By: John Tunningley
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One of the best perks in the travel world is the Companion Pass offered by Southwest Airlines. Longtime 10xTravel readers will have heard all the details about it and how to get it about 100 times by now but I wanted to touch on the airlines that offer companion tickets and what credit cards offer them.
As a stipulation, it’s important to note that if you see a card offering a companion ticket it is not the same benefit as the Southwest Companion Pass. These tickets are only available for a single flight and, in some cases, there is still a charge for the ticket.
Now, let’s dig into which co-branded airline credit cards offer a companion ticket:
Bank of America Alaska Airlines Credit Card
Alaska Airlines likes to brand their companion ticket. In particular, you’ll often hear them call it their “famous companion fare”. Now, in the points and miles hobby, many people are aware of their companion fare but calling it “famous” might be overselling it a bit (especially when just about all of us prefer the Southwest Companion Pass mentioned above).
Typically, the way Alaska Airlines’ companion fare works is that each year you keep their co-branded Bank of America credit card, you will receive a discount code to book a companion fare for $99 plus taxes and fees.
This companion fare can be used on any itinerary on Alaska Airlines or Virgin America. The only stipulation is the travel must be booked (not flown) before the certificate expires. Both you and your companion can earn miles and you can even book it for a friend and their companion as long as your name is the one listed on the credit card used to pay for the tickets.
It is one of the better companion tickets around due to its flexibility and ease of booking but. to make it even better, Alaska Airlines often sends out promotions that waive the $99 fare which allows you to book a companion on one of your flights for just the taxes and fees. This is a great deal and, although you can’t book the main flight with miles, it is one more added benefit to the card.
The British Airways companion ticket is a little different than the others mentioned in that you have to spend a certain amount of money on the Chase British Airways Visa Card to receive a voucher for the companion ticket.
To earn British Airways’ “Travel Together Ticket”, you have to spend $30,000 on the credit card within a calendar year. In addition to this the companion ticket can only be used when the first ticket is an award flight. This means you have to book an award ticket with British Airways Avios to use the Travel Together Ticket.
The advantages to the British Airways companion ticket is that your companion can travel in the same class of service as you and the companion ticket doesn’t expire for two years (although the outbound leg of the journey has to be taken before that expiration date).
Additionally, the Travel Together Ticket comes in the way it is awarded. It is simply a voucher posted to your British Airways Executive Club account that is relatively easy to book online.
The drawbacks to the British Airways ticket can be extensive though. First and foremost, it is only good on British Airways mainline flights originating in and returning to the United States which means you can’t use it on a Oneworld partner booking with Avios.
Secondly, you have to pay the taxes, fees, and carrier-imposed surcharges on the tickets, which can be quite high. For example, British Airways shows that these charges on a ticket from Seattle to London can range from $682 to $1250 per person.
Needless to say, it’s often easier to find cheaper flights than this on other airlines if you’re flying economy but if you plan on flying business class this can be a good deal (just be aware in this scenario it would cost you $1250 for each business class ticket).
Generally, the best way to redeem a Travel Together Ticket is to book a business class or first class award with Avios.
The British Airways Signature Visa has a $95 annual fee but is not subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule.
Delta Air Lines
This is, personally, my favorite airline to fly using a companion ticket but that has a lot to do with Delta’s long time monopoly on my home airport of Cincinnati (CVG).
The companion ticket from Delta is an annual perk for both Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express card and for the Reserve Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express Card. However, the first companion ticket code doesn’t show up until your first account anniversary.
As with many companion tickets, there are a lot of rules that govern the use of this companion ticket. The rules are as follows:
- The companion ticket can only be used for round-trip travel
- It’s only valid for L, U, T, X, and V economy fare classes (If you have the reserve it can also be used for first class tickets)
- The ticket must be purchased using the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card (or Reserve Delta SkyMiles Credit Card).
- The primary ticket earns miles but the companion does not.
- Travel must be completed before the expiration date on the certificate.
- Travel is for the continental United States only
The benefit of this certificate is it will often cover the annual fee of the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card ($195) and similarly to the Alaska Airlines companion fare you will receive a certificate every year you keep the card.
This certificate also covers the whole cost of the ticket itself so you simply have to pay the taxes and fees on the companion’s ticket. The Reserve Delta SkyMiles Credit Card is a little more expensive with an annual fee of $450 but, in addition to the added benefit of being able to use the companion ticket for a first class fare, it also provides access to Delta Sky Clubs and an annual “Miles Boost” if you reach certain spend thresholds in a calendar year.
Lastly there is a little known companion ticket offered with the AAdvantage Aviator Silver card. Although this card is not publicly available you can upgrade the Aviator Red card to the Silver card after 60 days of card ownership.
The American Airlines companion ticket borrows various elements from the other companion tickets listed above and has some overlapping features and stipulations of each. Similar to their Oneworld counterpart British Airways, the American Airlines companion ticket requires $30,000 of spend on their card only this time it’s within a card membership year instead of a calendar year.
Much like the Alaska Airlines credit card, the certificate lowers the companion’s fare to $99 plus taxes and fees and, following in Delta’s footsteps, the certificate is only good for economy travel within the continental U.S. (unless you live in Hawaii or Alaska).
The one aspect of this companion certificate that is different is that it can be used for up to 2 guests at $99 each instead of one. The certificate will post to your AAdvantage account roughly 14 to 16 weeks after your account anniversary (you have to keep your card open for at least 45 days after the anniversary) and the certificate expires 1 year after it is issued.
The Aviator Silver Card comes with a few other benefits as well including 5,000 EQMs for every $20,000 you spend (up to 10,000 EQMs) and Global Entry Reimbursement but the card does have a $195 annual fee.
All of these companion passes can be great in the right situation but it’s important to note none of these cards are worth getting while under 5/24. Also, it’s always important to weigh the cost versus benefit of many of these tickets, especially with the British Airways and American Airlines cards which require you to reach high spend thresholds to earn their companion tickets.
The clear winners seem to be the Bank of America Alaska Airlines card and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card. The companion tickets attached to these cards are awarded just for keeping the card and can cover the annual fee of each card if used strategically.
In the end, each of these companion tickets don’t come close to the Southwest Companion Pass, but each have potential benefits.