Literally while Greg and I were live and answering a viewer who asked “What gives?” with Southwest not having announced an extension on the Companion Pass and elite status, Southwest was busy doing just that. Today, they have announced that they are extending Companion Passes due to expire this year, they are extending elite status, they are extending the validity of some travel vouchers, ad they will be allowing travel vouchers to be converted to Rapid Rewards points, though the details on that last part are still murky. I’m actually very much underwhelmed here and at least kind of disappointed. I’m not sure how Southwest could have reasonably done much better, but I think their announcement here is less generous than we’ve come to expect. Note that all of this will take time to implement technologically. Don’t expect any of it to be done until at least a few weeks from now.

Companion Pass extension

Southwest has announced a Companion Pass extension today. Those who have a Companion Pass that expires at the end of this year are getting six additional months: Those whose Companion Pass benefits was set to expire on December 31, 2020, will now have a Companion Pass through June 30, 2021.

I guess that’s fairish. On the one hand, Companion Pass holders theoretically had all of January and basically all of February to use their Companion Pass before the COVID-19 pandemic really took off in the US and shut things down. If you view it that way and you figure that travel will then return to “normal” by August, they are essentially giving you back the six months you lost. If travel resumes sooner, you come out a couple months ahead.

That said, we know that nothing will be “normal” right away. Will people be using their Companion Pass the way they intended by August or September? It’s doubtful.

I think the biggest issue here is that summertime is obviously the most popular time to travel and I feel like those who had a Companion Pass this year are likely to miss out on most of this summer as things trickle back towards normal and will now have a Companion Pass that expires right as summer kicks into gear next year. At the same time, it probably wasn’t reasonable to expect Southwest to extend the Companion Pass by a full year at this early juncture when it’s possible that travel will resemble normal at some point this summer.

Essentially, my opinion is that this is OK. It’s not a bad outcome and makes some effort toward a customer-friendly solution.

On the other hand, for those who earned a Companion Pass already this year or who will now soon have one based on how Southwest is shortening the path to a Companion Pass this year, today’s announcement didn’t offer much. This time being lost from what would have been a nearly-two-year Companion Pass isn’t made up with today’s announcement. Again, that’s not totally surprising; I wouldn’t have expected an announcement today that extended a Companion Pass that ends in December 2021 into the year 2022. I imagine that those who already earned the pass will be marginally disappointed not to receive anything from Southwest though.

At the end of the day most folks who have already earned the Companion Pass likely did so via credit cards and are getting a pretty sweet deal that way even if they only use it for 12-15 months, so maybe expecting anything was expecting too much.

Elite status extension

Southwest has also extended elite status as follows:

For A-List and A-List Preferred Members who earned A-List or A-List Preferred status through December 31, 2020 and not through any type of promotion, we are extending your current earned status through December 31, 2021.

  • For Members enrolled in a promotion granting promotional A-List status or challenging a Member to extend promotional A-List status such as Status Match, Tier Challenge, Tier Experience, or a Corporate Status Challenge and who met the flight requirements by the promotion end date, we are extending your current promotional status through December 31, 2021. However, for Members enrolled in any of the above promotions and who to date have not met the flight requirements, we are extending the deadline to meet the promotion’s flight requirements to October 30, 2020.

That’s all good news. The elite status extension is on par with what other airlines are doing and could have easily been expected. The extension to meet status challenge requirements by October 30th should give most folks plenty of time to meet those requirements, so that also seems more than fair.

Reduced path to Companion Pass and A-list status

Southwest also announced modified requirements for earning elite status and the Companion Pass this year. Rather than reducing the requirements, Southwest is essentially juicing accounts with credit toward status and the Companion Pass. Everyone will automatically get these things added to their status and CP counters:

  • 15,000 tier…

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