3 Great Ways to Really Leverage Travel With a Companion That Actually Work.

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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.

British Airways Visa Signature® Card
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of any advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.

Comments

  1. Used my BA companion pass for WT+ to Copenhagen. Cost me $1400+ between taxes and fuel surcharges. Was so ticked off, I let my other companion pass go unused, and refuse to fly BA internationally any more.

  2. “you earn 110,000 points in a year and points from their credit cards count — even the signup bonuses.”

    This is no longer the case.

  3. Gary, difficult to beat the Alaska Airlines companion pass. It’s a winner with such a low carry cost. I wrote a post in April that they now include VX inventory, which just another added benefit.

    Love the companion pass by WN as well, just requires so much travel to maintain it.

    Thanks – Jimmy

  4. Amazing you talk about scams and then dare mention BA companion pass………from SFO there is ZERO availability and as Rob D mentions the fuel surcharges are obscene………they didn’t just lose me for the credit card and companion pass deals, they lost me for life…….especially when I think of them as AA partner I want nothing to do with either………..

  5. I think all the bloggers need to stop even mentioning BA’s companion pass as it is basically useless. Mine expires in Dec and I am quite flexible with dates yet I cannot find availability on ANY DAY THIS YEAR out of Miami. I’ve canceled that card.

  6. I just used the Delta Platinum AmEx for my mom and niece to visit me this summer. Found tons of availability (pretty much all the flights Delta had were available to book with the certificate) even though my home airport is small, and saved $530. I don’t like to fly coach much these days so it’s great that I don’t have to be one of the travelers.

    I would get a Delta Reserve AmEx for the First Class companion ticket but it appears the class of service on that one is not available from my small town.

  7. Los Angeles / San Francisco availability on BA is tough but not impossible. It’s a great deal out of another city, pick up a Southwest flight there to position.

  8. Southwest to position for international First class to and from………..that is absolutely laughable………..I will fly AF biz using any number of miles from various sources and I’ll give the bird to BA, AA, UA as I fly on my nonstop to Paris from SFO…………and if that closes up I will use my Alaska miles to fly Emirates and if that closes up I will just will stop flying and drive my Tesla with free charging up and down the West Coast……….My loyalty is to class of service NEVER to an airline or hotel chain…………

  9. Re: Southwest Companion Pass – when does the “year” for earning the pass turn over? Is it 110K from Jan 1 to Dec 31? Or do they do it by some other date/range?

  10. Gary,
    As often as you criticize BA for its fuel surcharges, I am surprised that you did not mention them here. It was my fault for not fully understanding the restrictions of the BA program (such as requiring BA metal, which greatly reduces its usefulness) and how much those taxes, fees, and surcharges would add to the cost of a BA miles redemption, but I had to let my companion pass expire unused because the thousands of dollars it would have cost to redeem just were not worth it for my family. Others may see paying thousands of dollars for two business or first class tickets as a worthwhile “copay” for access up front, but I ended up kicking myself for the opportunity cost of the foregone spend on my BA card.

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