The Good and Bad of Southwest’s EarlyBird Check-In

I know I’ve been writing a lot about Southwest lately, but they’ve had a lot of news to talk about. The latest is the launch of EarlyBird check-in which allows you to pay to get to the front of the boarding line. The idea is a good one, but the implementation has some real flaws.

I suppose this is a good time to go over just exactly how Southwest boards. I think most people know that Southwest has no assigned seating, so when you get on the airplane, you just grab any seat you want. That’s why boarding order matters so much. Here’s how that works:

Current Southwest Boarding Process

Under the current system, you get a letter and a number that splits into groups of 5, so A45 will board within the group A41-45, etc. I think most of the rest here is self-explanatory except possibly for Rich Uncle Pennybags up there. The A-list is the group of super travelers who fly all the time. They get to board early no matter what. Business Select is the top fare level that Southwest introduced that also allows pre-boarding as well.

Now, this EarlyBird deal will let people pay $10 each way to board after the A-listers/Business Select-folk. Basically, Southwest will run a sweep 36 hours prior to departure and assign each person in that group a number in the order that it was purchased. Then they’ll do another sweep at 25 hour prior to departure to catch anyone who booked during that window. At 24 hours prior to departure it opens up for general boarding. So you’ll get a great seat if you pay up . . . or will you?

There is absolutely no cap on the number of people who buy an EarlyBird seat. So it’s theoretically possible that you could pay for EarlyBird boarding and be stuck in the B group, or, horror of all horrors, in the C group. That’s garbage. Southwest spokesperson Brandy King explained:

Currently, we do not have a cap on the number of Customer who can purchase the product – we didn’t want to make an assignment without knowing what the demand will be. If the number of EarlyBird passengers gets so high that it is not providing a benefit to the Customer (ex. starts to dip into the “C” group), we would make adjustments to the number sold.

Weak. If you don’t want to have people pushed into the C group, then just make it a rule. Then you don’t have to worry about it actually happening. My gut tells me this is another one of Southwest’s dreaded technology issues.

And what does this do to the Business Select people? The biggest benefit by far of paying for that fare is early boarding. Now that has been gutted. Oooh, I still get a free drink. Yippee. If they want to keep Business Select as a viable product, they need to really do something to add value again. I know Business Select still boards ahead of this group, but come on. That’s not going to be enough for me to pay for that full fare.

If they wanted to really do this right, they should tell you what your check-in position will be before you purchase it. They could even charge more for the highest spots if they wanted. At the very least, they could cap the number of seats so they can guarantee value.

I know some people are moaning that this is a fee, and Southwest said they wouldn’t add any fees (now they say no “hidden” fees), but I disagree. To me, this is an example of creating additional value in a way that many people will appreciate. It makes it easier if you don’t have to sit by the computer waiting for that magical 24 hour time to check-in. They should have done this long ago.

BUT, the implementation is kind of sloppy, and that’s my biggest concern. Still, it’s a good idea in theory. Let’s see how it does in practice. If anyone has had any experiences with it, hit the comments.

Publishing Note: Monday is Labor Day, and I’m taking it off. I’ll be back here on Tuesday.

[Bunch of photo credits:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/oddharmonic/ / CC BY-SA 2.0
http://www.flickr.com/photos/majorvols/ / CC BY 2.0
http://www.flickr.com/photos/42dreams/ / CC BY 2.0
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140 Responses to The Good and Bad of Southwest’s EarlyBird Check-In

  1. David SFeastbay says:

    They should have switched to assign seating a long time ago. They are no longer the new darling of the airways getting people off the Greyhound bus and into the sky and having their passenger herded onto the plane.

    They are to many airlines matching their fares who assign seats to show WN that people don’t want to be treated like livestock.

    At the least they can redo their fares to make each type a different benefit. Like if you buy a Y type fare you get all the bells and whisles they offer to the full fare passengers. The next fare type say M (as an example) gets other benefits including the right to board sooner, and keep going down to the lowest fare who gets no ‘perks’. Each fare type would have a boarding priority assigned to it already. At least that way you would know when you buy your ticket what you are getting for the money and can then decide to buy a higher fare if you need/want a higher fare benefit for that flight. Did that make sense in explaining it?

    Also I can’t wait until yesterdays blog moves down and to another page. Your fancy graphic in the blog sure makes this page load very slowly for me on my old Dell.

  2. Dan Webb says:

    They should cap this at A now that I think of it, because of family boarding.

  3. Brian says:

    I am waiting for the “hidden fees” next. They kill the no fees promice so it is just a matter of time.

  4. John says:

    Perhaps there should be a selection at the time of purchase, where you select your group (A, B, C, and pay tiered pricing at the time. Eg, $20 for A group (capped at 60 people), $10 for B group, also capped, and C group could be free.

  5. Jared says:

    How is this not a fee? Checking a bag so you don’t have to drag it through the airport (which sucks when you’re traveling with kids) is a value-added service, but people complain that that is a “fee.” This is just as much a fee as baggage fees are.

    I still think this is a great idea, and why shouldn’t they try to get ancillary revenue – they were crazy to leave money on the table.

  6. Oliver says:

    @Jared — how is the “fee” you pay to fly on the plane not a fee?

    Personally, I think the boarding system for SWA has gotten way too complex.

  7. JK says:

    I can still remember way back when, Southwest was Southwest. Life was simple. You knew what you were getting and you accepted it or looked somewhere else. Now, WN seems to be saying, “Yes, we know things are screwed up, but with this new fee-based scheme, things will get better.”

    Well, I question that line of reasoning. Just fix the problem! I don’t think it really is that difficult to fix. WN is becoming like every other airline…”We know simply selling tickets won’t generate enough revenue, so we have to look for every possible anciliary revenue stream we can think of to make a go of it.”

    Heretofore, they’ve done a much better job than any other airline explaining their service, but…they’re heading in a bad direction! Just an opinion.

  8. I disagree that this guts Business Select. Let’s compare the options:

    Early Bird: Automatic Check-In 36 hours before flight time. [$10 Changeable but Non-refundable.]

    A List: Automatic Check-In 36 hours before flight time (before the Early Birds). Priority lane access at airport security (where available). [Must fly 32 one-way segments in a one-year length time span]

    Business Select: Guaranteed A1-A15 boarding spot (before A List and Early Bird) irregardless of booking time. Priority lane access at airport security (where available). One free drink. Rapid Reward bonus (amount depending upon trip length) [$15, $20, or $25 above fully refundable Anytime fare]

    If anything had an impact upon Biz Select, it was the A List. Since A Listers get the two most important perks and will have earned two books of free drinks coupons, why would they book Biz Select?

    I know that when I was on the Southwest A List, the only times I ever considered booking Biz Select was when I booked under 24 hours in advance. Since I would be paying the fully refundable Anytime fare anyway, I’d at least consider paying the extra $15, $20, or $25 (depending upon trip length) if I knew that I was going to be on a crowded flight (even more so if I had to change planes).

    With Early Bird, if I was still an A Lister, I would change the above to “under 36 hours in advance” since both A Listers and Early Birds are automatically checked in at the 36 hour mark.

    So, what about those who are not on the A List?

    If the choice is between a Wanna Get Away, Anytime, or Biz Select fare, what’s the likely-hood of booking Biz Select? For me, even when I was not on the A list, if a Wanna Get Away fare was available, I picked that. With Early Bird, this doesn’t change. Whether or not I would opt for the Early Bird check-in depends upon my confidence that the trip will not be canceled (Early Bird check-in follows any changes to an itinerary but it is not credited should you cancel)

    Now, if the choice is between an Anytime, or Biz Select (either because “Wanna Get Away” is not available, or because the passenger wants a refundable fare), what’s the likely-hood of booking Biz Select versus Anytime+Early Bird. Biz Select would be between $5 and $15 more expensive. In that situation, I’d probably pick the Biz Select since it’s refundable and the worst bingo number I could get is A15.

  9. Brett,

    You write:

    “If they wanted to really do this right, they should tell you what your check-in position will be before you purchase it. They could even charge more for the highest spots if they wanted. At the very least, they could cap the number of seats so they can guarantee value.”

    Remember that A Listers get checked-in before Early Birds. If I’m an A Lister, and book my flight at any time prior to 36 hours before scheduled departure, I get checked in before any of the Early Birds. That makes it impossible to assign a check-in position before purchase.

    I agree that they should cap the number of seats.

  10. David SFeastbay says:

    @ Sean Yoda Rouse:

    It still seems easier if they just go to seat assignments. Buy a ticket, pick a seat, and get on the plane. Very simple, it’s been done for decades, when will WN figure it out.

  11. David SFeastbay says:

    John wrote:

    Perhaps there should be a selection at the time of purchase, where you select your group (A, B, C, and pay tiered pricing at the time. Eg, $20 for A group (capped at 60 people), $10 for B group, also capped, and C group could be free.

    If they don’t want to do seat assignments, this sure sounds easier. Let people decide how important it is to get on the plane sooner when they buy their ticket.

  12. Personally I know my father will pay for this. He is soooo crazy with checking in with Southwest (pretty much the only airline he flies). He will get up at anytime. He will arrange his schedule to make sure he is at a computer. If he won’t be, he will call me and have me check in for him. If he doesn’t get that A (or at least a really low number B) he feels cheated.

    I have tried to explain over and over again that even if you are the last one in B, statistically, everyone has pretty much had to take a window or aisle for you to have to sit center seat. But that logic just doesn’t work. Heck it would be worth the $10 for me to pay so I don’t have to get up early to do it for him (although last time I purposely got him a B ticket to get his reaction — TOTALLY worth it :) )

    This might have some kinks that need to be worked out, but I think the concept is good and with time, I am sure it will work better!

  13. PS- seriously Southwest should use a sign like that. I fly quite a bit and still get confused where I am supposed to go when before boarding!

  14. CF says:

    David SFeastbay wrote:

    They should have switched to assign seating a long time ago.

    They did experiment with assigned seating, you may recall, but they determined that a lot of people don’t like it. They did a lot of research with this, that’s for sure.

    John wrote:

    Perhaps there should be a selection at the time of purchase, where you select your group (A, B, C, and pay tiered pricing at the time. Eg, $20 for A group (capped at 60 people), $10 for B group, also capped, and C group could be free.

    Absolutely. I was talking with a friend about this, and it may very well be time for a “renumbering” or “relettering” to accurately depict when people can get on the plane.

    Jared wrote:

    How is this not a fee?

    I suppose my wording was unclear. This is a fee. But, I was saying that I disagree with those people who say that Southwest said it would never add a fee so they shouldn’t add this one. Sorry – poor grammar.

  15. Consumer Mike says:

    A fee is still a fee by any other name. Unfortunately this appears to be the begining of the end for Southwest as we knew it. Like any other airline, once the consumers accepts this new charge without too much noise, the temptation for additional fees (revenue) is sure to follow. Those of you soo willing to pay for “that added convenience” remind me of the story of the monkey that was caught because the temptation to grab the banana in the cage and not willing to let it go to escape.

    The success of Southwest was filling the need for a low cost, efficient, economical, no frills “flying bus” for the budget minded and economically challenged public. It will be tragic to watch Southwest loose it’s title for filling the right nitch for its success story.

    On the other hand, this could open up opportunities for another new airline to fit the need in the future. If there is a market, the proverbial wheel can always be “re-invented”.

  16. yo says:

    Ya know, flying Southwest is like a Turkish prison, why try to appeal to a higher class.

    But, Southwest is like a day at Club Med compared to Ryan Air or Cebu Pacific.

  17. Consumer Mike says:

    @ yo:
    No argument. Ryan Air is the pits. There is no comparison between Southwest and Ryan. Many cities served by Ryan are captive to their service. Ryan has discovered a way to make passengers part with their money without the use of a gun.

    Hope Southwest doesn’t go that low.

  18. Allen says:

    Cranky, I don’t get how the process is a tech issue. Either they write some code that ensures that anyone paying this fee is above C checkin or they don’t. It’s only a tech issue if they wrote the code but somehow it doesn’t work.

  19. Allen says:

    I’d assume the deal is that UAL and CO barely fly out of JFK,especially compared to JetBlu, which is where Lufthansa has a flights, right? Either way, Lufthansa is likely also hedging their bets. It’s hard to picture UAL being around in it’s current form much longer.

  20. CF says:

    Allen wrote:

    Cranky, I don’t get how the process is a tech issue. Either they write some code that ensures that anyone paying this fee is above C checkin or they don’t. It’s only a tech issue if they wrote the code but somehow it doesn’t work.

    That was sort of tongue in cheek. It seems like a lot of what Southwest can’t do is because of tech issues.

  21. Allen says:

    Doh! Sorry, I’m too big of a dolt to catch those things. I should have saw it. After all, it’s a common excuse companies use all the time even when it’s B.S.

  22. Sunroof says:

    So what happens next year when the codeshares with Volaris and Westjet kick in? Where will their connecting customers be dumped in the SW queue? Westjet has an entirely different seating policy – it assigns seats and charges for advance seat selection ($10, or $15 for a bulkhead row). And what happens if you are ticketed SW and connect on Westjet – will you pay for EarlyBird preference on your first flight only to be dumped into a middle seat on your Westjet flight?

    The mind boggles.

  23. CF says:

    Sunroof wrote:

    So what happens next year when the codeshares with Volaris and Westjet kick in?

    Great question, Sunroof. Even without EarlyBird boarding, they would have had to face this issue. Not sure what they’ll do, but undoubtedly it’s going to be a big one to address.

  24. CF wrote:

    Sunroof wrote:
    So what happens next year when the codeshares with Volaris and Westjet kick in?

    Great question, Sunroof. Even without EarlyBird boarding, they would have had to face this issue. Not sure what they’ll do, but undoubtedly it’s going to be a big one to address.

    How’d it work with the ATA codeshare? I know that was before Bingo Boarding, but I seem to recall that ATA had assigned seating.

  25. CF says:

    I believe you got a letter on southwest and an assigned seat on ATA. It was as if they were separate, right?

  26. james says:

    I just flew Denver-Orlando and return for the weekend. Both times I checked in exactly 24 hours ahead (about 15 minutes in) declined the $10 free, and was position A-50 outbound and A-43 return. I ended ended up sitting on aisles in row three each time.

    Granted Orlando has more family travel where a group is less likely to pay $10 times however many members, and fill in rows needed rather than individual seats, but I was surprised at getting the third rowing being the fortieth person.

    I haven’t flown Southwest in years, (preferring UAL for miles,) and found both flights were enjoyable and uneventful, with more cheerful staff than I’m used to seeing.

  27. Em says:

    My main reason for flying SWA is NOT having to fly out of JFK, the second is price. I think all the recent changes are annoying and soon SW will be like Jetblue or whatever. This fee that cahrge. The previous postr is correct when they say that if the public continues to bite every carrot they dangle and fork over cash, the new fee “choices” will just continue. As for this new check-in, it was started why we were already on vaction & my husband left early…he got A59. I NEVER got a number so high & that is when I went online & saw this new “feature”. However as long as my baby is still a baby no matter what number I get I still board before the Bs. The kids and I had A59 & 60 & B1 & 4 but we all went on together-before the Bs & the family pre-boards since they won’t separate a family with kids. So I guess I have 3 years to worry about it since my baby is only 1! I will continue to check in 24 hours prior & let not worry too much until I have to make a choice betweeen ISP & JFK-THAT’S a worry!

  28. Emily says:

    I’m a frequent flier that recently switched to SW from AA b/c I could never get a good seat on AA due to me booking flights at the last minute for work and AA overbooking flights. Now, I’m going to pay 20 bucks more to get a decent seat and my bag on…which will be up to 80 dollars a month for me in fees.

    I can also see an issue of people trying to save seats where just one person in the party upgrades.

    Ugh…Shame on Southwest.

  29. Lynnieb says:

    Today was my first check-in since the new early bird was announced. Checked-in exactly 24 hours before my flight tomorrow got A-22.
    I agree they need to create some sort of cap on the number to buy, I’m not willing to pay $10 and still possibly end up in C…

  30. robert s says:

    Since SWA EarlyBird (EB) appears to already be popular on some flights, perhaps the fee should be tweaked for each market to ensure mostly high quality boarding passes. Note that the Business Select (BS) fare differential is route specific, and correlates only somewhat to route distance. (Compare PHX-LAS at +$30 BS vs Anytime with PHX-DEN at +$20, even though PHX-DEN is more than twice as far; perhaps PHX-LAS BS takeup is higher than PHX-DEN BS takeup.)

    It doesn’t make sense to limit EBs ahead of time, because you don’t know how many last minute Anytime fare and EB purchases there will be which affects the order of EB BP assignments at 36 hours prior. So, I suggest an automatic EB fee refund for anyone who pays for EB and then pulls a boarding pass that is likely to get them a poor choice of seats. The cutoff for “poor seats” would be fuzzy, because preboards and family boarding mix up the boarding order. But a cutoff could be anyone who is likely to get one of the last 30 to 45 seats on the plane. I suggest perhaps 32 because a C boarding pass can only occur after the first 45 As are filled and the next 60 Bs are filled. Or perhaps 45 because there are exactly 45 middle seats on a WN 737-300/700 (and while some preboarders/family boarders go ahead of the last 45, this is usually balanced by some middles getting filled before the windows/aisles run out.) It’s important to consider through passengers in calculating this cutoff; when there are more than 32 throughs, nobody gets a C but the highest B is the very last one on. When such a refund is issued, the EB holder should still maintain their now mediocre but still better than T-24 preassigned boarding position. So the net result to the refundee would be “EB demand was so high today that we couldn’t really get you a good boarding position, but here’s your money back and you’ll still go ahead of those folks who didn’t sign up for EB at all.”

    Since WN has explicitly stated that EB ordering places Anytime fares ahead of WGA fares, I would guess that overall EB ordering is based first on fare class then by EB purchase time, so Ding fares would be the last EB-ers. There would be an element of fairness in this–an Anytime fare is usually a lot more money than a WGA fare, so they should get on earlier. Come to think about it, why not dispense with all this nonsense and simply assign boarding order by fare paid?

  31. Tony says:

    Ok so what happens when people start saving seats?

    I mean if I have a family of five, why wouldnt I just buy one early bird and then save seats for the rest of my family? Who’s going to control this?

  32. CF says:

    Tony wrote:

    Ok so what happens when people start saving seats?
    I mean if I have a family of five, why wouldnt I just buy one early bird and then save seats for the rest of my family? Who’s going to control this?

    Great question – probably nobody. Another problem is through passengers. Flights to Dallas in particular (thanks to the Wright Amendment) will often have 60+ passengers that stay on the plane. What if you ended up with a high number but found that half the seats on the plane were already taken?

  33. Emily says:

    If you are one of the ones that are not happy with the Early Bird fee, please make sure you contact Southwest through their website and let them know…the more the better.

  34. David SFeastbay says:

    How many passengers would be tempted to pay $10 to reserve an early boarding pass on WN? According to a TripAdvisor.com poll of 1,200 respondents 61 percent said they are not at all likely and 17 percent said they are not very likely to purchase a reserve boarding pass. Only 12 percent said they were very likely to do so.

    Sounds like business travelers and other people who think they are important will be paying the $10.

  35. Suzanne says:

    I liked the days when you just stood in line for hours. Then again, I witnessed two near fist-fights due to people cutting/sneaking into line so I do like the boarding numbers better.

    1 Just Let it be or
    2 Just raise all the ticket prices $10 or
    3 Place line order by ticket price and checkin time, As cost more

    Of course, if a wanna get away fare meant C and a middle seat…I’d probably fly United unless southwest was waaaayyyy cheaper. (for the routes I fly, it is usually equivalent, now and again Southwest will have a sale and if everything works outright and it might be $50 cheaper.)

  36. Tanager says:

    I just paid $20 for my son and I to have Early Bird checkin because we sometimes get separated and have to ask for assistance to get folks to move…I got B31/B32 for boarding and have done better without paying anything at all in the past. This is for a flight to Orlando, and I think spending that to almost end up boarding with the C group just plain stinks.

  37. Ticked says:

    Wow..I have a 7:25 am flight tomorrow. I logged into SW to get my boarding pass at exactly 7:25 and I ended up with A50! So not cool! Looks like I will be going back to the other airline I used to use and I will be assured of my aisle seat. I just read the info about early bird check in. I figured I would take my chances and just be sure to log on by 7:25. HAH!
    This whole process just reeks. So I’m A50 and how many preboards will be ahead of me?? SW, just either make assigned seats at the time of booking or go back to the way it was.
    I know, waa, waa, waa…

  38. Jason says:

    I definitely have a comment. This service is not available when booking through Southwest Vacations, which is fine, but here is the problem: I am already holding tickets that I purchased before this new option was announced. Now I am stuck with probably not getting and A boarding pass (or getting a good seat as there will be tons of pre boarders). I will book directly through the airline next time so that I can use this option but it is BS that folks already holding tickets are getting screwed. I contacted the airline and they apologized, then gave me a free $100 voucher, but what I really wanted was the option to preboard. They said they absolutely could not do it as SW and SWV act as two completely separate companies. Way to go SW, you’re my hero (sarcasm)

  39. DH says:

    If it works the way Southwest said it does, I like it.

  40. AZ Traveler says:

    Another flaw is that its a oer ticket fee. So if i am traveling with two friends, only one of us has to pay the $10 fee…then save a seats for our friends.

  41. Ticked says:

    Good luck saving seats! That could get ugly.

    I have to admit, I broke down and paid the $10 for my return flight because I definitely didn’t want to get a B or C number and I would’ve been in a meeting at the time of the 24 hr boarding pass. As it turned out, my return pass was A19 but only 3 people boarded ahead of me. Where were the other 16? I will still think very carefully before booking Southwest again.

  42. CF says:

    Ticked wrote:

    As it turned out, my return pass was A19 but only 3 people boarded ahead of me. Where were the other 16? I will still think very carefully before booking Southwest again.

    The first 15 spots are reserved for the A-listers or Business Select people, so if that doesn’t get filled, then they’ll go empty and A16 will be the first to board, I believe.

  43. YYZVegas says:

    Okay, so why are people complaining about the saving seats policy? It works just like it does when i’m travelling with people who have lower boarding priority than I do. If I’m the only one who bought the early-bird and my friends are further back in line, is it anybody’s business that i saved their seats? Just as if i had boarded as A40 and they were B20 i’m not going to sit by strangers just because my traveling companions were further back in line. To me this is a non-issue.

