How to get priority boarding with Southwest Airlines | finder.com

How to get priority boarding with Southwest Airlines

Take your preferred seat by boarding early.

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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.

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months plus 20,000 points after spending $12,000 in the first 12 months
2x points on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rentals and 1x points on all other purchases
$149
Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening, plus 20,000 points after spending $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months.

Compare up to 4 providers

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.

Our pick for Southwest priority boarding

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

  • Signup bonus: 40,000 points after you make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account.
  • Plus earn 20,000 points after spending $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months.
  • 2x points on Southwest purchases, and with hotel and car rental partners.
  • $75 in Southwest travel credits every card year.
  • 7,500 bonus points after each cardmember anniversary.
  • Get reimbursed for up to four A1-A15 boarding passes each card year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
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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

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, plus $50 when you make a Delta purchase in the same timeframe
2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, plus $50 when you make a direct Delta purchase in the same timeframe. Rates & fees
40,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
2x miles at restaurants, hotels and United and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
10,000 miles after spending $500 in the first 3 months
2x miles at US restaurants and on direct Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0
Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months plus 20,000 points after spending $12,000 in the first 12 months
2x points on Southwest Airlines and 1x points on all other purchases
$99
Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, plus 20,000 points after spending $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months.
50,000 Avios after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, plus 50,000 Avios after spending $20,000 in the first year
3x Avios on British Airways, 2x on hotels and 1x on all other purchases
$95
50,000 Avios after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, plus 50,000 Avios after spending $20,000 in the first year

Compare up to 4 providers

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

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