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southwestlogoMy family and I have an upcoming trip on Southwest Airlines and in the process of doing some research, I thought I would share what I learned about the boarding process on Southwest.

There are already some good links with information about this – here’s the official “rules” from Southwest and Mommy Points had a good article about it from a year or so ago.

Most people know that on Southwest does not assign seats – instead you are grouped into 3 sections and board in that order.

First there are 60 people in the A section.  You line up A1-A30 and then A31-60.  Apparently, in the lineup you do typically line up in order within each group as well (so A10 is near the front and A28 is at the back of the A1-30 group).  Then there’s B1-30 and B31-60, and then the C group.

Between the A and B group, families traveling with young children (under 5) are allowed to board.  From Southwest’s site

An adult traveling with a child four years old or younger may board during Family Boarding, which occurs after the “A” group has boarded and before the “B” group begins boarding. However, those Customers holding an “A” boarding pass should still board with the “A” boarding group.

So how do you get in the A group?

southwestearlybirdOne way is to purchase the Earlybird check-in.  It costs $12.50 one way, and (usually) gets you an A boarding pass.  If you buy a Business Select fare (yeah, right), you also get an A1-15 boarding pass number.

Besides that, you want to check in as soon as possible.  Check-in starts 24 hours before the flight, and it’s first come first serve on boarding pass numbers.  So the closer to T-24 that you check in, the better your boarding pass will be.

Remember too that if you’re not on the first flight of the day, the plane will already have some passengers that are connecting.

Passengers with disabilities

Again, from the official Southwest boarding FAQ

Prior to general boarding, preboarding is available for Customers who have specific seating needs to accommodate a disability, and/or need assistance in boarding the aircraft, and/or need to stow an assistive device. If you have a disability and require preboarding, you should request a Preboarding Document from the Customer Service Agent at your departure gate.The Preboarding Document serves as notification to our Operations (Boarding) Agent that you need to preboard. It’s important to keep in mind those Customers who preboard may not occupy a seat on the emergency exit rows. Customers who have any other special needs related to boarding should speak with the Customer Service Agent at your departure gate.”We realize that some Customers with disabilities require the assistance of the individuals they are traveling with, and we will allow a travel companion to act as an “attendant” and preboard with a Customer with a disability. In most cases, the Customer requires assistance from only one other person, and any additional family members or friends are asked to board with their assigned group. However, if a Customer needs assistance from more than one family member, then the Customer should be allowed the additional help.

We have a child with autism, so we may be able to board some of our family then.

Saving Seats

Saving seats is for the most part not allowed or at least discouraged.  Though there are reports that it’s less of a problem towards the back of the bus I mean plane 🙂

The other thing to think about is that nobody wants to sit next to someone else’s kids either.  So hopefully that will work out too.

Bottom Line

So if you don’t want to pay extra (I don’t), the best bet is to try and check in as close to 24 hours before your flight departure time as possible.  I will report back after our flight with how it went for us or any other tricks we found

Tips and tricks on how to get to sit with each other as part of family boarding on Southwest Airlines

But what about you – anyone have any good suggestions?

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