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Southwest flies to tons of fun destinations all over the continental US, Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and soon Hawaii!
The biggest downfall of Southwest is that they don’t fly anywhere else. You can’t cross the Atlantic on Southwest to visit Paris or London. It’s mostly an airline to hop around North and Central America.
But what Southwest flyers may not realize is this: The airline is an absolute godsend for folks who want to fly just about anywhere for cheap! If you’ve got plans to visit Europe, Asia, or Africa, Southwest should be a big part of your miles & points plan. I’ll show you why.
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Why the Southwest Companion Pass Is EXCELLENT for Travel to Europe and Asia
No matter where you want to fly, Southwest points will make your trip significantly cheaper. I mean hundreds (and potentially THOUSANDS) of dollars cheaper. Especially if you have the Southwest Companion Pass.
The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to bring a travel buddy with you every single time you fly Southwest for just the cost of taxes & fees. We consider it the best deal in travel (you can learn about it here). But because Southwest doesn’t fly across the Atlantic or Pacific, some don’t think it’s worthwhile for their travel style.
I disagree. Here’s math to argue my point.
Use Southwest Points for Positioning Flights
The cheapest international flights are usually from big US hubs like New York, Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. Super affordable sales pop up ALL THE TIME from these cities.
If you’re looking for a ticket to an international destination, it’s wise to look at flights from the nearest hub instead of from your home airport. Then you can book a cheap positioning flight to those airports.
Positioning flights are tickets you book to other US airports so you can catch a cheap flight to your international destination.
For example, if I want to buy a ticket to Cape Town from my home airport, I should expect to pay $1,350 per person for a round-trip in coach.
But other hub airports are guaranteed to have cheaper flights to Cape Town. Here’s a look at Boston.
Tickets to Cape Town are a full $500 cheaper per person when flying from Boston instead of rinky dink Dayton (or any other nearby airports). The problem is, I don’t live anywhere near Boston.
That’s where the Southwest Companion Pass comes in.
I can fly to Boston for ~20,000 points per person round-trip (essentially $250). If my girlfriend and I want to go to Cape Town, we can fly to Boston with the Southwest Companion Pass and pay a total of ~20,000 points.
By paying 20,000 Southwest points for 2 round-trip flights to Boston, we’d pay literally $1,000 less than if we had just flown from Ohio.
Southwest Companion Pass Comes in Handy for Both Paid and Award Flights to Europe and Asia
This strategy is mostly helpful for anyone booking paid flights to international destinations. If you follow flight deals, you know how often $300 or $400 round-trip tickets to Europe pop up from random US hubs. With the Southwest Companion Pass, you and your travel partner can start jumping on those deals without negating your savings on positioning flights.
However, this can also be helpful to folks who want to book international award flights. You can book super cheap award flights across the ocean from select airports.
For example, It costs just 17,000 Iberia Avios points one-way in coach (off-peak) to fly to Madrid from Chicago, Boston, or New York. You’ll pay significantly more from other airports.
As always, do the math to see what makes the most sense.
Earn the Southwest Companion Pass
To earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll need to earn 110,000 qualifying Southwest points in a calendar year. You can quickly earn Southwest points by opening any of the below Southwest cards and earning the bonus:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card – 40,000 point bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card – 40,000 point bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card – 40,000 point bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card – 60,000 point bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
I recommend opening one Southwest personal card and one Southwest small business card (you’ll have 104,000 of the points you need after you meet your minimum spend requirements!). That’s because you can only have 1 Southwest personal card at a time. And you are only eligible for a bonus on a personal Southwest credit card once every 24 months.
Let me know your favorite strategy for cheap flights across the pond! And subscribe to our newsletter for more tips to traveling extra cheap: