How does the boarding process work?
Southwest Airlines boarding is organized in three groups:
Each passenger gets assigned a unique combination printed on their boarding pass, for example A25, B34 or C50. The lower your letter and number combination, the sooner you board.
How to get Southwest Airlines priority boarding
Southwest Airlines uses the term upgraded boarding, which covers positions from A1 to A15. Often, upgrading your boarding is subject to availability. If available, you can be among the first to board if you:
- Purchase Business Select fare.
In addition to having a guaranteed spot in the upgraded boarding group, you get a free premium drink during your flight.
- Earn elite status.
Southwest Airlines lets you earn A-List and A-List Preferred status by flying with the airline. You need to earn either 25 qualifying one-way flights or 35,000 tier qualifying points in one year for A-List or double that for A-List Preferred. Elite status members get upgraded boarding after Business Select.
- Purchase upgraded boarding.
Be ready to pay $30, $40 or $50 to board your plane sooner.
- Get a Southwest Airlines credit card.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card can reimburse you for up to four upgraded boardings each year on your card anniversary.
- Purchase EarlyBird Check-In.
For $15 to $25 per passenger on a one-way trip, you can purchase EarlyBird Check-In. However, this doesn’t guarantee a spot in A1 to A15 group. It only improves your boarding position.
Compare credit cards with Southwest Airlines priority boarding
Using an airline cobranded credit card can help you earn points on your Southwest Airline flights, which can be redeemed for flights, hotel stays, gift cards and more. However, only one cobranded credit card lets you get upgraded boarding.
How to get Southwest Airlines priority boarding with your credit card
- Get the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.
- Purchase upgraded boarding at the departure gate or ticket counter on the day of travel.
- Request reimbursement up to four times each calendar year.
Who gets priority boarding?
Upgraded boarding is reserved for Business Select customers. Next up are A-List and A-List Preferred. If there are A1 to A15 spots left, you can purchase an upgraded boarding.
Families with children 6 years old or younger are allowed to board between A and B groups.
Passengers with specific seating needs and one travel companion are permitted to board between A and B groups before the family boarding.
Groups with different boarding positions can board at the same time. But the earlier boarding position would have to board with the later position. For example, a passenger with A20 and a passenger with A50 who want to board together would have to board at the A50 passenger group.
Compare airline credit cards
Priority boarding has a high value on Southwest Airlines due to the open seat policy. If you don’t mind paying extra, you can board your plane sooner and choose your preferred spot. Alternatively, consider getting the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, which offers up to four upgraded boardings per year.
However, if you frequently fly with other airlines, check out other airline cards that offer priority boarding and compare your options.
Frequently asked questions
More guides on Finder
10 best travel credit cards of 2022
Here are our picks for the top travel cards on the market.
Visa car rental insurance: How does it work?
Your Visa coverage depends on your credit card provider.
Mastercard car rental insurance: How does it work?
Mastercard offers car rental insurance depending on the issuer.
Compare travel credit cards for fair credit
Cashback cards are among your best options.
How to transfer United miles to a spouse
Transfers are simple but expensive. Avoid them when possible.
The best airline and travel credit cards for bad credit
There are a handful of secured airline credit cards.
Compare United Airlines credit cards
Find out which United Airlines credit card is right for you.
Best Southwest Airlines credit cards
Pay attention to the small differences before picking a Southwest card.
Compare Marriott Bonvoy credit cards
How to choose the best Marriott credit card for your needs.
Compare American Airlines credit cards
How to choose the right American Airlines credit card for you.
Ask an Expert