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Upcoming Southwest Rapid Rewards Changes for 2023

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Southwest Airlines, one of the major US airlines and the world’s largest low-cost carrier, is making some changes to its Rapid Rewards® program and Companion Pass. The changes will go into effect starting January 1, 2023.

If you are a Rapid Rewards member, you may have already received an email from Southwest informing of these changes. If not, here is everything you need to know about the upcoming update in the Rapid Rewards program.

Rapid Rewards Quick Overview

Rapid Rewards members earn points by flying or spending with Southwest hotel, car rental and retail partners. The number of points you can earn depends on your level in the program, type of fare and amount, and payment method. Program members who also have a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card from Chase can earn additional points on Southwest Airlines and other purchases.

Earned Rapid Rewards points can be redeemed for flights with no blackout dates, upgrades, gift cards, merchandise, experiential rewards (including cruises, spa packages, hiking, jeep tours, and more), Rapid Rewards access events, and donations.

Rapid Rewards members who have reached A-list or A-List Preferred level have access to additional benefits, including higher earning bonus, priority boarding, priority check-in, security lane access, and more.

And, of course, Southwest’s specialty is their Companion Pass that allows you to choose one person to fly with you, free of airline charges, every time you purchase or redeem points for a flight.

Southwest Companion Pass Overview

Southwest Companion Pass is probably the greatest deal in the travel world. It allows you to bring along a friend or a family member for free on an unlimited number of Southwest flights as long as the pass is active.

To get the Companion Pass, you need to either fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. Once you earn the pass it will be valid for the remainder of the year in which you earned it and for the following full calendar year. You can use the pass for an unlimited number of flights, both domestic and international.

The Companion Pass does not include benefits of A-List and A-List Preferred levels, unless the designated Companion is a A-List or A-List Preferred member. Thus, in case when your companion does not have any status in the Rapid Rewards program, you may have to board separately.

Companion Pass travel has no blackout dates or seat restrictions. You can change your companion up to three times per calendar year. When you want to add a companion to your reservation, you need to book your ticket first, then add your companion to the reservation. 

What’s Changing in Rapid Rewards?

Most changes in the Rapid Rewards program for next 2023 affect Companion Pass. Thus, starting January 1, 2023, the qualifying benchmark for the Companion Pass will be 135,000 points instead of current 125,000 points.

The number of qualifying flights won’t change, though – you will still need to fly at least 100 qualifying one-way flights to earn the Companion Pass.

Another change to the Companion Pass rules is good news: starting next year, Companion Pass holders and their companions will be able to board together. However, as usually, there are exceptions. Thus, if the passholder purchased a Business Select fare or upgraded boarding, or if the companion was added after a boarding position was assigned, companions won’t be allowed to board with the passholder.      

Aside from Companion Pass changes, Southwest also hinted about new ways to earn and redeem Rapid Rewards points in 2023. However, no specific details have been announced yet. We can only guess whether those would be new partners, revamped credit cards, or other changes to the program.

Final Thoughts

It’s not the first time Southwest tweaks its Rapid Rewards program rules and old timers may remember a couple of them. However, not all changes are bad news. Still, Rapid Rewards members will need to put a bit more effort into earning the Companion Pass. Luckily, Southwest has Rapid Rewards credit cards and often rolls out promotions that allow members to earn additional rewards.

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