Content of the material
- Q. I’m currently up for a job as a tour escort. Do you know if it’s possible to go through security at the airport and meet my party at their gate, without being a ticketed passenger?
- The following situations are eligible for the issuance of a gate pass:
- More Stories You'll Love
- Which Points Do Not Count Towards the Companion Pass
- Why We Passed
- Why Now is the Best Time to Work Towards a Companion Pass
- JetBlue Airways
- Southwest Companion Pass FAQ
- What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
- What is the Southwest Companion Pass worth?
- Can my Southwest companion travel for free if I book my ticket using points?
- How long do I have to earn the 125,000 Southwest points?
- Can two people earn points for one Companion Pass?
- Can I still redeem 125,000 Southwest points for flights once I earn the Companion Pass?
- Can my companion use points from their own account to book my flight and then fly for free?
- Can my partner and I each earn the Companion Pass and fly the kids for free?
- If I use my Southwest points will I still earn the Companion Pass?
- If I cancel my cards, will I lose the Companion Pass?
- Can I use the Southwest Companion Pass on a previously booked flight?
- How many times can I change my companion?
- Step 1. Sign in to your Southwest account
- Step 2. Navigate to “My Account”
- Step 3. Fill in companion details
- Step 4. Double-check your companion
- How can I use my Southwest Companion Pass?
- How can I add a companion if I booked through a travel portal?
- 4 creative ways to use theCompanion Pass
- A year at Disneyland
- Trading a house for a trip
- See family more often
- Follow sports, concerts, etc.
- American Airlines
- Combination of credit cards and flying
- How do you qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
- Southwest Flight Check-in Basics
- How Southwest Boarding Works
- Options to Ensure a Good Flight Boarding Position
- 1. Southwest Business Select
- 2. Early Bird Check-in on Southwest
- 4. Hold Elite Status with Southwest
- Bottom Line
- Stop overpaying for travel!
Q. I’m currently up for a job as a tour escort. Do you know if it’s possible to go through security at the airport and meet my party at their gate, without being a ticketed passenger?
A. Some airlines will issue something called a gate pass. The rules may vary from airline to airline, but here’s what Northwest has to say on gate passes:
Gate passes are provided free of charge at the airport and issued under certain circumstances noted below. You will need to speak to an airport check-in agent for assistance in obtaining a gate pass. This policy is applicable to flights departing the U.S. only. Due to immigration requirements gate passes are not issued by non-U.S. airports or when an international flight is arriving in the U.S.
The following situations are eligible for the issuance of a gate pass:
- Parent/Guardian of minors under 18 traveling alone, or children that will be met at a connecting city and picked up by a parent or guardian. Note: Children do not have to participate in the Unaccompanied Minor Program for a parent or guardian to be issued a gate pass. Please see additional information about unaccompanied minors.
- Escort for elderly passengers or passengers with disabilities needing assistance. This may include someone who will push the wheelchair, provide transfer assistance in/out of the seat, provide extensive personal assistance not provided by airline personnel such as feeding/within lavatory or a sign language interpreter. Note: The adult does not need to participate in the Adult Assistance program for the person assisting them to be issued a gate pass. Please see additional information about the Adult Assistance Program.
- Oxygen providers. This may be an employee from a medical oxygen company who the customer has contracted with to provide oxygen on the ground or a friend or family member who will bring the oxygen to/from the gate area.
- Military families. Families of military service personnel are permitted through the screening checkpoint with a gate pass for both departing and arriving military family members.
All products and services mentioned on Airfarewatchdog are independently selected by our team of expert travelers. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
More Stories You'll Love
- JetBlue Vacations End of Year Sale
- The 7 Best Waterproof Backpacks for Travel
- The 15 Best Boots for Winter Travel
- 12 Travel Essentials We're Buying on Mega-Sale Now
Which Points Do Not Count Towards the Companion Pass
The list of points that do not qualify isn’t surprising, but is important to know:
- Purchased points
- Points transferred between Members
- Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs (such as a Marriot Hotel + Air redemption)
- Points earned from e-Rewards, Valued Opinions, and Diners Club
- Points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment
- Points earned from tier bonus
- Flight bonus points
- Partner bonus points
You should remember what points qualify and then work under the assumption that everything else does not. When in doubt, check Southwest.com or run a small test before you commit to a strategy.
