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Southwest A-List status: Benefits and tips for earning it faster

How to earn and reap the rewards from Southwest Airlines' elite status loyalty program

Summary

Is A-List status worth it on Southwest? We give a rundown of the benefits and tips for earning it faster.

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#Southwest Airlines is one of America’s most beloved carriers for its egalitarian, family-friendly approach to air travel. Southwest is well-known for offering the most flexible travel options available, from tickets that can be canceled, altered or rescheduled for pretty much any reason, including lower fares, to offering open seating, which allows travelers to select their own choice of seats based on the order in which they board. The airline even includes two free checked bags in the cost of every ticket purchased.

What more could a traveler ask for? Well, there are even more benefits to traveling with Southwest. The airline offers its own elite traveler program designed to reward its most loyal passengers. There are two tiers to Southwest’s elite program: A-List and A-List Preferred. This section will also discuss Southwest’s Companion Pass, which is the best two-for-one travel deal in the world for frequent travelers.

The best card for Southwest flyers

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card

Why should you get it?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card is by far the best value for a frequent Southwest flyer, thanks to its $75 travel credit and 7,500-point annual bonus.

Learn more

More things to know:

  • 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months plus 3x points on dining in the first year
  • 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • 7,500 bonus points each year after your card anniversary
  • $75 annual travel credit
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available
  • 20% discount on select in-flight purchases made with your card

Southwest A-list status tiers

A-ListA-List PreferredCompanion Pass
How to qualify

Fly 25 one-way revenue flights or earn 35,000 tier-qualifying points within one calendar year

How to qualify

Fly 50 one-way revenue flights or earn 70,000 tier-qualifying points within one calendar year

How to qualify

Fly 100 one-way revenue flights or earn 125,000 tier-qualifying points within one calendar year

Base-point rate

25%

Base-point rate

100%

Base-point rate

N/A

Benefits

  • Priority boarding
  • Priority check-in and security access lanes (where available)
  • Dedicated A-list support line
  • Same-day standby free of airline charges
Benefits

Same perks as A-list members, plus:

  • Dedicated A-list Preferred support line
  • Free Wi-Fi
Benefits

Bring a companion with you for just the taxes and fees on any Southwest flight

A-List status

In order to qualify for A-List status, Southwest travelers must fly 25 Southwest Airlines one-way qualifying flights or earn 35,000 tier-qualifying Southwest Rapid Rewards points per calendar year. Southwest defines a one-way qualifying flight as a one-way revenue trip on Southwest Airlines, traveling from an origin city to a destination city. Any intermediate stops and/or connections along the way do not count as additional segments.

For instance, a flight from Austin, Texas, to Omaha, Nebraska, which stops in St. Louis, Missouri, would only count as a single one-way qualifying flight. Tier-qualifying points are earned by spending on Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards or Southwest revenue flights.

A-List status grants you access to a few valuable airline perks, including:

  • Guaranteed priority boarding – Since seats aren’t assigned on Southwest Airlines, early boarders get a huge advantage in selecting their favorite seats and grabbing the overhead bin space before everyone else. You can purchase a spot at the front of the line for $30 to $50, depending on the flight. However, Southwest Airlines automatically assigns priority boarding privileges to Southwest travelers who hold A-List elite status. At this cost to upgrade, this priority boarding perk’s financial value adds up quickly, especially for frequent Southwest travelers.
  • Priority check-in and security access lanes (where available) – A-List travelers get access to shorter screening lines through security. This privilege is printed onto your boarding passes to alert airport security of your expedited screening privileges.
  • Dedicated A-List customer support phone line – A-list members get their own customer support line for faster service.
  • Same-day standby free of airline charges –  A-List passengers can use same-day standby to depart earlier or later from the same airport (as long as the new flight they want has availability) without having to pay airline fees for the privilege. (Government taxes or airport fees may still apply.)
  • 25% earning bonus – You get a 25% boost on your base point earnings on all eligible revenue Southwest flights. For example, a ticket that would normally earn 1,000 Rapid Rewards points will earn an A-List traveler 1,250 Rapid Rewards points.

