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Companion Pass Boarding with Business Select

aprhansen
New Arrival

Hey all, 

 

I know that this is the community site, not customer service, and have a TL:DR disclaimer at the bottom.

 

I want to share a recent experience that many may encounter. I am a companion pass holder, not an A List or A List Preferred member. My 5 year old daughter is my designated companion. I often upgrade my tickets to Business Select to get those points and did so on a recent flight with my kiddo. I saw in the community that there were recent changes to travel policies around sequential boarding and called SWA customer service to clarify the policy. Customer service told me that the boarding policy changed in December 2020 and now allowed sequential boarding for A List, A List Preferred and for Companion Passes. Sweet. I specifically said "so my kid can board with me as A2 since I upgraded my seat?" and she emphatically answered yes. She said that as log as she was shown as my companion on this flight, she would board with me without issue. 

 

The previous posts on here were still nagging me so I went to the counter attendant at the gate as clarified that my 5 year old would board with me at A-2 despite her pass saying C-18. The attendant pulled a "I dunno" and walked me to the two gate attendants. I explained the whole thing again, including my call to customer service, and asked for confirmation so there wouldn't be drama in the middle of boarding. They said nope, my kid would have to board at C-18, I would board at A-2 or with her at C-18, or in family boarding. I very politely, although stress sweating, said again that I intentionally upgraded my ticket and called customer service for the policy. They went on about the tickets being linked (which they were as a companion pass) and how we couldn't board together at A2. This went on publicly and frustratingly but they finally conceded and allowed her to board with me while making it obnoxiously clear that they were doing me a favor of sorts. I thanked them profusely, told them I appreciated their help, and we took our seats in row 6 or something.

 

Parents. I know you feel me when I say that traveling with kids doesn't need to be any more painful than it already is. 😐

 

This brings me to my next flight next week. Different location but same situation with my ticket being Business Select and my kid being my companion. I called customer service again now armed with my flight experience from last week to see what the actual policy was, what I could expect, and what I would need to do to mitigate any upcoming issues. The customer service rep was wonderful as always and after hearing the situation TOLD ME THE EXACT SAME THING AS THE FIRST CALL. She apologized for the public display that I had at the gate and told me that the policy changed in Dec 2020 and now allowed for sequential boarding etc... I thanked her but pushed back asking for it in writing since I had just been burned. She totally understood and started to pull her version of the internal policy. After literally 20 minutes of looking and reading the fine print, she found the following single line statement following the new A List, A List Preferred, and Companion Pass sequential boarding policy: SEQUENTIAL BOARDING DOES NOT OCCUR IF THE COMPANION PASS HOLDER PURCHASES A BUSINESS SELECT TICKET. 

 

Bless the representative for saying what I was thinking. As soon as she read it, she said' oh you have go to be kidding me. Why?" Not only is this Companion Pass restriction ridiculous but the customer service teams aren't even aware of it. A companion pass is restricted to one individual. Uno. A List and A List preferred can have all traveling party members join them but the Companion Pass holder that hands more cash to SWA to upgrade can't have their single companion board with them? Let alone a child? Children can't be in the coveted exit rows so that isn't an issue. The only remedy for Companion Pass holders with a Business Select ticket, traveling with a child, is to let the kid board alone, board with the kid in whatever assignment they get, or do family boarding. 

 

Why penalize a loyal traveler that is willing to upgrade and pay more with a very specific restriction? If the restriction is really that necessary, and I doubt it is, then modify it. Enact the restriction at whatever age it is to sit in the exit rows. Prevent them from the first 5 rows. Whatever. Either remove the stupid restriction or modify it so it doesn't piss off or stress out people willing to spend the cash and fly the miles to be in Business Select or hold a companion pass. At the very minimum, flag the reservation at time of booking that sequential boarding wouldn't be allowed so it isn't a stressful surprise that nobody knows until trying to board.

 

Long story that isn't short; the last SWA representative told me that the only way that it would change is by writing to the customer relations group and by sharing this so others can also write in if compelled to do so. I sent my email in today and will update this upon receiving a response. 

 

TL:DR - Obscure policy states Companion Pass holders that book Business Select are the only elite group restricted from sequential boarding even when the companion is a young child. Email SWA if that doesn't make sense to you. 

 

 

 

 

7 REPLIES 7

Re: Companion Pass Boarding with Business Select

TheMiddleSeat
Top Contributor

I get the frustration, but I also think the policy makes a bit of sense.  Southwest would want to preserve the availability of the A1-15 slots for people paying for Business Select tickets or doing upgraded boarding at the gate.  I highly doubt it has anything to do with exit row seats and is more about preserving opportunities for higher revenue.  What might work though is to assign the companion the next available A16+ position, however we all know how horrible Southwest IT is and trying to program this logic probably isn't the easiest of things for them.  It would be nice if something could be done, but I don't think assigning a companion into A1-15 is the right answer.

 

--TheMiddleSeat

Companion Pass Boarding with Business Select

SWFlyer007
Rising Star

@aprhansen Middleseat gave you the answer I was going to give.  I'm still working my way around the point system, even after being a loyal flyer since 1997.  In fact, I got the RR for the points and inadvertently was informed one year that I had met the A-List standard...lol.  With that said, I'm finding it strange with getting a companion pass, you were in the area of getting an AList., but I guess that can happen.  So maybe since you're flying and are able to get a companion, you could/should focus on the AList.  And now you know the exact reason why you didn't get the sequential numbering, you should go and tell the first crew that let you get her on with you....THANK YOU again, they did do you a big favor.   Hopefully, you continue to fly SWA, the companion pass by itself is still a great value by itself.  And, you need to be on that phone at exactly 24 hours prior to boarding and check your daughter in first, (not you) you're already checking in, and I bet at worst, a B-30, and then just sit in the middle seat of a row, (works for me) as nobody will then sit down next to you by the time she gets on. 

Re: Companion Pass Boarding with Business Select

aprhansen
New Arrival

I booked Business Select which is what caused the whole problem. That's why I was in the A1-A15. 😂

 

Re: Companion Pass Boarding with Business Select

aprhansen
New Arrival

I was very gracious about it. Very sweaty but very gracious. The inconsistent info is what causes the main issue which was only made worse by the fact that my kid is 5. I can't sit in the middle seat and wait for her and it makes the whole situation more stressful. 

Re: Companion Pass Boarding with Business Select

aprhansen
New Arrival

Thank you for your quick reply as I know that you are very familiar with the ins and outs of SWA policy.

The few issues that stick out to me though are: 

1) SWA customer service isn't aware of this policy

2) This restriction appears to be applied solely to a sliver of the boarding passengers: namely the Companion Pass holder that happens to book Business Select and their single designated companion

3) There isn't an option to upgrade the companion fare to ensure sequential boarding when necessary (child companion) until you get to the gate

4) Even at the gate I wasn't offered the opportunity to pay the $30-$50 Business Select upgrade for her even though there were only 4 of us in the A1-A15 section ( a very specific fail but a fail nonetheless)

 

I appreciate the desire to save those slots to generate more revenue but that doesn't appear to impact the number of traveling party members that join A List or A List Preferred. Not to mention that by booking a Business Select fare, the intention appears to be to buy your one day access to elite club. Fly By Priority Services, A1-A15, the code to the golden toilet... I would think that should a Companion Pass holder buy into that club for the day, that their single companion would be able to board with them especially since availability is visible to ticketing at time of the reservation. 

 

The most frustrating part of this situation was the inconsistent information and the inability to remedy it. After the second representative and I found and discussed the restriction, I literally asked her what I could do. I'm a SW Priority member, a companion pass holder, and was asking for guidance. The only option available to me is to hope that there is an upgrade option at the gate that I can purchase (although this flight is full), beg the gate attendants, or board in family boarding, or buy an additional ticket. The representative was the one that suggested modifying it with age restrictions since many Business Select travelers are seeking the preferred exit seats or immediate rows. I am less inclined to make the investment of the higher fare in the future by making it this difficult to have my child companion travel with me. By doing that, it makes me less inclined to spend even more to maintain my companion pass which in turn makes other carriers (barely but slightly) more palatable for some trips. I don't see how any of that helps Southwest maintain the image of being both business and family driven. 

 

Sigh. 

Re: Companion Pass Boarding with Business Select

SWFlyer007
Rising Star

@aprhansen I'm with you.  For years, I've had the luxury of being an AList with a companion pass and my companion always being, for the most part, around B-20 to 40ish.  Yes, you would think that a perk of the Business Select top dollar ticket would have this one perk.  But since we A-Listers have only enjoyed the companion check-in at the same time we have for only months, that is something that is/will be looked at for your situation.  As an A-lister, I found it more profitable to me, to not have to purchase Business select because I'm always at least A-30 or better.  And until recently, was still sitting in the middle seat giving "peaceful" glares to look mean so nobody would sit next to me.  Worked 100% of the time.  You have done well to start the conversation, now if you've put this into SWA customer relations comments, you/we may start to see this as policy, and everyone is on the same page.  My best to you my friend.  And, FYI, I do travel on other airlines when applicable. 

Re: Companion Pass Boarding with Business Select

TheMiddleSeat
Top Contributor

@aprhansen wrote:

 

4) Even at the gate I wasn't offered the opportunity to pay the $30-$50 Business Select upgrade for her even though there were only 4 of us in the A1-A15 section ( a very specific fail but a fail nonetheless)

 

I appreciate the desire to save those slots to generate more revenue but that doesn't appear to impact the number of traveling party members that join A List or A List Preferred. Not to mention that by booking a Business Select fare, the intention appears to be to buy your one day access to elite club. Fly By Priority Services, A1-A15, the code to the golden toilet... I would think that should a Companion Pass holder buy into that club for the day, that their single companion would be able to board with them especially since availability is visible to ticketing at time of the reservation. 


Oh man, a golden toilet would be awesome!  I really do think you have a valid complaint, I'm merely pointing out that my idea for a solution is slightly different than what I think you are pushing for.  Either way, it's something that should be addressed.  Making the Business Select flyers save seats while non-BS flyers get the convenience of sequential boarding isn't quite right.

 

As for the upgraded boarding opportunity, it's generally not announced and I've only seen small signs for it at the gate desk.  I'm guessing if you had asked, it would have been offered to you.  When comparing revenue opportunities for A1-15 versus A16+, there is no lost revenue giving the companion of A22 the A23 boarding position, unless you assume they would have upgraded their boarding position at the gate to A1-15.  The person that would have received A23 gets pushed to A24 and that continues to C60, all without affecting revenue opportunities.  However, if you give BS traveler with A2 the A3 slot now you have removed 1 of the 15 boarding positions that actually makes money.  It's also possible there are a dozen BS travelers on a flight and perhaps some have companions.  Now you're in a situation where a BS traveler could be assigned a boarding position higher than A15.  Imagine the chaos that would cause!

 

So again, my proposed solution would be to assign the BS traveler's companion a boarding position at T-minus 36 hours with the A-List flyers.  It wouldn't result in a sequential boarding position, but certainly an improvement over what you went through.

 

--TheMiddleSeat