Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
INSIDER SECRET: The most valuable Southwest “status” is earning the Southwest Companion Pass. You can bring a friend or family member with you for practically free EVERY SINGLE TIME you fly Southwest, for up to two years.
Southwest is the favorite airline among several of us at MMS. They’ve got super customer-friendly policies, like two free checked bags per passenger and generous change and cancellation policies.
And if you fly often, it pays to be loyal to the airline. The Southwest status levels can give you hundreds (even thousands) of dollars in benefits. I’ll show you what to expect from Southwest elite status, so you can decide if you want to pursue it!
Should You Shoot for Southwest Status?
You’ll be surprised at the value you’ll receive from elite status offered by a “low-cost airline” like Southwest. But before we get into that, let’s clear up some jargon.
You’ll hear things like “qualifying one-way flights,” “Tier Qualifying Points,” “base fares,” etc. Here’s a quick explanation of all that stuff.
Different Types of Southwest Fares
Southwest has three different price points for their flights:
- Wanna Get Away — the cheapest option
- Anytime — more expensive but more available seats
- Business Select — the most expensive but comes with perks like priority boarding, free alcohol, etc.
Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs)
For every dollar you spend on Southwest airfare, you earn a certain amount of points that get you closer to elite status (Called Tier Qualifying Points). You can’t redeem these points for flights. They’re just like “elite night credits” at a hotel. For example, if you stay 50 nights with a certain hotel, you get hotel elite status.
Here’s how Southwest doles out TQPs:
- Wanna Get Away (the lowest fares) — 6 TQPs per dollar
- Anytime — 10 TQPs per dollar
- Business Select — 12 TQPs per dollar
Note: You can also earn Tier Qualifying Points by spending on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card. You’ll receive 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for each $10,000 in purchases, up to $100,000 in purchases annually (for a maximum of 15,000 TQPs).
One-Way Qualifying Flights
Similarly, you’ll earn Southwest elite status after you complete a certain amount of qualifying one-way flights. A qualifying one-way flight is a trip on Southwest from your origin city to your destination city (including connections). Award flights don’t count, so you’ll have to pay cash.
You earn Tier Qualifying Points on your “base fare.” That means you only earn points for the actual airfare, not any taxes and fees associated with the ticket.
Earn Southwest A-List Elite Status
How to achieve A-List status: Fly 25 qualifying one-way flights OR earn 35,000 Tier Qualifying Points in a calendar year.
Benefits of A-List status:
- Priority Boarding — If you don’t know how the Southwest boarding process works, it’s entirely unique. There are no assigned seats. Instead, it’s “first come first served.” The sooner you check-in for your flight, the farther ahead in line you’ll be to choose your seat during the boarding process.
With A-List status, Southwest will automatically check you in 36 hours before each flight. That’s 12 hours earlier than anyone without elite status can check in! So you’re guaranteed to be one of the first passengers aboard (though anyone who sprung for Business Select will still be ahead of you).
- Fly By Priority Lane — A-List status comes with priority check-in, which means you can reach the departures desk faster. In some cities, you can even go through security faster! Folks who don’t check bags won’t care much about this perk.
- 25% more points — You’ll earn 25% more points than normal.
- Same-day standby — You can jump on an earlier Southwest flight for no charge if there’s room. This is a cool perk, but it’s also available to anyone who purchased a ticket above “Wanna Get Away.” Also, it’s only available for flights between the same cities, so if an earlier flight opens up to a nearby destination, you can’t jump on it.
- Dedicated phone line — You’ll have a special phone line to connect you with customer service if something goes awry.
Southwest A-List Preferred Status
How to achieve A-List Preferred status: 50 qualifying one-way flights OR 70,000 Tier Qualifying Points in a calendar year.
Benefits of A-List Preferred status:
- All the benefits of A-List status
- 100% more points — Instead of earning just 25% more points than someone without elite status, you’ll earn 100% more points! That’s a pretty big deal, especially if you fly enough to earn A-List Preferred status.
- Free Wi-Fi — With A-List Preferred, you’ll always have free Wi-Fi aboard Southwest flights. ALL Southwest flights are Wi-Fi capable. Southwest charges $8 per day for in-flight Wi-Fi (which really isn’t that bad), so depending on how much you fly, this could really save you.
Southwest Companion Pass
This isn’t elite status per se, but it does come with unbelievable perks that you must work to qualify for. So we’ll cover it. The Southwest Companion Pass is the greatest deal in the travel industry, after all.
How to earn the Southwest Companion Pass: 100 qualifying one-way flights OR 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. The Companion Pass doesn’t rely on Tier Qualifying Points. You can earn the Companion Pass simply by earning the welcome bonus and spending on Southwest credit cards, like:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card
Earning the bonuses from these cards DO count toward the Companion Pass. So by opening one personal and one small business Southwest credit card, you’ll have enough (or nearly enough) points to immediately qualify for the Companion Pass!
Note: You can only hold one Southwest personal credit card at a time.
Benefits of the Southwest Companion Pass: The Southwest Companion Pass lets a friend or family member travel with you for free whenever you travel on Southwest. It doesn’t matter if your flight is booked with points or paid for with cash – your companion flies free (well, you’ll still have to pay taxes and fees on their ticket, but that’s usually ~$11 round-trip).
You can change your Southwest companion up to three times per calendar year, AFTER you initially choose your companion. That means you can have four different companions the first calendar year, then three in the second year – or 7 total across the life of the pass.
Read this post for EVERY SINGLE THING you could possibly want to know about the Southwest Companion Pass.
Yes, Southwest is considered a low-cost airline. But they’re AMAZING, and an absolute favorite of the MMS team. They even have surprisingly valuable elite status.
You can receive benefits like:
- Priority boarding
- Bonus points for flying
- Same-day standby
- Free Wi-Fi
- Priority check-in
Plus, the Southwest Companion Pass is the holy grail of travel perks. And it happens to be the EASIEST “status” to earn!
Check out our guides for using Southwest Airlines miles:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Review
- Southwest Points Value
- Southwest Status
- Best Ways to Use Southwest Points
- Everything to Know About the Southwest Companion Pass
- How to Use the Southwest Companion Pass
- How to Earn Southwest Points
- How to Setup a Southwest Account
- How to Use Southwest Points
- Southwest Award Chart
- Do Southwest Points Expire?
Let us know what you think of Southwest elite status.
For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, please subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.