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How to get priority boarding with Southwest Airlines

Take your preferred seat by boarding early.

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Fact checked

Our pick for Southwest priority boarding: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card logo

40,000-point

Signup bonus after spending $1,000 in first 3 months

  • Enjoy $75 in Southwest travel credits annually
  • Earn 2x points on Southwest, hotels and rental cars
  • Get 7,500 points each card anniversary
See offer
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
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 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.
CardMatch™ from creditcards.com
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Use the CardMatch tool to find cards you're likely to qualify for with your credit score, without a hard pull on your credit.
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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

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
50,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months
2x miles on Delta purchases, restaurants and at US supermarkets and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
With a welcome offer worth up to $600, up to 2x miles on select purchases, and assorted Delta perks, this is a strong choice for Delta fans. Rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $1,000 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a huge signup bonus worth $$1,000 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
N/A
4% at gas stations on up to $7,000 annually (then 1%), 3% at restaurants and on travel, 2% at Costco and 1% on all other purchases
$0
Get 3% back on your travel and dining purchases with no foreign transaction fees and use the card for your Costco membership.
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
10,000 miles after spending $500 in the first 3 months
2x miles at restaurants and on direct Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0
Earn 2x miles on Delta purchases and dining with this simple, entry-level Delta card, and pay no annual fee. Rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Get a generous $300 in annual travel credits, 3x points on travel and dining, and a 50% bonus on point redemptions with Chase's premier card.
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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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