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Guide to the best airline companion passes

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Guide to the best airline companion passes

Joseph HostetlerGuide to the best airline companion passesMillion Mile Secrets Team

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

With Southwest’s current credit card offers making it abnormally easy to earn the amazing Southwest Companion Pass, it’s a good time to review the best airline companion passes on the market. Many of the best airline credit cards come with the ability to earn a certificate that allows you to bring a travel buddy with you for extremely cheap — sometimes practically free!

Earning the companion fare varies greatly, from meeting spending requirements to earning a certain amount of points to earning a welcome bonus. Here are the companion fares we’ll cover:

Southwest Companion Pass:

With:

Delta Companion Certificate:

Alaska Airlines Companion Fare:

American Airlines Companion Certificate:

British Airways Travel Together Ticket:

  • British Airways Visa Signature® Card

The information for the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red, AAdvantage Aviator Business and British Airways Visa Signature Card have been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Use one of the best airline credit card companion passes to reach crystal clear lagoons with a friend. (Photo by aiaikawa/Shutterstock)

Best airline credit card companion passes

More cards than just the following offer a companion pass of sorts, but these are by far the most popular.

Southwest Companion Pass

You can earn a Southwest Companion Pass with the following cards:

And:

The information for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business cards has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Everyone on the MMS team considers the Southwest Companion Pass to be the best deal in travel. That’s because it lets a friend or family member travel with you for just the cost of taxes and fees whenever you travel on Southwest — even if you were to book multiple flights every single day!! It doesn’t matter your origin or destination, or if your flight is booked with points or paid for with cash – your companion will fly for just the cost of taxes & fees.

For example, if you’re looking to fly from Cincinnati to Aruba, you’ll pay as little as:

  • ~14,000 Southwest points
  • ~$16 in taxes & fees

That means you and a travel buddy can go to Aruba for 13,000 Southwest points and $32 in taxes & fees.

To earn a Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll need to earn 125,000 qualifying Southwest points in a calendar year. You wouldn’t believe how easy that is to achieve. That’s because Southwest credit card bonuses qualify towards the Companion Pass. Currently, all Southwest personal credit cards come with a bonus of 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Once you meet the full spending requirement for this bonus, you’ll have 41,000 points.  If you then earn a Southwest small business card, you’ll immediately qualify for the Companion Pass:

This is far and away the most generous Companion Pass available. You can read a full guide to the Southwest Companion Pass here.

Delta Companion Certificate

You can earn a Delta Companion Certificate with the following cards:

If you hold any of the above cards, you’ll receive a companion certificate each year when you renew the card. The companion certificate allows you to add one passenger to a domestic round-trip flight reservation for just the cost of taxes and fees of no more than $75. It also comes with the following fine print in the eligibility terms:

  • Redemption is only available on delta.com, and both passengers must be booked at the same time, in the same class of service and in the same record
  • Most fares require an advance purchase of up to 14 days, a three-night minimum stay and a 30-day maximum stay
  • You must pay for your tickets with the card that provides the Companion Certificate you’re using
  • Only eligible on Delta, Delta Connection carrier and Delta Shuttle flights within the 48 contiguous United States
  • Residents of Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands must originate from there to the 48 contiguous United States and have an address on their SkyMiles account in Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Seats are only available in L, U, T, X, V classes of service
  • You’ll earn miles on the paid ticket, but not the companion ticket

The companion certificate will be made available for redemption on delta.com starting in your renewal month. To redeem your certificate, you can follow these steps:

  • Log on to Delta.com
  • Go to My Delta
  • Click on “Credits and Certificates” in the “My Wallet” box
  • Select the available certificate
  • Search for eligible flights and book your trip

How valuable can the companion certificate be?

The companion certificate can be worth upwards of $500 or more, depending on when and where you fly. Even with the restrictions on using the companion certificate, many people in online forums have confirmed they had little to no trouble finding an eligible flight.

To give you an idea of how valuable the certificate can be, I looked at a flight from Chicago to New York in November 2019. If you were to pay cash for these flights, you’d be out of pocket a grand total of $733.20. But by redeeming the companion certificate, you’d pay just $418.78 — a savings of over $300.

This flight would normally cost each passenger $314.42 for the ticket, plus $52.18 in taxes and fees. But by redeeming your companion certificate, you pay just $52.18 for the second passenger.