A-List Preferred status

The next tier up on the Southwest elite status totem pole is A-List Preferred. In order to qualify for A-List Preferred status, Southwest travelers must fly 50 Southwest Airlines one-way qualifying flights or earn 70,000 tier-qualifying Southwest Rapid Rewards points per calendar year.

In addition to enjoying all of the A-List perks listed above, A-List Preferred members also have access to:

  • Dedicated A-List Preferred phone line – A-List Preferred members are given the highest priority from Southwest’s customer service team.
  • Free in-flight Wi-Fi on equipped planes – Though not every Southwest flight comes equipped with Wi-Fi, A-List Preferred members can enjoy free Wi-Fi service on flights that have it.
  • 100% earning bonus – Your base point earnings are doubled on all eligible revenue Southwest flights. So, a ticket that would normally earn 1,000 Rapid Rewards points will earn an A-List Preferred member 2,000 Rapid Rewards points.

Companion Pass

It’s important to note that Companion Pass status is separate from A-List or A-List Preferred status. To qualify for a Southwest Companion Pass, travelers must earn 125,000 Companion Pass qualifying points or fly 100 Southwest Airlines qualifying one-way flights per calendar year.

Southwest’s Companion Pass is a legendary perk in the world of aviation travel, unmatched by any other airline’s companion pass program. Lucky holders of the Companion Pass are able to designate one travel companion to fly for free on any flight the pass holder takes, only paying the mandatory taxes and fees on the ticket.

It is possible to earn the Companion Pass strictly from collecting points, but earning the Companion Pass the old-fashioned way may be quite the demand if you’re holding off on travel and international flights for now. Fortunately, signing up for a Southwest credit card can give you a major boost. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card are all currently offering 40,000 points if new cardholders spend $1,000 in the first three months.

Shortcuts to Southwest A-List status

While the new welcome offer is the easiest route to earn the Companion Pass, there aren’t many easy shortcuts for earning A-List or A-List Preferred status if you need a business card or plan on applying after March 10, 2021. If that’s the case, though, we have a few suggestions for obtaining elite status faster with Southwest:

  • Buy Business Select fares  You can quickly reach the 35,000-point threshold by consistently buying Southwest’s highest-priced tickets, which earn 12 tier-qualifying points per dollar spent. And since Southwest removed the $10,000 spending cap for earning tier qualifying points through Southwest rewards card spending (normally maxed at 15,000 points) through December 2021, you could earn even more points with this method. While it may not always make economic sense to achieve A-List status this way, it could be a good deal if you find discounted fares in Business Select class or you’re already flying Business Select for the perks.
  • Book short flights – You can also achieve A-List status faster by booking a large number of short flights. For example, you could purchase a number of Southwest’s lowest-priced tickets between California cities to quickly reach the 25-flight threshold.
  • Get a status match – From time to time, Southwest allows travelers to participate in a “status match” challenge once they show proof of elite status with another domestic airline. Travelers receive temporary A-List status for a few months, and they must complete three qualifying round-trip flights or six qualifying one-way flights within 90 days of their enrollment. If they complete the challenge, then Southwest will extend their status by 12 months.
  • Get status early in the year  You can score up to an extra year of A-List status if you earn it at the beginning of the calendar year. Once you cross the 25-flight or 35,000-point threshold requirement and earn A-List status, you begin enjoying the benefits immediately. Your A-List status lasts through the remainder of the calendar year in which you earned the status, as well as the entire calendar year following the year in which you qualified. In other words, if you earn A-List status in 2021, you will enjoy the benefits all the way through Dec. 31, 2022.

Bottom line

Southwest is a fantastic airline for both professional and leisure travelers alike, even without the elite status perks and benefits. But with all the additional perks of A-List and A-List preferred membership, as well as the fantastic potential savings a Companion Pass can offer, Southwest is a clear no-brainer for any traveler who needs flexibility and comfort without breaking the bank.

See related: What are Southwest points worth?

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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