  44. lazy says:

    Does anyone know what determines the order of earlybird check-in at the 36 hour mark? Does it go by the date the ticket was purchased or by the date that the earlybird was purchased or by some other unknown process?

  45. CF says:

    lazy wrote:

    Does anyone know what determines the order of earlybird check-in at the 36 hour mark? Does it go by the date the ticket was purchased or by the date that the earlybird was purchased or by some other unknown process?

    My understanding is that it is done in order or purchase.

  46. lazy says:

    lazy wrote:
    Does anyone know what determines the order of earlybird check-in at the 36 hour mark? Does it go by the date the ticket was purchased or by the date that the earlybird was purchased or by some other unknown process?

    My understanding is that it is done in order or purchase.

    In order of purchase of ticket or in order of purchase of earlybird?

  47. CF says:

    lazy wrote:

    In order of purchase of ticket or in order of purchase of earlybird?

    I believe purchase of earlybird

  48. Emily says:

    For some reason I thought I read that it will be based on when you bought the earlybird pass and you will always be behind the other priorty boarding.

    Just an fyi, I fly weekly and have never bought the EB and have always been lower then A32 when I check in on time. I have had other family members fly also and everyone has had A’s without the extra purchase.

    Save your money.

  49. Lisa says:

    To expand on what a few commenters above said, I have a question…I purchased a ticket (using a reward coupon) for my 8-year-old son to travel with my mother who purchased a wanna-get-away or senior fare. If I pay the $10 EB fee for my son, will they actually make him board alone if my mom ends up in a later boarding group? I called SW to ask this question, and their answer was, “You must purchase it for everyone in the traveling party, otherwise they will end up boarding at different times.” I specifically asked if they would separate an 8-year-old from his adult traveling companion, and she said YES, they would. That seems insane to me. What have you travelers seen in actual practice in this situation, or does it never come up?

  50. G says:

    Encourage those line cutter fist fights. They’ll be detained and banned from the flight, leaving more open seats for everyone else. ;)

  51. KC Traveler says:

    I traveled this week and decided to try the EB process on my way home. I flew from Kansas City to Dallas without the EB and got A 35. I paid the 10 bucks for my return flight from Dallas to KC, and got…you guessed it, A 35. hunh…

  52. Renee says:

    I am in the process of booking a flight, so now i must decided if i just wing it w/o purchasing the EB fee or take another airline and pay to check a bag…

  53. Larry says:

    What also sucks about this new policy is if you change planes, I think you have to pay again for early bird checkin. And what about families of 3 people or more with kids over 5 years? Now you are paying $30 per flight segment. I am not happy about this…

  54. Consumer Mike says:

    I am amazed that with the mounting amount of negative comments on the EB program that people just don’t do the obvious thing – vote with your feet/dollars. DON’T BUY INTO IT. If SW sees that people aren’t biting they will improve or discontinue this ill thought program. The passengers have the final word on this EB program.

  55. Jason says:

    I have a question. Does anybody know in which order the EB tickets are arranged? Does it go by the purchase date of the ticket itself or the date of the early bird pass (ie how do they decide which EB customers get the lowest numbers). I am preparing to take my last SW flight this weekend, luckily it is to Orlando and there seem to always be larger groups flying (hopefully they won’t pay the fee). I paid the fee (it is a fee) so I hope I don’t get screwed. I hate this frikkin airline and have decided that a higher priced ticket and changing planes IS worth it. I am going to Vegas soon also, and I just don’t want to get there (and home) in a bad mood after flying with a bunch of cattle. Sick of Southwest. I don’t understand people who say they are so great. The only reason I am flying Friday is because I was given a voucher for getting screwed by the EB policy back in September (I was already holding an SWA vacation ticket which wasn’t eligible, see my post above). This seating system sucks, always has, I don’t care what they say about what the market wants. I only hear negative things about it from people in the airport. Only assigned seats from now on.

  56. CF says:

    Jason wrote:

    I have a question. Does anybody know in which order the EB tickets are arranged?

    This is all it says on the site:
    Is there an order in which EarlyBird Check-in Boarding Passes are reserved?
    Yes, Customers who have purchased Anytime Fares will receive priority over other fare types during the initial boarding position assignment.

    Also, I believe it’s time of purchase of EB, but I could be wrong.

  57. Colby says:

    @ David SFeastbay:

    I actually laughed out loud when I saw your A, B, C diagram..The circus boards in C. Great article; almost booked an early bird; now I will just stand around watching the clock and roll the dice 24 hours before the flight leaves! Thanks!!

  58. SharonH says:

    I tried SWA’s early bird check-in just to see. I am disappointed enough not to buy EB check-in again. See, what had happened was I wanted to print my boarding pass and find out what my group/number was after SWA should have assigned these things. I could not locate it in my ‘should have been recently updated but was not’ reservation. I called SWA to find out what it was b/c they should know, right? But they didn’t know…nobody knew. SWA promised to call me when they found out, but I’m still waiting for that call. In the meantime less than 24 hours, I accessed my reservation and I got A27. I usually get that or better, and occasionally worse when I check-in 23:59 hours before my flight. It is cool that they check-in for you but it’s not worth the 10 bucks.

  59. EB First Timer says:

    I am using SW for a flight. I purchased the EB option about 29 hours before the flight and wound up with A26. I realize 29 hours is probably not the smartest thing to do but I didn’t have the flight arranged until then. A26 appears to mean I’m at best, the 26th person on the plane but probably more like 36 if there are business travelers and other higher-priority customers. So being that high (let’s call it #30) doesn’t seem very convenient or “early.” Hopefully I’m wrong.

  60. Bob Jones says:

    And hopefully it is obvious to all that the seat selection for the A1 boarder is already limited by the masses who did not deplane at your location.

  61. T. White says:

    I just purchased an EB check in 22 hours before a flight from Phoenix to Buffalo. I got a B20. I think what happens is that the earlier you book a flight and pay up right away for the EB the better chance you have for an A boarding. I waited too long to pay up and was not rewarded with an A. We fly SW all the time and have 4 free flights between my husband and I. We travel on business a lot and mostly with SW. So I don’t think the frequent flier has any more pull than someone who doesn’t fly a lot. I will not spend the 10 bucks again for EB. Just be ready to hit the ‘GO’ button at the 24:00 hour!

  62. I paid and got A56. I have never been higher than A30 the regular way. A rip off.

  63. Kim says:

    I had EB and checked my boarding pass and got A59. Considering that this is the first time I have used EB and the highest boarding number I have ever had with southwest, I do not think it is worth it. I total waste of $10.

  64. Rich says:

    Last time I flew anywhere is in 1994 so I really had no idea what to expect when me and my wife booked a trip to Las Vegas. I had no clue about the no assigned seating rules and the great experience of both of us being packed in between to other people. I was expecting the two of us to be able to sit together and enjoy about a 4 hour flight together. When I complained to the ticketing agent she told me to go online and get our boarding passes early for our flight back home, so we did and guess what b-34 and b-35. Great. Another great flight home. I wont be flying Southwest again. I would rather pay the little extra for our checked suitcases and know I will have a more comfortable flight.

  65. John says:

    I purchased EB since I have 5 people I am traveling with. I did non-EB a few months back with my 10 year old and we ended up sitting apart. That sucked. I am only flying SW cuz I have to on this trip. However, I avoid SW at all costs because of their boarding system. Totally blows.

  66. MH says:

    NOT WORTH IT! I relied on the Early Bird Check-In for a flight tomorrow. Family of 4 with 2 small children. It did NOT check us in. Now stuck in the C line, wont be able to sit together, and Southwest said “Sorry” but they are having trouble and it’s not working! Nothing they can do.
    Don’t depend on anyone else, check-in yourself if you want it done right.

    • Unfortunately that is the risk with ALL discount carriers. You get what you pay for………………

      Having said that, Southwest does a good job -overall- to get you from point A to point B.

  67. Sara's Mom says:

    I purchased EB for the outgoing flight but not for the incoming. I have other family going and we are hoping to get 2 rows (6 seats) together. My daughter is 2 – what would happen if when we change flights and there are not 2 seats together for my daughter and me? Would SW make my dd site alone???? I’m worried that I should buy it coming back and not rely on being in the B group to get 2 seats. My other 4 family has purchased it so I guess they could save us their 2 middle seats. I’m mostly worried about when we change planes and there already being people on the plane.

    • Dear Sara’s mom,

      I feel very bad for your situation. However, if you feel so strongly about the seating arrangments (and I’m not saying your wrong) you need to fly on an airline that assigns seats. Otherwise, you are going to have to endure the pain of not knowing where anyone will be sitting.

    • CF says:

      If you’re that concerned, then you can buy Early Boarding. But it shouldn’t be hard to get at least two of you to sit together, even in the B group.

  68. Thomas says:

    I will never do eb again.I booked my flight 3 days before my buddy booked his.I was given A21 and he got A25.On the return flight,I checked in at exactly 23:59 and recieved B1.My friend checked in 4 hours after I did and he got A23.There is no rhyme or reason in their system.Can anyone explain this to me because southwest sure can’t or won’t!!!

  69. Paul says:

    I paid for EB Check-in and my buddy did not. He got A25 and I got A34. I called Southwest and they claim that if people cancel their flight, then other people can grab their spot on line if they were an A-Lister or EB check-in customer.

    So if I change my flight, someone who checks-in can now get A34. I have used EB many times and other times I haven’t and I always seem to get an A spot if I check-in 24 hours in advance.

    I have also paid for EB-Check-in and the flight is empty. Also if you pay for EB Check-in and change flights, you go to the back of the line.

  70. Chris says:

    Purchase EB for myself and my friend on the same invoice/confirmation. When printing the boarding passes, I got B15 and he got A42. How the heck is that possible? Both tickets were purchased on the same reservation at the same time and both boarding passes were printed at the same time.

  71. lesley says:

    I wonder if I confirm my flight now without EB will I still get bad seating if I get there early?

  72. Robert says:

    I still prefer SWAir to all the other US-based airlines. The early bird feature may help you secure a better seat if you buy far enough ahead of time, but not buying it doesn’t diminish your overall trip very much even if your seat sucks.

    The other majors charge robber-baron prices to change a ticket (something that costs the airlines very little — really nothing if done far ahead of the flight), and confiscatory bag check fees. Consequently, people try bring steamer trunks as carry on and just slows the entire already-slow boarding process.

    SW can flip a flight 2x faster than any other airline. One secret to that is no assigned seating. Another is encouraging checked baggage by not charging a fee.

    Smart, IMO….

  73. Ric says:

    I have been following this tread for a few months now, and I have learned alot.
    We signed up for EB-checkin…and today we got our Boading Pass. A25 and A26, on our connecting flight…A28 and A29.

    Now this is our first time to fly Southwest (WN)…But I think this is very good position…Let me know what you think…

  74. Pingback: unserious travel » Is Early Bird Check-In Worth it? Southwest Airlines.

  75. Jim Ross says:

    I just did earlybird and got B37!!!

    that is terrible for 10 bucks

  76. R. W. White says:

    We fly SW several times a year. Tried EB for coast-to-coast tickets purchased 90 days in advance. Purchased eb with both tickets. On way out, A24 or 25 on both legs. On way back A 55 and 56 on both legs. SW folks at gate had no credible explanation whatsoever. Only SW procedure I am disappointed in.

  77. Chris says:

    My wife and I fly out to Colorado every year the week after Labor Day, We purchase the tickets as soon as they come available on the southwest site. I purchased 2 roundtrip tickets on 3/20/2011 for flights going to Colorado 9/10 and returning 9/20 purchasing early bird at time of booking. A20-21 on the way out A42-43 on the way back, Southwest gave me the song and dance A+ and business class . when I get to the airport I asked the fellow passengers when they booked their flights , the girl infront of us upgraded to early bird the night before, A 17 had purchased his tickets just over a month ago. I don’t know who they think they are kidding , but one blogger was correct in saying they should give you your # at time of booking. Love the airline, great employees but lousy booking policy. and it will affect my next reservations.

  78. Brad says:

    Good lord, I can’t believe how many people complain about the difference between A21 and A40. I mean, seriously. If you REALLY want that “special” seat, just fly business select. To be honest, I think the $10.00 for EB is probably not worth it, but they DO check you in AUTOMATICALLY which seems to have been forgotten in this conversation. I think the automatic check-in service is what you are paying the extra 10 clams for – not just the A-level seating (which ISN’T, nor is it claimed to be guaranteed!). Stop crying.

    • Stussy63 says:

      Quick question — I am going on a cruise and flying back SW the evening I arrive back in port – so I will have no way to check in before I get to the airport. If I choose EB checkin — would SW do the check in for me and then I just need to print my boarding passes when I get to the airport? If that is the case, then it’s probably worth the $10 for me.

    • Scott says:

      WARNING – THEY DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY CHECK YOU IN. I paid for this, and was really glad I did because delayed flights in the morning meant I was running late getting back in the afternoon. Got to the airport 50 minutes before departure, went to get my boarding pass and was told I was NOT CHECKED IN. Automatic my arse! I got involuntarily denied boarding. Gate agent agreed website is deceptive, and nobody can explain how this happened. Last time I used EB checkin I was in C group. NEVER AGAIN!

  79. Greg says:

    I threw away $10 for early bird check-in yesterday for my 90-year-old mother flying to Orlando from Chicago. What I did not realize, and what SW does not make clear, is that even if you end up at the top of the B group (my mother was B-1) you could still be among the last to board. On this Chicago-Orlando flight, there were at least 30 passengers (families with children) that boarded ahead of my mother…even though they had lower numbers. Does not make sense. SW needs to make this clear…or offer a refund for a wasted early check-in…or, as suggested in the original posting here, restructure this program. Fool me once, shame on me, Fool me twice…well, I will not be buying early check-in for my mother’s return trip.

  80. Robert says:

    Anyone remember the Dr. Seuss story “The Sneetches”? Well, SW Air is Sylvester McMonkey McBean, selling EB stars to pretty much everyone nowadays. If every px on a flight purchases EB, then what the hell good does it do? Except make SW Air an extra $1,400 or so on such a flight? What’s the tie-breaker? Earliest purchase?

  81. RobinM says:

    I haven’t flown in a plane in over 20 years. I purchased the EB, I was hoping to make this a little easier….after reading the reviews, I hope SW does not disappoint me or I won’t be flying again for another 20 years.

  82. Jean says:

    This will be our first time flying Southwest. If I purchase 4 tickets all at the same time, will we be able to board at the same time or will they split us up?

    • CF says:

      If you check in at the same time, you will get sequential boarding numbers and you will board at the same time.

  83. Cyd says:

    I bought Early Bird when I booked my flight in Jan. Flew 5/14/12 and got B50 & B51. 60 A boarding passes, blue sleeve medical boarders, parents with children – THEN B plus 50 . . . . .

    When I asked the counter agent, she basically said that she would never buy Early Bird because everyone on the plane could purchase it and you’d be SOL.

    Early bird is a RIP OFF!!

  84. John K says:

    I had to do a trip to Albany, Ny and I decided I would try this out. While I did get an A it was 44 and 38 on the 2 legs home and you still need to go back to the website to print a boarding pass 24 hours before. It was only $10 but based on what I have read above and How many were still ahead of me… I will likely keep my $10 in the furture.

  85. Katala says:

    Gone are the days when you could actually get the A-1 spot. I used to get that quite frequently and made a game of it. But now even paying the extra $10 I am at the end of the A-list. Still not bad for those of us who like certain areas better than others on the plane. I am disappointed though that someone named Jason above actually called his fellow travelers “cattle”. My response to him, the way you see us is only a reflection of your own self. Nuff said.

    • Robert says:

      Jason was rather uncharitable with his cattle comment, to be sure. But I also have a gripe with a number of my “fellow travelers”.

      People talking too loud, yapping on the phone (on the ground), hauling steamer trunks as carry-ons, putting coats in the overheads then griping when someone wants to put, gasp, a bag on top of it because there’s no more room, leaning the seat back on a short flight, kids running up and down the isle, piss all over the lav because other px are too lazy to clean up, and my personal favorite: everyone jumping to their feet the millisecond the plane is blocked-in at the gate, making it all the more difficult to retrieve your bag from the overhead when the line to deplane starts to move. Lord help you if you have to swim upstream a couple of isles to get your bag because the d-bags on your isle hogged up the overheads with the rolling luggage that should have been checked! The only bag I bring on board is my laptop! C’mon folks, SW gives you the first two bags FREE. Use it!

      Yes, Jason’s comment was rude. But we’re all thinking it.

  86. Katala says:

    My suggestion to Southwest is to send an email to the folks who have paid the $10 for the early bird check-in to notify them that they can print their boarding pass. And there should be a link. Print boarding pass in the email so that we do not have to go through the whole check-in process online. This is what we are paying for. They should do it for us and assign a good number and just email us the link to print it. Done!

  87. Robert says:

    SW ought to be more forthcoming and transparent with their EB program. As it is, it’s an opaque program that *probably* yields a better seat to those that select the option than to those that don’t.

    For all we know, SW may sell an EB for every seat on the plane. So, yeah, having an EB is better than not having it. But if everyone (or nearly so) has it, then it confers no advantage over seating than when no EB was offered at all. If that’s true, then it’s a scam.

    And SW isn’t generally known for scamming their passengers. They’ve always been a pretty upfront airline. Not opening up on how EB works is tarnishing their better-than-industry-average rep, IMO.

  88. My daughter and I purchased tix at same time on same fligqht. Three days before I added early bird. She went on twent four hours before. The result. I had a56. She had a 30. I believe this whole thing is scam and added fee. I have called South west numerous times and gotten random anwsers but I now have proof that it is way tomake millions of extra dollars.

  89. Sean says:

    Q1 – Do you have any insight into what numbers are given to EB reservations? The assumption is that the first EB customer would get A16. Do you know if this is correct, or do they reserve some number of As for people who check in right at the 24 hour mark? Like maybe they start the EBs at A-30? Q2 – If the EBs are given A30 and above, if you check in right at the 24 hour mark can you improve your number or will you be stuck with the higher number given 36 hours ahead during the automatic check process? I have never had a number below A-30 using the EB system – Has anyone?

    • CF says:

      Sean – I believe A16 starts with A-listers for their pre-boarding, which comes ahead of EarlyBird. But I’m not entirely sure if they have a set number for A list or if they just put EB on after they run out of A list members to assign.

      • Sean says:

        Ah – I bet you’re right. Business select up to A-15. At the 36 hour mark, A-listers who have purchased get the next set of As, and then the EBs get their numbers. That sounds right. Thanks!

        • kevin says:

          as a frequent flier of southwest i can tell you that the order goes like this:

          a1-a15 are reserved for business select whether there are 15 business select tickets purchased or not (meaning there could only be 5 people or even 0 people from a1-a15).

          a16 (and a few extra spots) will go to a-listers (for instance, i never pay EB, but i get a16 almost everytime because of my a-list preferred status)

          the next however many spots will go to EB payers. For people that pay for the EB and get a45 and then have their traveling partner check in 24 hours before the flight to get a30, this happens when somebody pays for EB, has the EB system check them in 36 hours prior to the flight, and then cancels their flight. When that happens, the a45 was already issued, but the a30 is back up for grabs. sometimes you can even check in, get a b59 and then (if you are gutsy and the price is no different) cancel your flight to delete your boarding pass only to repurchase and get a new boarding pass on the hopes that somebody with a higher boarding pass cancelled the flight and opened up their spot. if they have, you will then get that spot.

          While EB is certainly a way for SWA to make more money, it is NOT a scam.

  90. ABW says:

    I travel for business and must book through an agency. I cannot buy anytime fares or whatever they call them. I fly out of Orlando and will usually choose nonstop over an airline. But I fly SW as a choice when I can. In the past I have checked in at 23:59 before a flight and always got an A>40 pass. The last two times I flew I tried EB (after the agency makes the res I log in and pay on my own) the first A 30s, the trip I am on now I got A45 going to KC and I just checked in for my return and got B02.

    That will be the last time I pay SW to board, next time I will try 23:59 again and see how I do. If it doesn?t improve I will fly elsewhere. I would use EB again if they changed it so I could see what I was buying (as mentioned above). When I book with other Airlines at least I can choose and pay for a seat or as with American the last 4 times I paid 100.00 at check in to upgrade to first class, in my option a wonderful value. Flying is a hassle and I am willing to pay for less aggravation but until EB becomes more transparent I just don?t see it.

  91. Queenie says:

    Went to Disney 2years ago with sw, the night before had to leave park o back to hotel to book boarding pass. Wish I knew about early check in then would saved a lot of hassle. Booked a flight to phoenix to see our kids, got the early check in. Not for a A seat, but because I do not want to spend my last day with my kids worrying about a computer. People complain they do not get a special place, I have flowed other air lines booked seats months a head they changed them on me more then once. I do not care if I am not first all I care is to have a safe flight to see my kids.

  92. Firsttimer says:

    Okay so first time I am flying SW. I was curious how the EB was going to work. Didn’t pay for it going and now have B16. It will be interesting to see what I get on the flight back, I paid the $10.00. Don’t know how much I will fly SW, but it was the only airlines with a non-stop flight to Albuquerque from Seattle.

  93. Paul says:

    I have flown Southwest a few times and always get a “C” seat. This time I am going with the $10.00 early check-in for Thanksgiving. I let you know what I get, but it has to be better than what I always get. Southwest is my best choice, because the other airlines usually require a connection flight. Southwest is always non-stop.

  94. Hal says:

    I fly SW a lot and usually pay for the EB– however I just checked in on-line and the EB gave me a B-19, so what the heck did I pay $10 for. that means half the fight is either ‘A’ list members of EB— something doesnt sound to right–

  95. Cathy says:

    I bought early bird and was assigned A5-9 on the way to Orlando. We were first to board. Some of the C boarders had to separate and beg to switch seats to be by their children. On the way back I had A38 and my children had A17 and 18 even though they were bought together. If you have kids that you want to sit by, I would recommend. Although there were some people who bought 1 early bird and saved seats for their family. Might try that next time.

  96. Paul says:

    I bought the early bird and always will from now on. I don’t know how some people received a “A” seat without going the early bird route, because I have flown Southwest quite a few times and always got a “C” seat. More than once I had to check in my small bag because of no over head room left, when I finally got seated. Very frustrating!!! This time I got an “A” seat both times and what a difference! No “C” seats for me ever again.

  97. Mike Z says:

    I believe this is a scam to add more money to the ticket price with little or no added value. My last trip on Southwest was the first time I used the Early Check-in option which was sold as a must have by the Southwest support line. We had 9 people traveling together on a cruise and I was told that we would have issues checking in early at sea and chances are the 5 of us on the same flight would get split up in center seats. I coughed up the $60, $20 per person on my itinerary, the rest decided to chance it. When we printed the boarding passes we had B19-21 Other people in our group on the same flight received B30-31; B33 – 34. In fact the cruse had computers and internet access so our group could check in 24 hours ahead. When we arrived at the terminal I asked why my early check-in was in the B group and also within 9 seats of people who checked in manually I was told that early check-in is not a guarantee, it is a gamble; You are only paying to have Southwest automatically check you in ahead of time it doesn’t assure you of a good seat. Exact words used. When I figured in the extra cost of early-check in I could have flown no-stop on another airline, had free luggage, and had assigned seats.

    • Paul says:

      I’m sorry that you have not benefited like I have when purchasing the Early Checkin. I never, ever got anything better than a “B” seat and well over 90% of the time, it was always a “C” seat and a few times I had to check in my small bag, because the over head was full by the time I made it back there. Now, my last 2 flights, since making the Early Checkin purchase have been A29 or lower. For me, it is a wonderful thing. Thanks.

  98. my husband and I have three flights this winter we have not purchased the early bird check in I am in a wheel chair and board first usually Does this mean he cant board or sit by me if I dont purchase ebci?

  99. Mike says:

    I think I may have been one of the first travelers to notice the EB feature a few years ago. I would consistently get A16-20. A couple of years later I was noticing that no matter when I purchased my tickets with the EB, I was starting to get positions like A30 or higher. I then started monkeying with the time I’d check in online. I found that the closer I checked in to exactly 24 hours before the flight, the better position I got. Am I imagining this? It seems to work every time.

  100. Mike says:

    In thinking about this, it occurred to me (I don’t know why it took me so long) that the main reason people want to board earlier is so they can have a better chance at overhead space. Question: Why is this the case? Answer: Because Southwest doesn’t at all enforce the size limit on carry-on bags.

    How many of you have seen people (or maybe you’ve been “that one”) who tries to stuff a steamer trunk into the overhead while 40 people are waiting behind them to get to their seats? It makes me furious when I think about it because Southwest allows 2 free pieces of checked luggage per passenger. Granted, it’s not all the passenger’s fault. Southwest needs to play by their own rules. And if you’re someone who doesn’t have the time to wait for checked luggage, then please book an earlier flight or just suck it up and wait another 20 minutes.

  101. SP says:

    I had to cancel my Southwest flight and guess what – YOU LOOSE THE EARLY BIRD FEES. Something to keep in mind.

    • Another GOOD reason not to pay any extra fees to ANY airline. I understand that US AIR made a fortune last year in extra fees. I think they were the industry leader in those “ill gotten” profits.

  102. Mike says:

    Funny that I just saw a post from this blog for the first time since I posted weeks/months ago. I just had my first really bad experience with the early bird deal. I went to Vegas this past weekend. I’d booked the flights months ago as I normally do, especially for a popular destination. As is usual, I paid for early bird. Anyway, we got to the airport for our flight home and to our surprise, we had seats B15 and B16. We’d never not had an A group seat with early bird check-in. I went to the gate agent to politely ask for a refund and was treated rather rudely by her. I asked for a supervisor and when one arrived I explained that I realize early bird doesn’t guarantee A group, but since I’m getting no value for my $10 I’d like my money back. Although she was nicer, she was of no help. All she could tell me was that “A listers” got preference over me (someone who flies nearly every month on Southwest) and that an A group number is not guaranteed by early bird. “A lister” or not, I paid for a service; an upgrade if you will. If they don’t have enough spots left to issue “A group” numbers, then they shouldn’t. Other airlines don’t do that. Try using your frequent flier miles for good seats on full flights. You can’t do it. Paying passengers get first preference. Southwest should adopt the same policy. I have a problem with people being granted “A list” status who didn’t actually pay for their own tickets to begin with. If a company paid for someone’s seat, why should that person reap the reward? I pay for my own seats and for all of the 7 members of my family and even if I pay for only 2 round trips, my cash outlay dwarfs that of the corporate frequent flier’s entire year. I don’t mind the company itself getting the reward credit to dole out as it sees fit, but I shouldn’t be made to wait behind someone who didn’t earn it. I got even more livid when the supervisor told me that there are a lot of government workers in Reno who use the reward travel to go to Vegas. Yep, I”M paying for federal government flunkies to party in Vegas with MY tax dollars and THEY are ahead of ME in line! Disgusting!

    When it comes right down to it, the only reasons most people even care about when they board on Southwest is so they can sit together if they’re in a group or so they can get space in the overhead storage. The overhead storage thing could be solved if Southwest would live by their own rules. If they enforced the size limitations for carry-on bags, the whole issue would go away. People are allowed to skate on this, even though Southwest allows 2 free checked bags (their best promotional tool). I get really sick and tired of watching morons trying to jam a steamer trunk sized suitcase into the overhead while everyone waits behind them and then has no room for their own normal carry-ons. What’s worse is when they try to take down the 50 lb. Godzilla bag without killing anyone. The flight attendants watch and do nothing. The 20 or 30 minutes the steamer trunk people save by not checking luggage is then eaten up by waiting for them trying to get on and off the plane. It’s true insanity.

    • CeCe M says:

      Just be glad you didn’t pay for Early Bird and then get C! My mother just had this happen. She purchased Early Bird and then got C19 (and C3 on her connecting flight). I couldn’t believe it! The agent tried to blame us for “not checking in at home”. Everything I have read says that it is automatic check-in with Early Bird. As the blogger points out, they should not be selling so many “Early Bird” tickets that they are meaningless!
      Thanks for the blog post.

      • Paul says:

        If you get a “C” pass, they should give you a refund. Before early Bird, I always got a “C” and half the time, ended up checking in my luggage at the last minute, then waiting an extra 30 minutes for it to come out at luggage. Since then, I have purchased at least 6 or 7 early Birds and got A’s every time. Sometimes I was the 5th or 6th person on board. It has been gold for me, I must say.

        • CeCe M says:

          Thanks, but a refund doesn’t really cut it though since the whole point was for my senior citizen mother who is not used to traveling to have a less stressful trip.

          • Paul says:

            I agree as that was terrible. I don’t know if Southwest does this, but many airlines will put your mother on first if you let them know the situation or near first and wheel her right on the airplane. My mother is also a senior and this worked great for us. Please excuse my suggestion if you already mentioned your mother to Southwest.

            • CeCe M says:

              Thanks again, Paul. Although she is isn’t young, my mom is a bit too vital to be wheeled on to the plane. I think she would be embarrassed. She is just a nervous traveler because she hasn’t done it much. I wanted to make it easier on her and the whole debacle (and the rudeness of the agent) made her more nervous because she was counting on it. Thanks for the suggestion though. I’m trying to get a hold of her to see how the first leg went, but haven’t been able to yet. :-(

  103. MIKE says:

    Mike just so you know corporate travelers “dwarf” what you would pay on 14 roundtrip tickets. Without corporate travelers your cost would go through the roof. Business travelers book late and pay alot higher price thats where the airline profits come from.

