Why I Hate to Love the Southwest Companion Pass

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The Southwest companion pass is undoubtedly one of the best deals in travel, period. Flying a companion for the price of taxes ($11.60 in the US) on award and full fare travel for 1-2 years is just amazing! Whoever thought of the idea better have gotten a raise, because it’s the sole reason I, and likely many others, fly Southwest everywhere (in the US).

Without the companion pass, flying Southwest would be terrible. Well, actually flying Southwest is terrible. I just put up with it because of how good of a deal the companion pass is for two people.

That’s why I hate to love the Southwest companion pass…

Why Southwest Sucks

Have you flown Southwest? If so, I’m sure you can sympathize with me on that fact that flying Southwest is the worst! Seriously, it’s a fact. I’m not superstitious, but every time I fly with them I look for eyelashes, shooting stars, or just some excuse to wish I was on a different airline. It never works.

Anyway, here’s my list of reasons why Southwest sucks.

  1. The Boarding Process
    Ugh, just thinking about it makes me cringe. Here’s how it works: First, you’re assigned to one of three groups, A, B, or C. Then you board in alphabetical/numerical order (A1-A15,B1-B60,C1-C60).The 15 people in Group A board first, because they either have status with Southwest or they paid for their boarding position.. Then, the airline boards families with kids younger than 5 and active duty military (and family). So, if you fit into either of those categories, you’re golden! After that, they board Group B (60 people) and Group C (60 people).

    Southwest Boarding Process

    The terrible boarding process. It’s like a herd of cattle.

    You’re number is assigned to you based on when you check in, which can be done as early as 24 hours before the flight. If you don’t check in until you get to the airport, there’s a good chance you’ll be in Group C and if you’re in Group C, there’s a good chance you’ll be in a middle seat. That brings me to the next annoyance I have with Southwest…

  2. The Seating Arrangement
    Southwest does not offer assigned seats, they only offer priority boarding (which you have to pay for). No assigned seats means there’s no guarantee you’ll be next to your travel companion(s) or that you’ll have a window or outside seat. It’s a gamble, a terribly annoying gamble.
  3. The Seat Map
    Every Southwest plane is set up in a 3 by 3 configuration. In other words, 1/3 of the plane is a middle seat. Let me say that again: One out of three seats is in the middle. Those are not good odds! …unless you like the middle, which would be crazy.
  4. Bonus: The Opportunity Cost
    Every time I book a flight on Southwest I think about my opportunity cost. On the one hand, I have a companion pass, so I want to take advantage of that great deal. On the other hand, I’m giving up more comfortable flights on AA using Avios for only a few thousand more miles. Travel hacking problems, right?

How the Companion Pass Helps Southwest Suck Less

  1. More Customers
    If Southwest didn’t offer their companion pass, I have a hard time believing many travel hackers would fly with them. At the very least, other low-cost carriers (e.g. Frontier, AirTran) would likely look a lot more enticing to this community. Of course that’s all speculation, but informed speculation based on the amount of “Southwest That” and “Companion Pass This” headlines that pop-up on other blogs when the Southwest credit cards have 50,000 mile sign-up bonuses.
  2. A Great Deal
    Would I fly Southwest without a companion pass? Probably not. There are too many other good point redemptions, like flights under 650 miles booked withAvios. Also, considering thatAvios can be transferred from UR, MR, SPG, and DC points, they’re easier to earn than Southwest miles.That being said, flying two people on Southwest with a companion pass is, hands down, the cheapest way to fly in the US and parts of the Caribbean on miles. It makes the pain of flying the airline, a little less painful.
  3. Flyer’s Remorse
    Every once in a long while, I overpay for award tickets when I have to book them last-minute, which then leaves me with flyer’s remorse. I’m pretty sure I just made that phrase up, but what I mean is in these cases I regret over paying in miles. After all, they mean a lot to me. ;)With Southwest I never have flyer’s remorse. Southwest’s award program is revenue based, so the mileage cost is based directly on the revenue cost. That means there’s no “saver” price, so you never have to worry about overpaying miles. You’re almost always getting the same value out of them. Also, with a companion pass, it always feels like a deal since you can fly two people for the price of one!
  4. Weekend Trips
    I have no problem burning Southwest miles for a quick weekend trip, since they’re only useful for US and a few Caribbean destinations. Using other miles for that type of trip would be a waste in my opinion.

Conclusion

Southwest’s companion pass is a great tool to take advantage of, regardless of how awful it is to fly with them. You just can’t beat a 2 for 1 deal on award tickets (and full fare)!

How do you feel about Southwest?


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