Why We Passed
The purchase window was far too short for our preference. We had less than a week to register, select dates, and a destination. We, like many of our readers, are generally very busy, and booking an unneeded flight was not the top priority. Had we had another week to make a selection, we might have found something that would have worked, but it felt as though we were forcing the issue.
Southwest is also more expensive than the alternatives we have for flights we intend to take. We would like to get away to Florida, but Southwest was more than double the cost of Spirit, for example. Due to my Spirit Gold status, a carry-on, and a checked bag are both free, as is seat selection, a snack on the flight, and the flights are operated nonstop by both carriers so there wasn’t an incentive to pay twice as much.
Sometimes, exchanging cash now for a future benefit is a good idea. Some mileage purchase opportunities deliver this chance but in this instance, we were trying to determine what the payoff would be for an unplanned future itinerary after purchasing an unnecessary current itinerary.
The costs were relatively low, about $600 roundtrip for my family of three combined, but in order to get value out of the pass, we would have to utilize a plan whereby we all brought someone with us, or I would be taking an unnecessary trip alone. I have done almost every year so that’s nothing new, but instead of flying across the world to ensure my family could fly in premium classes on a trip we wanted to take, this would result in a far lower value to our family.
Why Now is the Best Time to Work Towards a Companion Pass
It’s all about timing.
When you earn the Southwest Companion Pass, it lasts for the rest of the year in which you earn it and the entire following calendar year. So to squeeze as much as you can out of it, you want to earn it as early as possible in the new year.
As 2022 approaches, that means the time is ripe to get started. We’ll lay out a few strategies to earn the Companion Pass shortly. But no matter which path you take, it’s important to nail the timing.
Let’s say you plan to earn the Southwest Companion Pass through earning signup bonuses on Southwest credit cards. Opening one of Southwest’s personal credit cards now can get you up to 100,000 Rapid Rewards points, thanks to the larger welcome bonuses currently available on those cards. That gets you nearly three-quarters of the points you need.
But you want to ensure you don’t actually earn those points until 2022 rolls around. If you earn the Southwest points you need to unlock the Companion Pass before the year ends, you’ll only have the pass through 2022.
Earn those points in January or February instead, and your Southwest Companion Pass will be valid all the way through 2023.
JetBlue’s rules for unaccompanied minors are somewhat convoluted, but the tl;dr is that you can request a gate pass to accompany your minor to/from the gate, with the following caveat:
Since guidelines vary among airports, please check the unaccompanied minor section under the specific airport the unaccompanied minor is traveling from to determine if a gate pass may be issued.
JetBlue’s policies for people escorting adults who require special assistance are much more straightforward:
A companion can provide disability-related assistance for you at a domestic US airport. A gate pass request must be made at the ticket counter for departing flights and noted in the reservation for arriving flights. Just make sure the person assisting goes to the ticket counter to get the gate pass and brings a valid government issued photo ID. Issuance of gate passes is contingent upon security conditions at the time of travel, at different times or locations this accommodation may not be available.
So are JetBlue’s policies on military personnel and gate passes:
Family members who want to accompany a military service member being deployed to the boarding gate or greet them returning from deployment at the arrival gate may receive passes to enter the secure area of the airport.
Southwest Companion Pass FAQ
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass is the best airline perk because it lets a friend or family member travel with you for free on Southwest. It doesn’t matter if your flight is booked with points or paid for with cash – your companion flies for just the cost of taxes and fees as long as Southwest is selling seats on that flight.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass worth?
Southwest points value is generally worth ~1.5 cents each (there is no Southwest award chart). You could reach double that value when you use Southwest points for award flights and bring a companion along.
