Traveling with Southwest Airlines offers a unique experience, especially when it comes to boarding and seat selection. Unlike other airlines, Southwest has an open seating policy, meaning you don’t get an assigned seat but rather choose your seat when you board the plane.
This system can be a bit daunting, but with the right strategies, you can always snag the best seat. Here are nine tips for mastering Southwest’s boarding process to ensure a comfortable journey.
1. Understand the Southwest Boarding Process
Southwest boards passengers in groups (A, B, and C) and positions (1-60). Your boarding group and position determine when you board the plane. Group A boards first, followed by B and then C. Within each group, passengers board in numerical order. Knowing this system is crucial for planning your boarding strategy.
2. Check-In Exactly 24 Hours Before Your Flight
Your boarding position is largely determined by when you check in. Southwest allows you to check in online exactly 24 hours before your flight. Set an alarm and check in right at the 24-hour mark to secure a spot in the A group or early B group.
3. Consider EarlyBird Check-In
If you want to avoid the stress of checking in right at the 24-hour mark, consider purchasing Southwest’s EarlyBird Check-In. This add-on automatically checks you in 36 hours before your flight, giving you a better chance at an earlier boarding position.
4. Get A-List Status for Automatic Priority Boarding
Frequent flyers should aim for Southwest’s A-List status, which offers automatic priority boarding. This means you’ll usually be placed in the A group, ensuring an early pick of seats.
5. Travel Light with Carry-On Only
Traveling light can be advantageous, especially if you end up in a later boarding group. Passengers with smaller bags can easily fit them under the seat, rather than needing overhead bin space. This flexibility allows you to take any open seat without worrying about overhead space.
6. Choose Your Seat Wisely
Once on board, choose your seat wisely. If you prefer more legroom, aim for the emergency exit rows. If you like getting off the plane quickly, go for a seat near the front. Window seats are great for those who want to rest against the side of the plane, while aisle seats offer more leg-stretching opportunities.
7. Board Last If You’re Not Picky
If you’re not particular about where you sit and want to avoid standing in line, consider boarding last. This strategy often results in a middle seat, but it also means less time standing in the aisle.
8. Look for Upgraded Boarding Options at the Gate
Sometimes Southwest offers upgraded boarding positions at the gate for a fee. This can be a great option if you check in late and end up with a less desirable boarding position.
9. Travel with a Companion
If you’re traveling with someone, you can strategize together. If one of you has a better boarding position, the other can join them in the boarding line (as long as it’s not before the earlier position’s turn). This works well for families traveling with children, as Southwest allows family boarding after the A group and before the B group.
Bonus Tip: Stay Informed and Be Flexible
Lastly, stay informed about any changes in the boarding process and be flexible. Sometimes gate changes, flight delays, or other unforeseen circumstances can impact your boarding strategy. Being adaptable and patient can make the process smoother.
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