Southwest Airlines launches a buy-one-get-one-free deal – with a major twist: What you need to know

Southwest Airlines, trying to boost fall bookings, is running a characteristically quirky take on buy-one-get-one-free promotions.

Travelers who book a roundtrip ticket or two one-way tickets for travel through Nov. 18 will receive a free companion pass to use in early 2022. The catch: Tickets must be purchased by Thursday, Sept. 9.

Southwest's companion pass is among the most generous frequent flier perks in the country, but is usually out of reach for most travelers because it requires travelers to take 100 one-way flights in a year or rack up 125,000 qualifying points earned from purchases on Southwest's credit cards and bookings with its Rapid Reward partners.

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The standard companion pass is valid for at least a year but the one Southwest is offering through this promotion will have a much shorter life. Travelers who qualify will be able to bring a companion for free on flights between Jan. 6 and Feb. 28, 2022. Passengers who earn the pass will designate a companion and it may be changed up to three times. The companion's taxes and fees, which start at $5.60 one way, are extra.

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Three things to know about Southwest's companion pass promotion:

  1. You must be a member of Southwest's frequent flyer program, Rapid Rewards, and register for the promotion before buying the qualifying ticket(s). Rapid Rewards is free to join.

  2. Tickets must be purchased by Thursday, Sept. 9, for travel through Nov. 18 to be eligible. Travel using frequent flier points is not eligible.

  3. Already have Southwest tickets for travel this fall? They won't qualify but passengers are free to cancel and rebook, though any fare difference will apply. Southwest doesn't charge ticket change fees. Travelers who cancel nonrefundable tickets receive travel funds to be used on another flight.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Southwest Airlines companion pass deal: What travelers need to know