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The day has arrived, you can now use your Southwest points and Companion Pass to book international flights on Southwest! Tons of families love the ease and flexibility of flying Southwest, including leveraging the very lucrative Companion Pass, so this is great news. According to the press release, service will begin on July 1st and the available flights will be:
Atlanta and Aruba, and Montego Bay
Baltimore/Washington and Aruba, Nassau, and (twice daily) Montego Bay
Orlando and (Saturday only) Aruba, and Montego Bay
Obviously they are starting relatively small, but those are some fun and family-friendly destinations (check out my post on Nassau from this morning for family fun activities there). Being able to get to these destinations not only on Southwest points, but also by leveraging the Companion Pass, makes Southwest much more interesting. Be aware that the Southwest site indicates that “designated companions under the age of 18 can accompany Companion Pass holders on international flights; however these passengers cannot be booked online. Please contact us at 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792) to book a companion under the age of 18 for international travel.” This means you need to pick up the phone and book if your kid is your designated companion for international flights.
I did a test booking in July from Atlanta to Aruba and the total came to 18,360 points + $67.50 in government taxes and fees for the round trip journey (this was before the 15% devaluation in March 2014). This is a very good deal compared to using say United miles (that are also transferable 1:1 from Ultimate Rewards), as that would cost you 35,000 United miles for the round trip. Obviously the Southwest points price will vary since it is directly tied to the cash price, but so far this is pretty great…especially because your companion via the Companion Pass could come along for just the cost of the taxes/fees!
In case this makes you more interested in Southwest and the Companion Pass, here are a few basics you may have skipped over before.
Use the Southwest Credit Cards to Obtain Companion Pass:
As you may have heard me say before, the best deal in family travel (at least for those who can fly Southwest conveniently) is the Companion Pass. You need 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year to earn the Companion Pass so that your designated companion can fly free with you on any Southwest operated flight. This is true whether your ticket was purchased with cash or points. The 50,000 credit card sign-up bonus points (this offer has expired. Please go here for current offer.), such as those from the Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, have been counting for years toward the Companion Pass, so this can give you a quick jolt toward getting to 110k needed points in a calendar year to earn the pass. This is a very good time of the year to get the credit cards and work toward the pass as quickly as possible as it is good the year you earn it and the next year. You can then designate your desired companion who will travel with you for just the cost of the taxes and fees (which will be more significant on international trips than on domestic trips).
Ultimate Reward Points Transfer 1:1 to United
Remember that you can also use your stash of Chase Ultimate Reward points from cards such as the Ink Plus® Business Card, or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to transfer 1:1 into Southwest to book Southwest operated flights, like these new international routes. However, to be aware that those points transferred in directly from Ultimate Rewards will not count toward earning the Companion Pass.
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