3 Ways to ‘Hack’ the Southwest Airlines Boarding Process

If you want a coveted “A” group spot, there are a few ways to make it happen.

Southwest Airlines (LUV) – Get Free Report does a lot of things passengers love. It has all-inclusive fees that include up to two checked bags. It also has legendary customer service with its flight attendants and ground personnel famously going the extra mile for passengers.

The airline also offers low prices. It’s not a no-frills airline like Spirit (SAVE) – Get Free Report or Frontier (ULCC) – Get Free Report. When you fly Southwest you don’t have to pay extra for a soda, coffee, or a bottle of water, and you don’t pay extra for seat assignments.

That’s actually the most controversial part of flying Southwest. Passengers don’t get a seating assignment at all. Instead, you can check in for your flight exactly 24 hours before it takes off. When you do that, you get assigned a spot in the A, B, or C boarding groups.

Aside from pre-board customers, generally people in wheelchairs or others who need special assistance, the A group boards first followed by B, then C. Each group has up to 60 people in it, and each plane has 175 seats. Once your group and number (1 through 60) get called, you can board the plane and pick your seat.

Basically, A group boarders get their pick of seats and access to overhead bins. B group boarders probably can keep their party together and/or get window or aisle seats along with an overhead place to put their bags. If you’re in the C group, you’re likely to end up in a middle seat and you may end up having to gate check your carry-on bag.

That makes getting in the A group (or at least the B group) very valuable. If you’re not willing to chance what you get by checking in right when check-in opens, there are three ways to get yourself into the A group (or at least close to it).

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You Can Buy Your Way Into Southwest’s A Group        

If you forget to check in early (or do and get a B or C group number, which can happen) Southwest will let you buy your way to the front of the line. The airline sells “Upgraded Boarding, but it will cost you.

“Upgraded Boarding gives customers the ability to upgrade their boarding position to A1-A15 24 hours before the flight depending on availability. This allows our Customers the opportunity to be among the first to board the aircraft, pick their preferred available seat, and access the overhead bin space,” the airline shared on its website.

Prices start at $30 per person, per flight segment with prices rising based on the length of the flight. This deal can be expensive, but it’s a smart choice for passengers who need to make a tight connection as they can pick a seat near the front of the plane so you can get off first.

Southwest Will Also Check You In (for a Fee)  

If you don’t want to have to worry about checking into your flight. Southwest offers “EarlyBird Check-in,” which will do it for you.

“EarlyBird Check-In offers automatic check-in before our traditional 24-hour check-in. Customers can add EarlyBird Check-In to their reservation up to 36 hours prior to a flight’s scheduled departure,” the airline shares on its website.

EarlyBird, which starts at $15 per passenger (one-way), does not guarantee that you get an A group spot. Instead, it automatically checks you in right when check-in opens. Generally, that gets you in the A group or one of the first few B spots.

Southwest Rewards Loyalty 

If you want to be guaranteed a spot in the A group, or at least the ability to board before B and C, you need to secure A-list status. Southwest passengers can earn that by flying 25 one-way trips in a single year (each half of a roundtrip counts as one).

When your earn A-list status, you get checked in at the 24-hour mark, before people who pay for EarlyBird. That actually doesn’t guarantee an A-list spot, but if you don’t get one, or change flights at the last minute so you miss check-in, A-list members can board after the A group before the B or C groups no matter what position they have.

A-list members also get priority when it comes to standby flights as well as a dedicated help line and enhanced rewards miles.

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