Southwest Early-Boarding Fee Gets You There (Slightly) Faster

by  Maryrose Mullen | Jan 22, 2013
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Plane in sky / AlexeyPetrov/iStock

Most of the time, airlines tacking on new fees means bad news for fliers. Paying extra to check a bag or change a flight can be frustrating, and Southwest Airlines has earned a customer-friendly reputation for nixing many fees other carriers employ. However, Southwest’s latest perk comes from doling out a little extra cash.

For $40, Southwest customers can snag a spot in its “A” boarding group, allowing them access to the aircraft ahead of their fellow passengers. Southwest boards its planes by diving travelers into three boarding groups, with the “A” group taking precedence, followed by “B” and “C.” Customers will be able to purchase the upgrade at the gate 45 minutes prior to departure. Southwest has open seats on all of its flights, and the fee can only be utilized if there are enough seats available.

Passengers can guarantee a place in the A group by purchasing a “Business Select” ticket, which carries a bigger price tag. Otherwise, passengers with cheaper tickets jockey for boarding positions based on when they check in for their flight. Southwest decided to move forward with the new boarding option after successfully testing it in San Diego last month.

The new alternative is similar to the EarlyBird Check-in, a boarding option Southwest rolled out in 2009. For $10, fliers are automatically checked in 24 hours before departure, which gives them the best-possible boarding spot for their fare type. The downside is EarlyBird Check-in buyers do not have priority over Business Select ticket holders, and thus are not guaranteed a spot in the A group.

Whether you need an adequate amount of time to settle in with your back-scratching implements, or if you’re simply eager for that world-class airline food, Southwest’s early boarding option is right up your alley.

Would you pay $40 to guarantee yourself a spot in the first boarding group? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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