I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).
Companion tickets get a bad name because there are so many scam offers out there. Companies have offered free tickets as incentives for a long time, but work to keep their costs down by making the tickets unbookable.
As a result when there are really great offers that allow a companion to fly for security taxes, for no additional miles, or for a co-pay of a hundred bucks they can go under the radar. The best deals get ignored because it’s easy to assume they’re too good to be true.
Here are three great ways to really leverage travel with a companion that actually work.
Southwest Airlines Pick a Friend to Fly Free With You for a Year
The Southwest Companion Pass is the best deal in travel for many. With the major airlines devaluing their programs, I’m finding Southwest more attractive. And of course checked bags are free, and there are no change or redeposit fees on awards.
Earn 110,000 eligible points in a year and a companion travels with you whenever you buy a ticket or redeem for one with points. Southwest points are worth about 1.4 cents apiece towards fare plus taxes (a redemption pays only the TSA security tax). A companion pass effectively doubles the value of your points.
You choose the person you want as your companion. When you book your tickets, you have the option to also use the Southwest companion pass for your designated person. (You can also book companion pass travel by phone.) You pay for your ticket, the companion flies for just the cost of security taxes. That’s it.
You can use the Southwest companion pass as many times as you’d like, and you can change your designated companion three times during its validity.
You can earn this by taking 100 flights on Southwest, but who wants to do that? You also receive a Southwest companion pass when you earn 110,000 points in a year and points from their credit cards count — even the signup bonuses.
British Airways Two-for-One Avios Award Ticket
The British Airways Visa Signature® Card offers real leverage for significant spend. And 5/24 does not currently apply.
This was the very first card to offer a 100,000 point bonus back in November 2009. It’s fantastic to see this offer return. Here’s how to leverage it.
- 50,000 after $3,000 spend on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
25,000 after $10,000 total spend on purchases within your first year of account opening — for a total of 75,000 bonus Avios. (So this is $7000 additional spend on top of the first $3000 for 50,000 Avios.)
An additional 25,000 after a total of $20,000 spend within your first year from account opening — for a total of 100,000 bonus Avios.
Keep going and spend $30,000 in a year and earn a Travel Together ticket which allows you to book two passengers on an award ticket for the mileage price of one award. You still pay taxes and fees for both passengers. And two award seats must be available in the ticketed cabin for both passengers as well.
The basic rules for the travel together ticket are:
- Each calendar year that you spend $30,000 on your British Airways Visa Signature Card, you earn a Travel Together Ticket valid for two years. Travel must begin by the expiration date of the certificate.
- Since the vouchers are valid for two years, if you earn one in each calendar year it is possible to have two vouchers in your account at the same time. You can use both on the same trip so that four passengers can travel for the mileage cost of two awards (plus taxes and fees).
- You can earn only one companion award ticket per British Airways Visa primary account. Spending $60,000 on the card does not earn two.
- All travel must originate in or return to the US.
- The person who earns the voucher (the visa cardholder) must be one of the passengers on the award ticket. The second passenger requires no additional miles, but you do pay taxes and fees for both.
- Only flights on British Airways aircraft may be used on the award.
- Regular award space must be available for all passengers.
Earn the card’s full bonus and spend $30,000 in your first year on the card and you’ll have both 130,000 British Airways Avios and a Travel Together ticket. That’s more than enough for two passengers to fly roundtrip business class between New York, DC, or Chicago and London for instance. There aren’t many card offers that can be leveraged into two roundtrip business class transatlantic tickets with a single bonus.
And since British Airways offers family accounts, multiple people could get the signup bonus and link accounts, then spend all those miles together along with the companion ticket to go even farther.
Alaska Airlines Visa Annual Companion Ticket
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card gives you a $99 plus tax companion ticket each year (although this link offers the first one earned with minimum spend for just the taxes).
The companion ticket has no real strings, you buy an economy ticket and the second person is booked into the same revenue inventory. There aren’t blackouts or capacity controls, the companion even earns miles, and you can more or less book any ticket that’s available at AlaskaAir.com.
Back in the day I used to use these for first class tickets, that was an amazing deal — one first class ticket from the East Coast to Hawaii via Seattle, the second person is the companion. Sadly the ability to book premium cabin tickets with these is long gone.
The normal $99 companion ticket co-pay used to be $50 (but $99 for Alaska business cards, the business card’s companion ticket was paper and contract agents at Washington National airport might have occasionally issued both passengers at the companion rate on first class tickets). It’s nice to see them drop it down to $0 for the first one, even if future companion tickets will be $99.