequent flyer, then the higher status won’t be worth it. The benefits only apply when you travel. So, if you don’t use your perks the value of elite status drops.
- Do you prioritize price and convenience? Will you use Southwest Airlines even when it’s not the cheapest or the most convenient one? If you’re not willing to trade price and convenience for loyalty program perks, then Southwest Airlines elite status and Companion Pass won’t be worth it for you.
Each person places their own value on each benefit. While you may value baggage over complimentary upgrades, another person might think lounge access is more important. Therefore, our analysis of Southwest Airlines elite status is more general. Ultimately, the decision is up to you and your own needs so feel free to play with the numbers a little bit.
We need to determine a certain amount of flying and a corresponding amount of spending in order to assign values to different perks.
- Wanna Get Away: 6 tier-qualifying points/$1 spent
- Anytime: 10 tier-qualifying points/$1 spent
- Business Select: 12 tier-qualifying points/$1 spent
For this analysis, we assumed the following:
- You earned 20% more tier-qualifying points than the minimum required at that level.
- You spent an average of $0.07 per tier-qualifying point. This is if 80% of your Southwest ticket purchases are Wanna Get Away fares, 10% Anytime fares and 10% Business Select fares.
For this particular analysis, we value Alaska miles based on our most recent valuations, which is $0.015 apiece.
The value of a loyalty program is different for every person’s needs. Overall an elite status will make traveling easier and more rewarding, but the perfect program is different for everyone.
Hopefully, this post was able to help you get a better idea of whether or not the Southwest Rapid Rewards elite status and Companion Pass is worth it for you. For more posts like this, check out our list of credit card bonuses!