Just note that this is a once-per-year certificate — you can’t use it as often as you want, like the Southwest Companion Pass.

Alaska Airlines Famous Companion Fare

You can earn an Alaska Airlines Famous Companion Fare with the following cards:

Both cards come with a welcome bonus of 40,000 Alaska Airlines miles, plus Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare when you spend $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of account opening. And for a limited time the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card is also offering a $100 statement credit.

The Alaska Airlines Companion Fare is a promotional code you can use to bring a companion along on an Alaska Airlines flight for as little as $121 ($99 fare, plus taxes and fees from $22). You can use it on any Alaska Airlines round-trip coach flight, but there are a few booking restrictions (more on that in a bit).

That’s a killer deal — and one of the best parts is that you’ll still earn Alaska Airlines miles on the flight. Alaska Airlines miles are awarded based on the distance you fly, so there is potential to get outsized value if you can find a cheap longer-distance flight. Some of the best ways to redeem Alaska miles include flights to Asia or Australia on partner airlines like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Qantas. When you use Alaska Airlines miles to book award flights you also can add in a stopover for free, even on one-way tickets.

Things to remember about the Alaska Airlines Companion Fare

As mentioned before, the Companion Fare is actually a unique promotional code that you apply when searching for fares on the Alaska Airlines website. There’s no physical certificate (thank goodness, since I always lose those), and the code will be automatically stored in your Alaska Airlines loyalty account. To see if you already have an available Companion Fare, navigate to “Discount and Companion Fare Codes” in your account.

Here are some rules and restrictions you should know about the Alaska Airlines Companion Fare:

  • Can only be used for coach travel on Alaska Airlines operated flights
  • Both tickets must be booked into the same fare class, at the same time
  • Companion Fare codes expire one year after they are issued, and must be booked by the expiration date (though travel can occur any time in the future)

Those are the rules, but here are some of the benefits which make the companion fare particularly exciting:

  • Although travel must be booked in coach, you can use Gold guest upgrades to upgrade your flights to first class. If you have Alaska Airlines elite status, both passengers are upgrade eligible.
  • Both passengers earn miles (both redeemable miles and elite qualifying miles) for the flights.
  • There are no blackout dates. So those peak travel times (like the day before Thanksgiving, or the week after Christmas) are Companion Fare eligible.

For a full rundown of the rules and restrictions, check out the Alaska Airlines FAQ page.

Best uses of the Alaska Airlines Companion Fare

There are good ways to use the Companion Fare — and then some killer ways. Generally speaking, cross-country flights and trips around peak travel dates are the most strategic for saving on your second passenger’s airfare. You can also use the companion ticket for open-jaw tickets, or tickets with stopovers, to extend your adventures.

Enter your Companion Fare code when beginning your flight search.

For example, you could fly from New York to Seattle and stop for a weekend, on to Los Angeles for a week, then return to Washington, and use a Companion Fare to bring a friend along. As long as the general travel direction is consistent, you can make multiple stops to get tons of value from your companion fare.

Last summer, team member Jake and his wife I traveled from Washington to Maui for a family reunion during peak vacation season. That round-trip fare (routing through Portland) was in the range of $1,000 per person in coach. Prices were similar regardless of airline, and saver-level award flights were impossible to find. So I turned to Alaska Airlines, armed with my newly earned Companion Fare.

Look for the red “E” when searching for companion fare flights.

Fortunately, the itinerary he wanted was available for two passengers in the same booking class. He had a Companion Fare, easily applied it, selected the flights, and made out like a bandit paying ~$1,100 for two round-trip flights instead of $2,000+.

You can even do better than that, although the Companion Fare’s terms specifically exclude multiple stopovers, I was able to easily find an itinerary with two stopovers and an open-jaw. The flight below is for a three week vacation from Chicago to Kahului, with a four-day visit in Portland on the way, returning from Honolulu with a three-day stopover in Seattle.

This same itinerary would have cost $850+ more without the discount code and it was super easy to find. He plugged in random days and had his choice of just about any flight time available on the first search.

Companion fare tips and tricks

If you can’t make use of an expiring Companion Fare, you can use the benefit for any other two people traveling on the same itinerary, but you must pay for the tickets using the fare owner’s Bank of America Alaska Airlines card.