  104. Mike says:

    Boo hoo…worker bees. My heart bleeds purple peanut butter as they get a free flight at my expense!

  105. robert says:

    earlybird is f’n BS!
    just did it for the first time and I got position A56— SCREW THAT!

    last month same flight I did regular checkin & had position C36, upgraded at the gate 30 min before flight for $40 & got seat A4. early bird is a revenue scam!

    Southwest needs to dump this this friggin first come first serve and just let people select their seat at time of booking & board by zone. such a waste of time & energy.

    this choose your seat= slow boarding:
    first ones on take exit and isle seats and fill up overheads inconsistently–then everyone after needs to wait while the firsts on get up move aside and let people into the window/middle seats.

  106. Lara says:

    Just returned from a weekend to Key West. Did earlybird check in on both legs and my friends did not. Going out we got A16 & A17 while me friends were in C; however coming back they checked in online earlier than we did and got A while we were in B. I thought earlybird check in automatically checks you in 36 hours before your flight. My friends checked in 5 hours before flight??? No one at the airport could tell me why. We paid same fair and I fly more than they do so it was not a status issue….not cool Southwest, not cool!

  107. Mike says:

    I had to call Southwest the other day to book a flight because the website wasn’t working properly. I finally was able to get an actual Southwest employee to admit that they changed the language at some point. They used to guarantee “group A” now they say that you’ll get automatic check-in and get a number which is better than all except “A List” passengers. Whether or not they’re telling the truth, I agree that Earlybird is now “for the birds” and no longer worth the $12.50 (a recent $2.50 increase PER LEG). In fact, since Earlybird was an incentive until recently, I’m now looking at other airlines, as now the cattle call has returned for all practical purposes. I’d at least like to know that if I pay more I get more and if I check in earlier than Joe Shmo, my number should be better.

    Now that everyone knows about it, perhaps Southwest should just scrap the program. Maybe, for the sake of sanity and truth, they should simply offer an upgrade to their version of a first class for a bit more money and scrap the Business Select model. That way, it isn’t so sneaky or confusing. Frankly, if you’re holding a business select ticket, you’re still having to compete with connecting passengers, the handicapped and (hide your eyes because you might be blinded by the intense light) “A-Listers”.

    I also voiced my concern to the ticket agent on the phone that the gate agents need to enforce the size limits on carry-on luggage. I’m tired of delays waiting for Freddy Frequent Flyer to try and jam his steamer trunk into the overhead 5 minutes after the flight was supposed to have left the gate and then wait to get off as the flight attendants use the jaws of life to pry the thing out. Even if they don’t cause a delay, their lack of consideration also causes those who have a normal sized bag to have to give up leg room and put it under the seat in front of them.

  108. Marty S says:

    Southwest is hardly alone in being lax on enforcing carry on bag dimensions . ALL the airlines do a shitty job at this IMO.

    • Mike says:

      Agreed, Marty. But at least Southwest doesn’t charge for checked luggage (2bags). Therefore, the offenders have no excuse and neither does Southwest.

  109. Mary says:

    I purchased three seats on a southwest flight, with early check in, on of the 3 of us is “a customer of size”, one a child of 12yrs.the other an average size adult, we want to sit together. Will the person of size still be required to meet their policy for COS if the second seat is for a child?

  110. Ken says:

    I keep seeing people talking about buying EB check in and then checking themselves in and priting their BPs. Isn’t SW supposed to AUTOMATICALLY check you in so all you’d have to do is go to your SW account, sign in and then print your BPs?

  111. Gary says:

    Ken, here’s the reason. Southwest won’t divulge HOW they pick your EB seat#. It’s a given if your not a business or A list that you won’t get A1-15. After that, let’s say 50 people paid for EB. If you believe that EB purchasers ALWAYS board ahead of non-purchaser ( I don’t) how do they decide which buyer gets seat A-16 and who is stuck (?) with B-5? Remember, they let family boarding on after A but before B. Do they go by when you purchased your ticket? Do they go by when you actually check in ? Do friends and family of employees get the 1st seats? Who knows, Southwest won’t tell, so your back to doing everything you can to try and get a better seat, which means paying the $12.50 each, AND checking in the instant the 24 hours pre-flight is reached. I don’t mind paying extra for a service, but sure would be nice to know the rules. Any former Southwest employees care to divulge the secret?

  112. Martin says:

    I just got the 12 dollar service thinking I could fly back into the country without logging in. NO SUCH LUCK. I paid 12 dollars and they still sent me notification to check in 24 hours before my flight. WHAT? I thought I payed so that I did not have to do the stupid check in from a foreign country.
    Nothing like wasting money……Never again Southwest.

  113. David says:

    I have always purchased early bird seats and until the last year have always been assigned a low A boarding number. However, this last year I have been assigned much higher numbers than usual. Once, I asked the people in front of me if they paid for early bird boarding, and they said that they did not. So I confirmed that I did not get what I paid for. When I asked a SW agent about it, she danced around the issue and never did give me a straight answer. Southwest is ripping me and others off, and I now fly on other airlines instead of SW when I can.

  114. Data says:

    I recently bought early bird checkin and when I got my ticket I was B-1. The lady at the counter said I would still get to pick a good seat. I got on and had to sit 3 rows from the back on the isle…which wasn’t too bad (I thought) since it was almost a 6 hr flight. Well guess how many crotches ended up in my face because there was only one bathroom in the back and people were waiting in line?!? Never again will I pay early bird checkin. When I boarded almost every seat was taken cuz it was a smaller plane ????????

  115. Nate says:

    Purchased EB for flight from STL to MCI tomorrow. Just checked in and got B-2. If there is no value, there is no reason to pay extra. It’s that simple.

  116. MaryAnn says:

    I don’t know why SE just doesn’t have you pick a seat when a ticket is purchased on line. I once had a person of size sitting next to me. I could not change my seat because it was a full flight. I complained to SW and told them I didn’t pay half price so I shouldn’t have had to share y seat and space. I avoid flying SW whenever possible. Jet Blue is so superior and their ticket prices are about the same.

  117. Mike says:

    I know that there’s nothing that can be done about the “larger” people sitting next to us. Southwest IS a crapshoot, plain and simple. I do think they need to reconsider an alternative to “earlybird”, however. When it started, it was a couple of dollars cheaper per leg and you were guaranteed an “A group” boarding pass. Obviously, that’s all changed now. The $25 you pay for a 2 leg earlybird is no longer really a value, but a wager that’s slightly in your favor.
    My idea is simple. The first 5 rows of every flight would be reserved for SW’s version of first class. You’d pay the same as business select, which would now be eliminated, as would earlybird. Also, these would be off-limits to those who want to use frequent flier points, as those people can fly free on occasion, which is a benefit unto itself. Buying first class would, however, enable faster accumulation of points. Those sitting in first class would get priority boarding, a RESERVED overhead space and the express lane for security check.. All the drinks would be free and they’d get an extra snack, similar to what the other airlines do and it would be fully refundable. All other group boarding would be done on a first come, first served basis with none of their current trickery or favoritism. Earlybird is pretty much a racket. I only care about it if I’m flying with a large group or have a heavy or larger carry-on which must be stored in an overhead. A new reserved-seat first class is really what they need.

  118. Ken says:

    Ok, could someone PLEASE clear this issue up for me before I take a flight with SW next month…If EB is purchased, do you or do you not get automatic check-in so all you have to do is print your BPs???

    • CeCeM says:

      Supposedly you do, but in our case, not checking in before arriving to the airport meant that she got C-19, so I would suggest checking in even if you purchase EB.

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