Beginning from today (Jan 22), Southwest Airlines will offer early boarding positions – the privilege of being first past the post – to passengers for $40 per flight. The new boarding option will be offered, if available, at the gate only on the day of departure and will be announced 45 minutes before the flight’s scheduled departure. Passengers will be able to purchase this upgrade to be among the first to board with a credit card.
Southwest, a low-cost airline, does not offer pre-assigned seating when you purchase a ticket. Instead, the standard no-additional-fee seat option is to check-in online, no more than 24 hours before your flight’s scheduled departure. Upon check-in, you will be assigned a boarding position at the posts – in boarding group A, B or C with a number within that group.
Boarding the plane at the airport is done according to each boarding group and the assigned number within that group. Passengers who wait until they arrive at the airport to check-in and print their boarding passes for flights on Southwest Air find they are assigned the very last C boarding group positions – typically when middle seats at the rear of the plane are the only ones available, and with little open overhead storage.
Southwest offers a variety of early boarding options to its passengers including “EarlyBird Check-Ins” – for an additional $10, Southwest will automatically assign a boarding group number 36 hours before your scheduled flight – and prioritized boarding with Business Select Fare.
The “EalryBird Check-In” feature provides guaranteed earlier boarding – without having to focus on being available to check-in exactly 24 hours before your flight’s departure – when many of the seats are still available and the overhead compartments are relatively uncluttered.
Business Select Fares offer the very earliest boarding – when the convenient and relatively spacious first row and exit row seats are available – but it comes with a substantially higher price.
By establishing additional fees for early boarding and recent changes to checked luggage policies, it seems Southwest is moving toward capitalizing on the huge profits available through ancillary fees. We noticed on a recent flight the size of the bag of peanuts is shrinking – will there be fees for light snacks on Southwest flights next?