You can use MVP Gold elite status guest upgrades, or Alaska Airlines miles, to upgrade flights booked with the companion fare. When Jake booked last year’s Maui trip, he used four Gold guest upgrade certificates to upgrade the flights. Those four upgrade certificates in conjunction with the companion discount meant that he flew round-trip, 10-12 hours each way, in first class for about $500 per person.

American Airlines Companion Certificate

You can earn an American Airlines Companion Certificate with the following cards:

This is a niche benefit for big spenders, but it could be useful for many.

If you have either of the above cards, you can earn a companion certificate every cardmember anniversary. With the Citibusiness AAdvantage Card and Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Business, you’ll need to spend $30,000 on purchases in a cardmember year to earn the certificate (account must be renewed and open for at least 45 days after account anniversary date for the CitiBusiness card). With the AAdvantage Aviator Red, you’ll need to spend $20,000 on purchases in a cardmember year.

The certificate allows a companion to fly with you for $99, plus taxes and fees (between $22 and $43, based on the itinerary). Your card must remain open for 45 days after your cardmember anniversary to qualify. It takes eight to 10 weeks to receive the certificate after meeting your spending requirement, and you’ll have one year to use the certificate once it’s issued.

To use the certificate, the primary cardholder must purchase a round-trip coach ticket on an American Airlines flight within the continental U.S. (you can’t use it for flights to Alaska or Hawaii). After purchasing qualifying airfare, you’ll pay a $99 companion ticket fee plus ~$22 to ~$43 in taxes and fees to add a friend or loved one to your flight. You’re only eligible to redeem the certificate one time, and you can’t redeem the certificate for travel on oneworld partners.

The terms & conditions also say there are blackout dates, which are provided when you receive the certificate. That’s inconvenient, but the benefit is still extremely valuable. For example, I found a round-trip, non-stop coach flight from Dallas to Aspen, which costs ~$1,556 if you pay cash. The primary cardholder could book this fare, and then, pay $99 plus ~$22 in taxes and fees, or ~$121 total to add a companion. This example would get you ~$1,435 in savings ($1,556 cost of flight – $121 in taxes and fees for companion ticket).

The information for the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red And Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Business have been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

British Airways Travel Together Ticket

You can earn a British Airways Travel Together Ticket with the following cards:

  • British Airways Visa Signature® Card

The British Airways Travel Together Ticket allows you to bring a friend for just the cost and taxes of fees when:

  • You redeem British Airways Avios points for an award flight for yourself
  • Your award flight is operated by British Airways
  • Your flight must be from the U.S. and returning to the U.S.

That effectively doubles the value of your points during that flight. What makes this voucher extra special is that you can use it even if you book a first class seat! Your travel companion will also get a first class seat for the cost of taxes & fees.

Even so, I’m not a fan of the Travel Together Ticket. Several aspects make it impractical for most of us:

  • You must spend $30,000 in purchases on your card to earn the ticket
  • The ticket is valid only when you use your British Airways Avios points to book an award flight, so you can’t bring a travel companion if you’re paying cash
  • The ticket is only valid for British Airways flights that originate and return to the U.S., which usually comes with exorbitant fuel surcharges

If you know anything about redeeming British Airways Avios points for transatlantic flights, you know that the taxes and fees are insane — even $1,000+ depending on the cabin you’re flying.

The Travel Together Ticket is valid for two years after you earn it.

The information for the British Airways Visa card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bottom line

There are plenty of cards that offer discounted companion fares as a benefit with their credit cards — but all of them except the Southwest Companion Pass are a once-per-year deal.

However, Southwest doesn’t fly to Europe or have fancy business and first class seats. If you’re looking for that, you might prefer the British Airways Travel Together Ticket (though beware its high fuel surcharges). Others may not live near an airport that Southwest serves, so they’d prefer the Delta Companion Certificate or Alaska Airlines Companion Fare.

I’d love to hear your favorite credit card companion pass. And subscribe to our newsletter for more miles and points comparisons.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Need to fix American Airlines earns Alaska Airlines companion pass.

Don’t forget the Barclay’s Aviator Silver card which get you plus 2 companion certificate. Of course the spend is a little higher than the rest.