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Southwest Raises Fees for Early Check-in and Boarding

Passengers may now be charged up to $99 for early check-in and up to $149 for early boarding

by Fergus Cole

June 10, 2024

Photo: Houston Hobby. Courtesy of Stephen M. Keller, Southwest Airlines

Travelers flying with Southwest Airlines will now have to pay more for certain benefits after the low-cost carrier raised its fees for early check-in and boarding.

As reported last month, Southwest’s ‘EarlyBird Check-In’ now costs between $15 and $99 per passenger, depending on the flight and real-time demand.

Photo: Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

Meanwhile, passengers will now be charged between $30 and $149 each for ‘Upgraded Boarding.’

Previously, EarlyBird Check-In was capped at $25 per passenger, while Upgraded Boarding cost no more than $80 per person.

Both perks allow passengers to choose their preferred seat, which may prove difficult as Southwest famously operates an open seating policy.

By purchasing EarlyBird Check-In, passengers will be automatically checked in for their flight and assigned a boarding position within 36 hours of departure – 12 hours before general passengers can be assigned their positions.

Southwest’s Boarding Procedure

Southwest divides its passengers into three boarding groups – A, B, and C – with group A boarding first and group C boarding last. While passengers with EarlyBird Check-In aren’t guaranteed to be assigned to group A, they have a higher chance of getting a better boarding position and, thus, a better seat and earlier access to overhead bins.

Meanwhile, those purchasing Upgraded Boarding will be assigned a boarding position from A1 to A15, guaranteeing they’ll board their flight within the first group and get the earliest access to seats and overhead bins. They’ll even board before families with children, although they may still be behind passengers with certain disabilities. The service is available within 24 hours before the flight departure time.

Photo: Courtesy of Stephen M. Keller, 2020

While most passengers will be subject to these new fees when purchasing these flight perks, certain passengers may still be exempt. These include frequent flyers with elite status, Business Select passengers, and those with certain Southwest co-branded credit cards.

“Prices can vary based on flight length and demand. Price points within the new range are subject to change at any time, as they do today,” said a spokesperson for Southwest Airlines. “This price range increase is a result of our regular evaluation of pricing for ancillary products based on market trends and customer demand and will generate incremental revenue in support of the company.”

Chasing Profitability

Southwest’s price hikes on these ancillary fees come after its CEO, Bob Jordan, said it was considering changing its boarding and seating policies to become more profitable. In April, Southwest posted a $231 million net loss for Q1 2024, with Jordan saying the airline was “evaluating options to enhance our Customer Experience” in response.

In an interview with CNBC, Jordan said: “We’re looking into new initiatives, things like the way we seat and board our aircraft.” And following it’s latest price hikes, it seems Southwest is attempting to do just that in order to improve its financial situation.