How Do Airline Companion Tickets Work and Where Do You Get Them?

By Jason Steele. Last updated 19 May 2017. 0 comments

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The credit card industry knows that there are few offers as tempting as a "free flight." And while many cards offer points or miles to be redeemed for award travel, companion tickets are another strategy that is quite common. So do these offers represent a fantastic value, or are they just another trick to get you to sign up for a credit card? (See also: Best Credit Cards that Offer Airline Companion Tickets)

What is a companion ticket?

The term "companion ticket" or "companion pass" is thrown around a lot by the airline and credit card industry, and it can mean different things ranging from unlimited free tickets, to just a relatively small discount on the purchase of a second ticket. When evaluating one of these offers, you should skip right to the fine print to see how and when you can actually redeem it, and what it will ultimately cost you. Here are the most popular companion ticket offers and what you actually get. (See also: 10 Flight Booking Hacks to Save You Hundreds)

Southwest Rapid Rewards

The Southwest Companion Pass is by far the best companion pass of all. Once you earn it, you choose an individual that can travel with you on any paid or award ticket for just the price of taxes and government fees. The two tickets must be on the exact same itinerary and you must fly together. Once earned, the pass is valid until the end of the next calendar year, so you can receive up to two years of this benefit.

Delta SkyMiles

If you have a companion ticket for Delta, you're in luck. These tickets are actually quite valuable as they cover the entire fare except for taxes and government fees. Depending on the companion fare certificate you have, it may be valid in economy class when used with a paid ticket within the 48 contiguous United States (residents of Alaska and Hawaii can use it for travel originating from home), or one that is also available for first class travel. Thankfully, reservations on almost all fare classes (except some highly discounted bulk fares) are eligible to use. (See also: Which Delta SkyMiles Credit Card Should You Get?)

British Airways Executive Club

BA's Travel Together certificate allows you to redeem two award tickets by only using the mileage for one. However it's not nearly as good as it sounds. To use it, travelers must book an award flight using their British Airways (BA) Avios points, and those reservations need to be on flights operated by BA, which imposes huge fuel surcharges on its awards. In fact, the fuel surcharges alone often approach the price of just buying an economy class ticket, so this program only makes sense for much more valuable awards in business and first class.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Frequent flyers on Alaska Airlines can get a companion ticket in economy class on Alaska Airlines or Virgin America for $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees starting at $22). This companion pass offer is only eligible on paid fares (not award tickets), but both travelers are eligible to earn miles.

Virgin America Elevate

The companion fare through Virgin America is really more like a highly restricted, fixed-value coupon for $150 off rather than an actual companion ticket. It can only be used in conjunction with a full-fare, round-trip ticket booked at least 14 days in advance. Note also that starting in 2018, the Virgin America Elevate program will be converted to the Alaska Mileage Plan, due to the merger of the two airlines.

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