Can my Southwest companion travel for free if I book my ticket using points?
Yes, your companion can still travel free. You only have to pay a very small amount (~$6 one-way) for taxes. Some international destinations add additional taxes and fees. There is no limit to the number of times your companion can fly with you.
How long do I have to earn the 125,000 Southwest points?
You have to earn the 125,000 Southwest points within one calendar year (January to December). Your Companion Pass is valid from the date you earn 125,000 Companion Pass qualifying points up to the end of the next calendar year.
For example, if you earn the companion pass on December 14, 2020, it is valid up to the end of 2021. But if you earn the Companion Pass on February 1, 2020, it is valid up to the end of 2021. So earning the Companion Pass early in the year can get you close to two years of free flying on Southwest.
Can two people earn points for one Companion Pass?
No. The points each person earns must go to their individual Southwest loyalty accounts. You cannot combine them to have them qualify for a Companion Pass.
Can I still redeem 125,000 Southwest points for flights once I earn the Companion Pass?
Yes! You won’t lose your Southwest points when you earn the Companion Pass. You can still use the 125,000 Southwest points to book flights, and your companion flies for almost free if you have the Companion Pass.
Can my companion use points from their own account to book my flight and then fly for free?
Yes. As long as you have a Southwest ticket in your name (either via cash, using your points, or using points from someone else’s account), you can add your companion to the flight.
Can my partner and I each earn the Companion Pass and fly the kids for free?
Yes, you and your partner can each earn the Companion Pass and add your kids, parents or friends as companions. However, one person cannot earn more than one Companion Pass.
If I use my Southwest points will I still earn the Companion Pass?
Yes. The Southwest Companion Pass is based on how many points you earn within a calendar year, not how many are in your account.
Suppose you earn 40,000 Southwest points this week and use 25,000 points to book a round-trip flight to New York City. Then you earn another 60,000 Southwest points a couple of months later. You’ll still earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
If I cancel my cards, will I lose the Companion Pass?
Canceling your Chase Southwest credit cards will not have an impact on your Southwest Companion Pass.
Can I use the Southwest Companion Pass on a previously booked flight?
If you haven’t earned the Southwest Companion Pass yet, you can still book your flight now to lock in a lower price and add your companion later.
How many times can I change my companion?
You can change your designated companion up to three times per calendar year, after you initially designate a companion. That means you can have up to four different companions the first calendar year, then three in the second year – or seven total across the life of the pass. So choose wisely.
You can switch back to an earlier companion, but it would count as a change and eat into the seven changes permitted.
Step 1. Sign in to your Southwest account
Navigate to Southwest.com and sign into your account by clicking “Log in“ in the upper-right hand corner.
Enter your account number or username and password, then click the yellow “Log in” button.
Step 2. Navigate to “My Account”
Select “My Account” in the upper right-hand corner. Then, in the “Snapshot” menu, find the section where it says, “You have earned Companion Pass.” Click on “Enter Companion info.”
Step 3. Fill in companion details
Here is where you’ll enter your companion’s full name, gender, date of birth, address, phone number and email. Be sure their details match their government-issued identification exactly. Then, click “Submit.”
Step 4. Double-check your companion
Once you’ve submitted their details, you should see your companion’s name in the “Snapshot” section of your account. In this case, I added my daughter Clara as a companion, but you don’t have to add a family member — it can be a friend, partner or anyone.
At this point, you’ll be able to easily add your companion to any of your paid or award flights while your pass is still valid (even to Hawaii). You’ll have to make your own booking first, then find your trip in your account and add your companion afterward.
How can I use my Southwest Companion Pass?
Here are the details about how to add a companion to your Southwest flight.
How can I add a companion if I booked through a travel portal?
After you call Chase to book your Southwest flight, you’ll get an email confirmation with your flight details. You’ll see the Southwest flight confirmation number at the top of the email. Keep this information handy.
