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Credit Cards

Airline companion passes let you fly with a guest for (almost) free — here's how to choose the best one for you

Some of the top airline credit cards offer free or deeply discounted airline companion tickets.

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Information about the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

If you normally travel with a friend or family member, you can score steep discounts with airline companion passes. These passes typically allow the primary holder to bring a companion on a flight for just the cost of taxes and fees, which start as low as $5.60 one-way.

While Southwest's Companion Pass is the most well-known, there are other airlines that offer similar money-saving benefits, and you may be able to get them just by carrying the right airline credit card. But not all companion passes are worth pursuing, as some offer better value than others.

If you’re new to companion passes, this guide will help you navigate the best options. Below, CNBC Select reviews everything you need to know about airline companion passes and which one might be the best fit for you.

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What is an airline companion pass?

A companion pass, sometimes called a companion certificate or companion ticket, is a perk offered by some airlines, allowing a designated companion to travel with the pass holder for just the cost of taxes and fees. The specific terms and conditions of companion passes vary by airline, but they typically require the pass holder to earn a certain number of qualifying points or simply to have the airline’s credit card.

Companion passes can offer significant value to travelers who frequently fly with a companion, as they can save money on airfare and enjoy the convenience of traveling together. That being said, you’ll want to carefully review the terms and conditions of any companion pass to understand the restrictions.

How do airline companion passes work?

Airline companion passes typically work by allowing a designated companion to travel with the pass holder on the same flight for just the cost of taxes and fees. Many airline companion passes are earned through credit cards, while some require you to earn a certain number of points through flying and other activities. Some passes are valid on economy flights only, while others extend to first-class cabins. While some companion passes are valid on award flights, others are restricted to paid fares only.

It’s important to understand the rules and conditions of each pass before investing in one. That way, you’re aware of its uses and limitations. That way, you can plan your travels better and get the most value from your pass. 

List of airline companion passes

Every airline has different rules for earning and redeeming companion passes. We’ve summarized the top airline companion passes below to help you figure out how each one works and which might be the best for your travel needs.

American Airlines Companion Certificate

American Airlines' Companion Certificate is one of the more difficult companion certificates to obtain. You can only earn it through certain co-branded American Airlines credit cards and need to hit high spending thresholds. Plus, the certificate can only be used on economy flights within the contiguous 48 U.S. states, and there's a $99 ticketing fee in addition to the usual taxes and fees to redeem the certificate.

The certificate can be earned after spending $30,000 or more in a card membership year and renewing your card if you have the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® or the AAdvantage® Aviator® World Elite Business Mastercard®. You can also earn a certificate with the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard® or AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard® (not available to new applicants) when you spend $20,000 in a year and your account remains open for 45 days following your anniversary date. All companion certificates are valid for one guest, except for the Aviator Silver Card's certificate, which is valid for two guests.

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®

Information about the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 on eligible American Airlines purchases, cable and satellite providers, at gas stations, select telecommunication merchants and car rentals.  1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases. 1 Loyalty Point for every 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 65,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 4 months of account opening

  • Annual fee

    $99, waived for the first 12 months

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    21.24% – 29.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good/Excellent

Terms apply.

Alaska Airlines Famous Companion Fare

The Alaska Airlines Famous Companion Fare is a popular benefit offered to Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card and Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit cardholders, allowing them to bring a companion on round-trip flights for just $122 ($99 plus taxes and fees). The Companion Fare is valid on economy class tickets and is issued to credit cardholders who spend at least $6,000 on their cards every anniversary year.

The companion fare can be used on any paid Alaska Airlines flight and it's valid for 12 months from the date of issue. The great thing about the Alaska Companion Fare is that both travelers will earn miles on their flights. This benefit can save travelers a significant amount of money and is a valuable perk for those who travel frequently with a companion.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

  • Rewards

    Earn unlimited 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases, 2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible gas, EV charging station, local transit, rideshare, cable, and select streaming services purchases and one mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    Limited time offer: Earn 70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) with this offer. To qualify, make $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    N/A

  • Regular APR

    20.24% - 28.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% of each transaction

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None.

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

Terms apply.

 

British Airways Travel Together Ticket

While British Airlines imposes high taxes on premium cabin award tickets, the British Airways Visa Signature® Card can still be worthwhile thanks to one major perk: The British Airways Travel Together Ticket. This ticket is issued to cardholders who spend at least $30,000 in a calendar year. 

The Travel Together Ticket can be used to book a companion's flight in any class of service for just the cost of taxes and fees. If you're a solo traveler, you can instead use the Travel Together Ticket to save 50% on an award ticket. This can be especially lucrative on premium cabin British Airways flights, which carry high taxes and fees. The reduced mileage requirement takes the sting out of these taxes since you're redeeming fewer miles.

The Travel Together Ticket is valid for two years from the issue date on any round-trip British Airways-operated flight departing from the United States. This benefit provides significant value to cardholders who frequently travel with a companion and can be a great way to experience the luxury of first class without the high cost.

British Airways Visa Signature® Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 3 Avios per $1 spent on purchases with Iberia, British Airways, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL. Earn 2 Avios per $1 spent on hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel.

  • Welcome bonus

    Limited time offer! Earn 85,000 Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    21.49% - 28.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Member FDIC. Terms apply.

