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Flying is expensive. And from the looks of it, airfares are only going up. The good news? If you’re traveling with a close friend or family member, you may be able to score a discount on your guest’s airfare.
Before you shell out the money for two regular-price coach seats, let’s take a closer look at how to get an airline companion ticket or discount code. This benefit isn’t limited to elite-level flyers — in some cases, you can qualify for it just by using an airline credit card.
Southwest Airlines offers one of the most well-known companion discounts. If you qualify, the Southwest Companion Pass lets you choose one guest to fly free with you every time you purchase or redeem points for your own ticket on a flight within the U.S., Mexico or the Caribbean (does not include taxes and fees starting at $5.60 one way).
But there are a few other companion tickets and discount codes you should also know about.
How to find the best airline companion ticket
Keep in mind, no airline offers a perfect companion ticket. You have to watch out for the fine print and be aware of any restrictions you may face when booking your guest’s ticket. That said, we found that Southwest’s Companion Pass stands far above the rest.
Let’s dig into the details to see how some of the most popular companion tickets stack up, and the best way to qualify for each one.
- Southwest Companion Pass
- Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare™
- Delta Air Lines companion certificate
- Hawaiian Airlines® MasterCard® discount
- Lufthansa economy class companion ticket
- British Airways Travel Together Ticket
- American Airlines companion certificate
Southwest boasts what many frequent flyers consider to be the Holy Grail of travel.
Unlike some airlines that offer a single companion ticket once a year, Southwest allows qualified members to designate a friend to fly with them for free (not including taxes and fees) on multiple Southwest flights for up to two years.
Once you’ve qualified for Companion Pass, you can start using it immediately. Since it will be valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which your status is earned and the entire calendar year after that, a single Companion Pass may be valid for nearly two years.
“It’s one of the best travel hacks on the market,” says Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, who scours the internet for low airfares that he passes along to newsletter subscribers.
“If you’re traveling with someone else, it’s almost always a better value to fly with Southwest, because the Companion Pass cuts the price in half.”
Well, almost in half. Companions will still be charged taxes and fees on their tickets from $5.60 one-way.
You may qualify for Southwest’s Companion Pass by earning 125,000 Rapid Rewards® points in a calendar year.
You can earn Southwest points with the following personal credit cards, which earn two points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and one point per $1 spent on all other purchases:
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Each of the above cards also comes with a sign-up bonus. With either card, you can earn 40,000 points when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
It helps that Southwest allows you to pool points from multiple cards. But if you’re wary of signing up for more than one card and you find yourself short of the 125,000-point plateau, you might want to consider boosting your earnings by shopping at Southwest’s Rapid Rewards® online store. Points from those purchases may go toward qualifying for the Companion Pass. Just make sure you don’t spend more than you typically would in an effort to qualify.
Unless you travel frequently for work, don’t bother booking 100 one-way flights in a calendar year just to qualify for the Companion Pass. It’s much easier to qualify with the credit card sign-up bonuses and the points earned on everyday purchases.
As far as where you and your partner will go? That’s largely up to your imagination. Southwest flies all over the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean. Often, Keyes will use his Companion Pass to take his wife to another U.S. city, where they catch a cheaper international flight. In 2016, they traveled with Southwest from Colorado to San Jose, California, where they caught a $170 flight to Japan.
Alaska Airlines could make your trip to the Last Frontier (or lots of other places in the U.S.) more affordable.
Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare is offered to Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card and Alaska Airlines Visa® business credit card cardholders. The annual fee for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card is $75.
Annual fees for the Alaska Airlines Visa® business credit card are $50 for the company and $25 per card.
Typically, Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare entitles you to an Alaska flight booked on alaskaair.com every year on your account anniversary. Flights start at $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22).
For a limited time, there’s a sign-up bonus for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card that allows you to earn 40,000 bonus miles — along with Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare — if you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of opening the account.
There are no blackout dates, and Alaska’s route map covers much of the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card
If you’re not interested in flying internationally, the Delta Air Lines companion certificate could take you and a guest most places in the U.S., except Hawaii and Alaska.
American Express offers two personal Delta credit cards that feature a companion certificate, but not until your second year of card membership. You’ll receive one companion ticket each year after you renew your card:
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
Delta will charge you no more than $75 in taxes and fees to redeem the companion certificate.
4. Hawaiian Airlines® MasterCard® discount
Hawaiian Airlines could make your honeymoon in the Aloha State more affordable with what is essentially a “buy one, get one half off” coupon.
The Hawaiian Airlines companion discount is good for a one-time 50% discount off your guest’s ticket. Keep in mind, this discount only applies to round-trip coach travel between Hawaii and North America on Hawaiian Airlines, and it doesn’t include taxes, fees or surcharges.
You may qualify for this one-time companion discount after being approved for the Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®, which comes with an annual fee of $0 intro, $99 after first year, or the Hawaiian Airlines® Business Mastercard®, which comes with a $99 annual fee.