Next, you can link the confirmation to your Southwest account. Go to the Southwest website and enter your Southwest confirmation number from the Chase email and your name.
Then, you can enter your Southwest loyalty account number.
The flight will now appear in your Southwest account. After the flight is linked to your loyalty number, you can visit your Southwest account page, and click “Add Companion.”
Finally, just pay the taxes and fees for your companion and you’re all set.
4 creative ways to use theCompanion Pass
A year at Disneyland
If you’re a Disney nut (and many MMS readers are), using the Southwest Companion Pass for multiple trips to Disney over a short period of time sounds pretty awesome.
One traveler posted in the Southwest online community, sharing how they paired their Companion Pass with a Disney Annual Pass for “a year of Disney.” They shared how they surprisingly earned the pass and decided to use it to fulfill a dream of buying an Annual Pass to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, even though they lived in New Mexico. They added their mom as their Companion and flew to Disneyland one or two weekends each month throughout the year.
Trading a house for a trip
You can use the Companion Pass as many times as you want before its expiration. If you don’t think you have the funds to travel often, consider renting your house on Airbnb. I have a friend that plans his vacations around the dates he manages to book his apartment through Airbnb. When someone comes to stay a weekend at his place, he takes a weekend vacation of his own. His vacations are almost always practically free because of the money he makes from Airbnb.
See family more often
The Companion Pass can dramatically shrink the US for distanced families that long to see each other regularly. With the Companion Pass, you won’t break the bank to attend holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, or any other excuse you can find to be with loved ones.
Consider: If you’ve earned the Companion Pass, you’ve got 125,000 Southwest points. According to our estimation of Southwest points value, that’s $1,875 in free Southwest flights. Add the Companion Pass to the mix and that’s $3,750 in free flights. Southwest is already a low-cost carrier with fantastic sales, so you could potentially receive a couple years of monthly flights to your family.
Follow sports, concerts, etc
Perhaps you’ve got a kid in college sports or you’re just a huge sports fan. The Companion Pass can allow you and your friend or family member to follow your favorite teams from city to city, as often as you’re able.
Or, if you and a friend like attending concerts or following bands, the Companion Pass can assist you in the same way.
If you want to escort someone through security, visit the ticket counter:
Air carrier authorization forms for escorting people (minors, the elderly, etc.) through security are available at the airport ticket counter.
Combination of credit cards and flying
Of course, the best option will likely be some combination of these methods — and these new offers on the personal cards make it exceptionally easy.
Let’s say you open the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card and earn the full sign-up bonus in 2022 by following the steps in the above table. Let’s assume part of your spending to reach the minimum spending requirements is $2,000 on Wanna Get Away base fares, all of which are on flights flown in Feb. 2022. This means the following:
- Sign-up bonuses (for reaching $2,00 and $12,000): 100,000 points
- Flying: 12,000 points ($2,000 x 6 points per dollar on Wanna Get Away base fares)
- Southwest airfare purchases on the card: 4,000 points ($2,000 x 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases)
- Other purchases on the card: 10,000 points ($10,000 x 1 point per dollar spent)
This activity would earn you 126,000 Companion Pass-qualifying points. And since these points will hit your Rapid Rewards account in 2022, your Companion Pass will be valid through Dec. 31, 2023. That’s about 22 months of flights with a Companion Pass.
Remember that your credit card points won’t appear in your account until a few days after your monthly statement closes, while any points from flying won’t post until a few days after you take the trip. Again, timing is crucial to ensure you earn the Companion Pass and utilize it for as long as possible.
How do you qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
There are two ways to earn the Southwest Companion Pass:
- 100 one-way qualifying flights
- 125,000 Companion Pass qualifying points
Now, option number one is a tough one. Unless you travel a lot for work – and specifically on Southwest – flying 100 one-way flights is pretty unlikely to happen.
That means that most of us would need to look at option number two for qualifying for the Southwest Companion Pass. But even so, 125,000 qualifying points is a lot.