Delta Air Lines Companion Certificates

The Delta Companion Certificate is offered as a benefit to select Delta SkyMiles credit card holders. This certificate allows the cardholder to add a companion to a qualifying round-trip domestic Delta flight for just taxes and fees. Delta offers two different types of companion certificates across four co-branded credit cards. One is valid on domestic Main Cabin flights and the other is valid up to domestic first class.

You'll get more value from the Companion Certificate valid on first-class travel, since these tickets are the most expensive. All you have to do is book a flight for yourself and pay the taxes and fees for your companion. Here's a look at every Delta SkyMiles credit card offering a Companion Certificate upon card renewal:

*The Companion Ticket requires payment of the government-imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights and no more than $250 for roundtrip international flights (both for itineraries with up to four flight segments). Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 3X miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels; 2X miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets; 1X mile on all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • Annual fee

    $350

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    20.99% - 29.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 3X miles on every dollar spent on eligible purchases made directly with Delta and on every eligible dollar spent on purchases made directly with hotels. Earn 1.5X miles* on eligible transit and U.S. shipping purchases, plus single eligible purchases of $5,000 or more. If your purchase qualifies for a category that has a higher mileage accelerator, only the higher accelerator will apply. 1X mile on every eligible dollar spent on other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 65,000 Bonus Miles after spending $6,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • Annual fee

    $350

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    20.99% - 29.99% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • Annual fee

    $650

  • Intro APR

    N/A

  • Regular APR

    20.99% - 29.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 3 miles per dollar on eligible Delta purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 75,000 Bonus Miles after spending $10,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. 

  • Annual fee

    $650

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    20.99% - 29.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

Hawaiian Airlines Companion Discount

Hawaiian Airlines offers two types of companion discounts through its co-branded credit cards: A 50% companion discount or $100 off a companion flight. With the right credit card, you can even take advantage of both. These companion discounts are valid on round-trip economy flights operated by Hawaiian Airlines between North America and Hawaii.

Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®

Information about the Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® has been collected independently by CNBC Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    3 miles per dollar spent on eligible Hawaiian Airlines purchases; 2 miles per dollar spent on gas, dining and eligible grocery store purchases; 1 mile per dollar spent on other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus HawaiianMiles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days

  • Annual fee

    $99

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    20.74% - 29.74% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good / Excellent

Terms apply.

 

Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Business Mastercard®

Information about the Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    3 miles per dollar spent on eligible Hawaiian Airlines purchases; 2 miles per dollar spent on gas, dining and office supply store purchases; 1 mile per dollar spent on other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus HawaiianMiles® after spending $2,000 on purchases, plus earn an additional 10,000 bonus HawaiianMiles after a purchase is made on an employee card, each within the first 90 days.

  • Annual fee

    $99

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    20.74% - 29.74% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good / Excellent

Terms apply.

 

Hawaiian Airlines® Bank of Hawaii World Elite Mastercard®

Information about the Hawaiian Airlines® Bank of Hawaii World Elite Mastercard® has been collected independently by CNBC Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    3 miles per dollar spent on eligible Hawaiian Airlines purchases; 2 miles per dollar spent on gas, dining and eligible grocery store purchases; 1 mile per dollar spent on other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus HawaiianMiles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days

  • Annual fee

    $99

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    20.74% - 29.74% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good / Excellent

Terms apply.

 

Southwest Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass is perhaps the most well-known and coveted airline companion pass. The pass allows a designated companion to fly for free (plus taxes) on any Southwest flight, whether it's a paid or award ticket. To earn the Companion Pass, a customer must earn 135,000 qualifying points or fly 100 one-way flights in a calendar year. 

The Companion Pass is valid during the calendar it was earned in, plus the entire year after. So if you earn a Companion Pass in February 2024, it will be valid through December 2025. There's no limit to the number of flights you can book with a Companion Pass and you can change companions up to three times per calendar year.

The great thing about the Southwest Companion Pass is how attainable it is. The spending and welcome bonus on the Southwest cards counts towards the 135,000-point requirement. You can earn the Companion Pass from just two credit card welcome bonuses. Just be mindful of Chase's 5/24 rule, which could impact your eligibility for a Southwest card.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

  • Rewards

    Earn 3X points on Southwest® purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming. 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • Annual fee

    $99

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    21.49% - 28.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 3X points on Southwest® purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming. 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • Annual fee

    $149

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    21.49% - 28.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; 2X points on internet, cable and phone services; select streaming. 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • Annual fee

    $69

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    21.49% - 28.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fees

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 4X points on Southwest® purchases; 3X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners; 2X points on rideshare; 2X points on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services; 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

  • Annual fee

    $199 applied to first billing statement

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    21.49% - 28.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Member FDIC. Terms apply.

Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 3X points on Southwest® purchases; 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; 2X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car partners; 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

  • Annual fee

    $99

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    21.49% - 28.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Bottom line

Airline companion passes can be a good value for those who frequently travel with a companion and are looking to save money on airfare. By cutting travel costs by up to 50%, you can stretch your points and travel budget further. Every airline companion pass is different, so be sure to compare the benefits and costs of each one to understand any limitations or restrictions.

Catch up on CNBC Select's in-depth coverage of credit cardsbanking and money, and follow us on TikTokFacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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