|by Jason Steele|
The airline companion pass is frequently offered as a perk for credit cards. Consumers are rightfully skeptical that a companion pass they are offered will be worth much or anything. Here are some examples of companion passes that are offered and if they are worth anything.
1. The Delta Airlines Domestic Companion Ticket From American Express
Holders of some of the Delta cards from American Express receive a companion pass every time they renew their card. I have used these and I have concluded that they are not a scam. The are transferable, so that you can use it for people other than yourself. Some of the cards have a free companion pass, while others have a $99 companion pass. They can be redeemed online, so that is fairly convenient. More importantly, you book directly through Delta. The best part is that most classes of service are eligible for using these passes. I have booked the lowest price available for a seat, and then get another.
2. The American Express Platinum International Fussiness and First Class Companion Ticket
One of the key problems with some of these companion pass programs is that they require the purchased ticket to be in a refundable class. Sure enough, a refundable ticket will typically cost more than twice as much as a non-refundable ticket. In the case of the American Express Platinum card pass, there is seemingly a real potential to gain a lot of value form the this pass. Recently, I looked into using this certificate for some family members traveling to Europe. The $5,000 non-refundable business class ticket was bad enough, but to use the companion pass, the same seat would have cost over $10,000, so what is the point? There are only two scenarios that I can come up with to justify the use of this pass. One would be last minute, company reimbursed travel on a refundable ticket. In that instance, it would be easy to bring along a co-worker, spouse, or friend and feel like you are getting a great deal. The other possible scenario is with an Asian carrier that offers highly discounted, but refundable business class tickets.
3. Citi Thank You Premier and Thank You Prestige Companion Pass
There are two cards from Citi that come with a companion pass. The problem is that this is a program run by a company called Spirit Incentives. You have to call them and book a ticket through them. It is really hard for me to believe that this is not one of those deals where they are marking the ticket prices up by over %100 and offering you a “free” companion ticket. I don’t have any direct information that this is a scam, but all signs point to it.
4. Southwest Companion Pass
This is more of a status than a pass. If you fly with them enough, eventually you will get to bring a companion with you for free on any itinerary. You have to designate the companion ahead of time, so there is actually an aspect of commitment here. That said, this is a spectacular benefit that will give a traveling couple almost unlimited free tickets.
The companion idea will always be one that is ripe for exploitation, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. By doing a little research ahead of time, you can learn which passes have value, and which are not worth the paper they are printed on.