You can earn a chunk of points by flying – that’s a gimme. But let’s say you earn 2,500 on a roundtrip flight you take… that would mean you’d need to take 50 of those in a calendar year to qualify. Ugh.
You can earn some additional points through Rapid Rewards partners with hotel stays, rental cars, and even shopping. Still, it’s not going to easily bring you up to the requirement.
The big helper for us though is that points earned through Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards also count (including signup bonuses!). That’s going to be what we’re going to use to score our next Southwest Companion Pass and that could be your go-to as well.
Southwest Flight Check-in Basics
To start, you will only need to check in ONCE per way on Southwest even if you have connecting flights.
No need to check in before boarding the plane at your connection site. One and done!
How Southwest Boarding Works
Southwest assigns “zones” for flight boarding based on when you check in and the level of ticket you have purchased.
These zones are A, B and C and order 1-60 in each “zone,” and it is the same for both domestic and international flights.
Let’s say you are assigned B24.
That will put you in the middle of the B zone for your Southwest check-in.
You board in the order you’ve been assigned, which is determined by when you checked in, starting with A1 and ending with C60.
Now, let’s take a look at how to get you the best possible boarding position!
Options to Ensure a Good Flight Boarding Position
There are several ways you can ENSURE you get a better boarding position and thus earlier seat selection.
1. Southwest Business Select
If you want to be assured of the best possible seat choice, you have a couple options when booking your Southwest flight.
First, you can choose Southwest Business Select.
This puts you in the first boarding group, which is A 1-15, though BEHIND anyone boarding with a wheelchair.
Once when flying into Ft. Myers, Florida, we had Business Select tickets, but were relegated to the fifth row because of the number of elderly and individuals boarding on wheelchairs.
So, despite the rules, there is no guarantee of the first row.
Southwest Business Select gets you more Southwest points but is also MUCH more expensive, though may be worth it to fund as a business expense write-off.
Note: You also get a free Southwest drink with your business fare.
2. Early Bird Check-in on Southwest
Secondly, you can purchase Early Bird Check-in to reserve your passenger spot earlier than everyone else.
This costs $15-$25 per flight per person per way, which adds up quickly for a family, but it automatically checks you in before the rest of the general public.
Use your Southwest credit card to pay for the fee to earn two Southwest points per dollar spent.
It’s best to sign up for Early Bird when you make your reservation, as the order of boarding in Early Bird is determined by when you purchased it.
Also, those with Anytime Fares who purchased Early Bird will board ahead of those with Wanna Get Away fares who booked Early Bird.
If you’re late booking your flight (ie it’s within a few weeks), you may NOT want to purchase Early Bird, as they sell unlimited Early Birds, because you could be way back in the list.
It may be smarter to instead wait till you get to the gate and upgrade to A1-15. See No. 3 below.
And you’ll need to purchase Early Bird at least 36 hours in advance (the timeframe when the automatic check in begins for Early Bird).
We usually purchase Early Bird for my husband to ensure he has enough legroom, because he is tall, and he is usually able to save a middle seat for my oldest son (though technically you aren’t really supposed to “save” seats).
But generally, middle seats are the last to be taken (how terrible to have to sit between two people ;-)), so it’s usually not a problem.
Here are the most commonly asked questions about Early Bird Check-in for Southwest.
4. Hold Elite Status with Southwest
Southwest offers both A-List and A-List Preferred elite status levels. These are largely earned by flying a set number of flights (25-50 one-way flights).
If you hold elite status, you are also automatically checked in before the 24-hour point and thus the rest of the public, but AFTER Business Select.
But unless you fly for business, this is not likely an option, as who really flies that many PAID flights a year for pleasure? Not me!
Next, we’re going to take a look at how to make sure you check in AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
There really is no better deal in the travel world than the Southwest Companion Pass. If you can earn it at the beginning of a year, you will enjoy the benefits for almost two full years.
Stop overpaying for travel! Get our daily email for the latest in travel, flight deals, and how to save on your next trip.