Finder makes money from featured partners, but editorial opinions are our own. Advertiser disclosure

How to get priority boarding with Southwest Airlines

Take your preferred seat by boarding early.

Southwest Airlines has an open seat boarding policy — you choose any available seat upon boarding. If you have a preferred seating spot, getting on the plane early with priority boarding could be worth it. But most of the time you’ll have to pay for this perk.

How does the boarding process work?

Southwest Airlines boarding is organized in three groups:

  • A1–A60
  • B1–B60
  • C1–C60

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.

1 - 1 of 1
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
You’ll earn 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
Up to 3x points
$149
This card is Southwest's premium option. But don't let this fool you, it's not as expensive as other premium cards, and the card basically pays itself with the annual travel credit perk and the anniversary points you get each year. You'll earn a signup bonus of 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. For rewards, you'll earn 3x points on Southwest purchases, 2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare services. You'll also earn 2x points on internet, cable and phone services, as well as select streaming.
loading

How to get Southwest Airlines priority boarding with your credit card

  1. Get the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.
  2. Purchase upgraded boarding at the departure gate or ticket counter on the day of travel.
  3. 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

1 - 3 of 15
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
10,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in your first 6 months
Up to 2x miles
$0
Earn 10,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 6 months. Terms apply, see rates & fees
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in your first 6 months
Up to 2x miles
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
Earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in your first 6 months. Terms apply, see rates & fees
United Quest℠ Card
United Quest℠ Card
In the first 3 months your account is open, earn 70,000 bonus miles plus 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases.
Up to 3x miles
$250
The United Quest℠ Card is ideal for frequent United flyers. In the first 3 months your account is open, earn 70,000 bonus miles plus 500 Premier qualifying points after you spend $4,000 on purchases. United® purchases earn you 3x the miles. Earn extra miles on a variety of purchases: 3x miles on United® purchases, 2x miles on dining, select streaming services and all other travel and 1x on everything else.
loading

Bottom line

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

Pictures: GettyImages

More guides on Finder

Ask an Expert

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and finder.com Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Go to site