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This apparently came out a few weeks ago, but I must have missed the news when it first came out. If you haven’t heard, the Southwest early bird check in cost has increased as of March 16, 2016. The Southwest early bird check in cost used to be $12.50, but now will set you back $15 for each one way flight. Even though the news is about a month old, you can still see that the Southwest Early Bird check in FAQ page still shows a cost of $12.50 (as of the date of this post), so they must be still updating it everywhere on their site.
Southwest Early Bird check in is a way that you can check in before boarding opens up for the general public. If you buy Southwest Early Bird check in, you will be automatically checked in and your boarding pass assigned 36 hours before your flight leaves (12 hours (ish) before the rest of the people on your flight can check in).
With the increase in Southwest early bird check in cost, should you buy it?
Long-time readers will remember that my very first miles and points expenditure was a flight from Chicago to Reno with my family of 8. We used 170,000 Rapid Rewards points to book those flights and that was the first time we had ever flown Southwest. I looked at the Southwest early bird check in cost and was not sure if that would be a good deal.
Eventually, after reading some reports from other folks with experience flying Southwest, we decided not to pay the Southwest Early Bird check in cost. The Southwest family boarding policy does allow families traveling with kids 4 years or under to board after the A group and before the B group flies (so you will board after the first 60 people). In my experience, as long as you don’t mind sitting towards the back of the plane, there will be NO problem at all finding seats together.
If you’re flying with older kids or by yourself, you just need to set yourself an alarm for 24 hours before your flight departs. That is when check in happens, and in my experience, as long as you do that, you should also be fine. It gets a little trickier the more seats (and confirmation numbers) you have, but one trick you can do is to pre-fill all of them out on Southwest’s check in page so you can quickly hit check in when the 24 hour window opens.
So I would NOT pay the increased Southwest early bird check in cost (of course, I wouldn’t have paid the Southwest early bird check in cost when it was only $12.50!).
What about you? Do you think the Southwest early bird check in cost is worth paying?