Waiting to Book a Companion Ticket — Reader Mistake Story
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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Chris, who neglected one of the best features of Southwest Rapid Rewards. Here’s what he had to say:
I’m planning a family trip this fall to Walt Disney World, and I’m using various loyalty programs to reduce the cost. We’re going to fly Southwest using Rapid Rewards points, and one of my goals for 2018 is to obtain the Companion Pass so we’ll only have to pay for three tickets instead of four. Unfortunately I’m still over Chase’s 5/24 limit, so I won’t be able to meet the requirements until later this summer.
When the Southwest booking calendar opened recently for our travel dates, I had enough points to buy four tickets, but I only booked three with the thought that I would add the fourth later in the year (once I have the Companion Pass). Of course, a couple weeks later prices started to go up and some of the return flights started selling out. Nervous about not being able to find a seat, I transferred 27,000 Ultimate Rewards points over to Southwest and booked the fourth ticket at the higher price.
I should have just booked at the lower price when I had the chance, since Southwest refunds your points if you cancel your ticket. Now those 27,000 points are locked into my Rapid Rewards account, so I won’t be able to use them elsewhere.
One advantageous feature of Southwest Rapid Rewards is that the airline’s change and cancellation policies extend to award tickets. The lack of fees means you don’t have to deliberate over whether to buy a flight if your plans are uncertain or you think prices may drop; you can simply book when you’re ready and adjust course as needed. If Chris had bought all four tickets initially, he could have then canceled one when his Companion Pass came through (provided an open seat was still available). If the flight had filled up in the meantime, at least he would have locked in a lower rate.
Chris made another (perhaps more important) mistake that was overlooked in his message. The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most valuable travel rewards out there, so you should try to get it for as long as possible. Once you earn the pass, it’s valid for the remainder of that calendar year plus the entire following year. If you qualified in January of 2018, for example, you’d have the Companion Pass at your disposal for almost two full years. By waiting until the summer to qualify, Chris is missing out on months’ worth of companion flights. If you’re leaning on a sign-up bonus from a co-branded Southwest credit card to meet the requirements, try to time your application so you can earn the pass earlier in the year. Chris said he was over Chase’s 5/24 rule, so that held up his timeline in this case, but it’s worth trying to qualify earlier on in the year if at all possible to maximize the Companion Pass.
I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Chris for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to firstname.lastname@example.org, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.
Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!
Featured photo courtesy of Klaus Vedfelt/Getty.
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