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The Letter I Never Thought I’d Get From Southwest

I’ll admit it, for years I’ve been a bit of a travel snob. I enjoy a business class seat when we fly overseas as opposed to a redeye in coach. I also enjoy hotel suites versus a regular room, especially when traveling with my family. And in the US, I enjoy first class more than coach.

I don’t ever recall openly making fun of Southwest but I don’t fly them much.  There are two principal reasons for that:

1.  Their network is weaker in the East than out West. More specifically, at my home airport of Washington-Dulles, they have very few destinations (Atlanta, Las Vegas, Denver and they just added Orlando).

2.  I don’t love their open seating policy and lack of upgrades. I used to be concerned up in-flight Internet, but they’ve mostly resolved that.

My daughter has turned 10 now and has begun studying US history in school. I’m a big fan of using travel as an educational tool for our children. Catherine asked a bunch of really great questions when we were in Athens last year at the tail end of the Greek financial crisis. There’s no way she asks those questions if she didn’t see what was going on their firsthand. I mean, maybe a small chance, but between iPads, Minecraft, soccer, tennis and school, I think it’s unlikely.

We’re not very well-connected to the American Airlines route network at IAD. United has a good network here, but I’m still not ready to put my faith in them just yet on an ongoing basis.

My thoughts turned to the Southwest companion pass. A companion pass is just what it sounds like. You get one free ticket for each one you purchase. The big key here is that you get the free ticket even if you purchase your ticket using Rapid Rewards points (Southwest’s loyalty currency). You have to designate your companion ahead of time and can only change it a certain amount of times per year. But, it made a lot of sense for us to try, especially since if I got it at the beginning of 2016 we’d have it until the end of 2017.

You can earn a companion pass a variety of ways, including flying on Southwest, applying for (and spending on) Southwest credit cards and transferring points from select partners.  Deals We Like has a great series of posts all about the companion pass.

We went ahead and took the plunge, though only got one companion pass for now until I get a better sense of how often we take a quick weekend jaunt to somewhere Catherine is studying in school.  It’ll likely means we’ll be driving to National or BWI to take those trips, but that should still be workable for a long weekend.

My kit showed up in the mail in March. As usual, I’ve been behind on writing it up. But, we did get to use the companion pass for our spring break trip to Fort Myers, FL. Free airline tickets are a good thing, and for a flight of about 2 hours coach is perfectly fine for our family. It costs us a few more dollars to buy Early Bird check-in now to make sure we can all sit together, but it’s still a reasonable price to pay when traveling as a family. Here’s the kit they sent me. Stay tuned for a cute video my daughter put together to celebrate the occasion.




The post The Letter I Never Thought I’d Get From Southwest was published first on Pizza in Motion


      1. Ed, the more you fly SWA the more you will like it. I’m AAdvantage Plat with gazillions of AA ff miles, but my wife (Companion) and I fly SWA whenever we can due to her free ticket and our free changes and cancellations.

        My one disappointment is that EarlyBird seems to be worth less and less…I’ve been as far back as ~B20 even with EB. Part of the reason may be that all my tickets are purchased with points, which probably puts us in low EB priority.

        1. Swoopest, thanks for weighing in. Glad to hear from an AA Plat who’s making the choice to fly SW. What is your home airport? I don’t think there’s a revenue tiebreaker for EB boarding. I’m hoping the price increase weeds a few folks out.

  1. We have 2 Companion Passes in my family and we’re a little sad that they’ll expire in December but, before it does, we’ll be using them take both of our kids to Cancun, San Francisco and Aruba and perhaps, squeeze in a trip to Florida, we’ll see. Last year we took the kids to San Antonio and San Juan. For the most part, we’ve been flying out of BWI, since it’s the hub for SW. At first, we were hesitant because it’s not our closest airport (our base airport is IAD, same as you) but, we’ve been booking the Aloft hotel for the night prior to our flight so, all we need to do is get up in the morning and head to the airport. That has help us tremendously and it has taken the stress out of having to rush to the airport in the morning. The Aloft hotel is super close to BWI and it’s super cheap on points. Check it out!

    P.S. I think I saw you at the Wegmans in Leesburg this past week and I really wanted to introduce myself but unfortunately, I was super pressed for time. Oh well, maybe next time!

    1. G, you absolutely should have stopped me just to say hi! Hopefully, we’ll cross paths again. We’ve booked hotels at BWI a handful of times when we’ve used that as our airport as well. We also booked a noon flight to Orlando to make it less stressful. I’m liking the ramp-up in flights out of DCA as well, it’s a nice secondary option which will be even more useful once we have Metro out to Ashburn.

  2. Ed,

    I was also one of those people who avoided Southwest, and I live on the West Coast. Well, I bit the bullet and got my husband (who rarely flies) to “earn” the Companion Pass last year with me as his companion. Boy was I wrong. From great customer service, to changing flights whenever I want, to getting refunds when the price goes down, and even super nice passengers, I became a believer. Granted, Southwest is not a low fare carrier anymore, and having to pay for early bird boarding costs a bit more, but on the whole, I fly a lot more on a whim, dragging my poor spouse along. This praise is coming from a Plat Exec American flyer who flew over 200,000 miles on my own dime (I’m retired). Hope you have as great an experience.

    1. Jana, I’m enjoying it so far, though we haven’t done a ton of travel yet. I would imagine that as a West Coaster it makes much more sense for you. If they added a couple more flights to IAD, I’d be a really happy camper. Even if they gave us back Chicago-Midway (so I could connect in the Midwest) it would make the Companion Pass much more valuable. I really don’t mind paying for early bird boarding, and I’m kinda happy they raised it a bit. Hopefully it thins out the ranks!

  3. We love Southwest since it really makes sense when we are booking four seats and we have two companion passes. We are actually in the process of earning a third pass which will allow my mom to travel with us as well when our family of five travels together or I can travel alone with the kids for the price of two tickets.

  4. My wife flies from Austin to San Jose on Monday and back home to Austin for work every week for a year and a half now. She mainly flies SW because because they have the best schedule for her. She has rapid rewards and with all the miles shes earned she was able to use her rewards to fly us and to friends to Puerto Rico round trip for a cruise for the cost of points. This past weekend we went to the west coast for work then a graduation in southern California back to work in SJ then to Utah for another graduation and back home. We made changes as things changed and it didn’t cost us a thing for the flights. We’ve been able to fly other places using points. She’ll use points to fly my niece a day a friend of ours out this summer. It’s a great deal for us. She also stays explicitly with a hotel so we get rooms free on points and upgrades.

    1. Jeff, Austin is a solid city to fly Southwest from. They have some good nonstop options that you won’t find on other airlines. Glad to hear SW works out well for you guys!

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