Looking for more ways to get to and from Hawaii? Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® cardholders are eligible to earn a $100 discount off one coach companion ticket for round-trip travel between Hawaii and North America after each account anniversary upon payment of the annual fee.
Lufthansa’s economy class companion ticket may be one of the better options for international travelers.
If you’re looking to travel outside of North America, the German airline could fly you and a guest from the U.S. to Europe, the Middle East, Africa or parts of Asia.
To qualify, you must be approved for a Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard® and make a purchase with the card. You’ll receive another companion ticket on the account opening anniversary of each year you keep the account open.
Keep in mind, the Miles & More® Premier World MasterCard® carries an $89 annual fee. You’ll also want to watch out for hidden fees when attempting to redeem your companion ticket. You’ll be responsible for paying taxes, fees and carrier charges for your companion’s ticket.
British Airways offers one of the most difficult companion tickets to obtain.
To qualify for the Travel Together Ticket, British Airways Visa Signature® Card cardholders must spend $30,000 on purchases in a calendar year. That’s an average of $2,500 per month. The enormous spending minimum pushes this benefit out of reach for all but the highest spenders.
On the bright side, once you earn a Travel Together Ticket, it’s valid for two years. You can redeem your Avios (the British Airways frequent flyer currency) for one reward seat for yourself and use your Travel Together Ticket to bring a companion in the same cabin — even first class.
Just be aware that taxes, fees and carrier charges may still apply — and those are often more expensive on international flights. Tucked away in the terms and conditions, the London-based airline warns that a trip from Seattle to London could cost anywhere from $682 to $1,250 in charges.
That’s hardly a free ticket.
“The devil’s in the details,” Keyes says.
“The problem with the British Airways Travel Together Ticket is the extraordinarily high fees that come with it,” he says. “I can find entire flights that are cheaper than their fuel surcharges.”
The American Airlines companion certificate is difficult to obtain, but even if you qualify, your guest can’t fly internationally (or even to Hawaii).
It’s offered by the American Airlines-branded CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® . To qualify, cardholders must spend at least $30,000 on purchases in a year. If you meet this requirement, you’ll have the opportunity in the following year to purchase a companion certificate for $99, plus no more than $43.20 in taxes and fees.
Heads up: The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® also carries an annual fee of $0 intro, $99 after first year.
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®
What’s the difference between a Companion Pass, companion ticket and companion discount?
Southwest’s Companion Pass lets qualifying members bring a guest on multiple flights during a time period of up to two calendar years.
Other airlines sometimes use terms like “companion ticket,” “companion fare,” “companion voucher” and “companion certificate” to refer to one-time guest passes, which may come with certain restrictions.
You may also hear the term “companion discount,” which typically refers to a discount code that reduces the cost of your guest’s regularly priced ticket.
As you search for the best companion ticket, you may want to consider the following questions:
- How much do you need to spend to qualify for the companion ticket?
- After you qualify, how much will you pay for the companion ticket, including taxes and fees?
- How often can you fly with a companion?
- Where can you fly together?
We’re here to steer you away from turbulence. Now, sit back and relax. It’s time for takeoff.
How to fly around the world with a companion ticket
Now, let’s take a quick look at which airline’s companion ticket might be the best fit depending on where you fly. We’re assuming you start your trip in the continental U.S.
What, you don’t have a passport?
That’s all right! Southwest will fly you to dozens of major U.S. cities. Other potentially great options include Delta Air Lines and Alaska Airlines.
Hawaiian Airlines, of course. Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines also fly to the Aloha State.
Your best bet is Lufthansa, but be wary of the fuel surcharges and other fees. Same goes for British Airways.
Mexico and the Caribbean
Aeromexico flies to dozens of cities in Mexico, including Cancun. Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines may also fly to major tourist destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.
Slim pickings here. Southwest Airlines makes one stop in Aruba. Aeromexico and Lufthansa fly to South America, but their companion tickets aren’t valid here. British Airways flies here as well, although the Travel Together Ticket could be expensive.
If you’re going on an African safari or visiting the Egyptian pyramids, Lufthansa and British Airways can get you there.
Lufthansa and British Airways fly here.
Lufthansa and British Airways. Hawaiian Airlines flies here too, but the companion discount is only valid on trips to the Aloha State.
British Airways can take you to the land down under. Lufthansa also flies here.
It’s time to figure out where you want to travel.
There are companion tickets that can take you and a guest nearly anywhere — including Hawaii, Europe, Mexico or even to Africa for a safari.
Southwest features the most popular companion discount, but it won’t do you much good if you’re planning a trip to Europe. British Airways can take you all over the world, but the $30,000 spending minimum (and those hefty taxes and fees) obviously aren’t for everyone.
It all goes to show, the best companion offer for you will probably depend a lot on where you live, where you fly and how much you’re willing to spend annually on a credit card.
Whichever one you settle on, here’s to a smooth landing.