UPDATE: Southwest Airlines Companion Pass Qualification Changes? (Effective March 1, 2017)

A LoyaltyLobby reader dropped me an email about changes made to the transactions that qualify towards the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass and I made a post about it earlier this week (read more here).

Southwest Airlines Companion Pass Qualification Changes March 31 2017

The Companion Pass has (or at least should have) been a perk for those that travel a lot on the airline. The designated companion has been able to fly complimentary with the Companion Pass holder. Southwest first changed the Companion Pass qualifying activity as of January 1, 2017, but moved the effective date to Match 31 after public backlash.

Here’s what Southwest has up on their site about the Companion Pass:

How do I qualify for a Companion Pass?

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To qualify for a Companion Pass, you will need to earn 110,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points or fly 100 Southwest Airlines qualifying one-way flights per calendar year. Points must be earned and posted to your Rapid Rewards account prior to the end of the calendar year in order to count toward Companion Pass qualification. Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from your revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, your points earned by making purchases with a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card, and your base points earned from Rapid Rewards partners.  Purchased points, points transferred between Members, points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club, points earned from program enrollment, tier bonus points, flight bonus points, and Partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not qualify as Companion Pass Qualifying Points.

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To qualify for a Companion Pass, you will need to earn 110,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points from any combination of Southwest Airlines flights and Rapid Rewards Partners per calendar year, or fly 100 Southwest Airlines qualifying one-way flights per calendar year. Points must be earned and posted to your Rapid Rewards account prior to the end of the calendar year in order to count toward Companion Pass qualification.

Companion Pass

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A Member who earns 110,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points or who flies 100 qualifying one-way flights booked through Southwest Airlines per calendar year will qualify for Companion Pass.  Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, points earned on Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Cards, and base points earned from Rapid Rewards Partners.  Purchased points, transferred points transferred between members, points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club, points earned from program enrollment, tier bonus points, flight bonus points, and partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not qualify as Companion Pass Qualifying Points.  Points earned during a billing cycle on a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card from Chase are not available for redemption or qualification for Companion Pass status until they are posted on your billing statement and posted to your Rapid Rewards Account.  Only points posted on your billing statements and posted to your Rapid Rewards Account during the same calendar year are available for qualification for Companion Pass status.  No points or Companion Pass Qualifying Points will be awarded for flights taken by the Companion using the Companion Pass.

OLD

A Member who earns 110,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points through Rapid Rewards Partners or who flies 100 qualifying one-way flights booked through Southwest Airlines per calendar year will qualify for a Companion Pass. Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from your revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, your points earned on Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Cards, and your base points earned from Rapid Rewards Partners. Points purchased for personal use or as a gift, transferred points, points earned from program enrollment, Tier bonus points, flight bonus points, and Partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not qualify as Companion Pass Qualifying Points. Points earned during a billing cycle on a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card from Chase are not available for redemption or qualification for Companion Pass status until they are posted on your billing statement and posted to your Rapid Rewards Account. Only points posted on your billing statements and posted to your Rapid Rewards Account during the same calendar year are available for qualification for Companion Pass status. No points or Companion Pass Qualifying Points will awarded for flights taken by the Companion using the Companion Pass.

Here’s what Southwest wrote about this issue on their website:

As we began the New Year on January 1, we took the opportunity to close a loophole in our Rapid Rewards Companion Pass terms and conditions related to transferred points from our Partners. This was an effort intended to clarify qualification requirements for Companion Pass, one of the best benefits in travel, as well as to protect the integrity and value of the Rapid Rewards program. 

In doing so, we updated our terms and conditions which now clearly state that points transferred from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club will no longer count toward qualification for a Companion Pass.  Members will continue to earn toward Companion Pass benefits through paid flights flown on Southwest, Points earned through spend with Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credit cards, and base points earned through transactions with Rapid Rewards partners.

Many of you have reached out to us since then, and we greatly appreciate your honest and candid feedback. Because we are a Company that values our Customers and believes in doing the right thing, we are offering a limited window for Customers to earn toward Companion Pass by transferring their loyalty points from these Partners.

To that end, points converted from the above mentioned programs will count towards a Companion Pass until March 31, 2017. This is a hard deadline and we will not be able to make any exceptions beyond March 31. If you have points with these Partners that you wanted to transfer, please do not wait. Make the transfer before the deadline.

We appreciate all of our Customers and look forward to seeing you onboard very soon!

Conclusion

Southwest has been happy with the way the Companion Pass was awarded for years and now suddenly calls it a “loophole”. They should have just publicized on January 1 that the Companion Pass qualifying activity will change on March 31 rather than trying to change it without any advance notice overnight.

Companion Pass can make sense for those that often travel as a couple on Southwest (and don’t mind flying the airline).

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