Southwest Airlines has made an offer for anyone who wants to check in early for their flight. You can now check in up to 36 hours prior to the departure of your flight if you opt for their Early Bird Check-in program. You may wonder what the benefits of this service are? First, you have to pay Southwestern a fee for the service. What it does is give you the chance for securing an earlier boarding assignment. By boarding the plane earlier ahead of the others you stand a good chance of getting a better seat than if you're among the last to board. The big question is, is it worth it?
What Southwestern has to offer and doesn't
The airlines do not offer either first class nor economy plus seats. Having said this they do offer a different type of boarding process by which each passenger is given a boarding number and it is in this order that you board the plane. Since there aren't any really special seats to choose from the location becomes the most important factor. The seats are offered on a first come first served basis. This makes early boarding even more important than ever because of the unique system that Southwestern uses for seat assignments.
How and when the boarding assignments are distributed
Boarding is split into three different groups assigned by letters. These are A, B, and C. Under these letters, numbers which range from 1 to 60 are also assigned. The line can get really long for boarding, especially if you're towards the back. It's a lot better if you're closer to the front.
Does early check-in give you the earliest boarding?
It would be nice if the early check-in program would guarantee you one of the first places in boarding. Unfortunately, it does not. You may get bumped ahead of a few of the other boarders, but in general, you're not going to improve your chances of getting a better seat significantly. Yes, you will be further to the front of the line but the very first A 1-15 spots are being reserved for customers with other special benefits.
Where do the first A1-15 boarding spots go?
There is a plan that is more expensive than the EarlyBird plan and it gives you the most desirable spot for boarding. Business Select Fares offer these coveted spots and those who upgrade to this positioning gives them first choice of prime seating. The cost of this upgrade is between $30 to $50 per person.
What does this mean for those who purchase the EarlyBird program?
What it means is that the Business Select fare passengers will have priority boarding over the passengers in the EarlyBird program. If you decide that you want to upgrade to the Business Select boarding status, you can pay more and do so, but the slots are only made available just prior to boarding and if they're already spoken for, you'll be out of luck.
Other ways passengers are moved to a preferred boarding
Passengers on Southwest who have an A list of A-list preferred elite status will receive a boarding number automatically ahead of the 24-hour point. This means that EarlyBirds who check in at the 24 hours point prior to boarding are going to potentially have yet more passengers in front of them. Another issue for EarlyBirds is that some flights have passengers already aboard the plane because they're on a flight that will continue to the next destination without deboarding. These seats are already spoken for.
The cost has risen for EarlyBird Check-in
The cost of this service started out at $10 but it has now risen to $25 per person. Does it really offer any benefits that will make a difference in your flight? Maybe not. This really all depends on how many others are flying with special benefits programs ahead of you. In many cases, you don't really get to use any special benefits other than moving up ahead of some other boarders in the line. Most of the preferred seats will already be taken by the time that you get there. Only if you're really lucky and there are few passengers with elite status or on the other spendier program, will you benefit from the EarlyBird program.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker