Home Airlines What To Do If You Forget To Buy EarlyBird Check-In When You Purchase Southwest Tickets

What To Do If You Forget To Buy EarlyBird Check-In When You Purchase Southwest Tickets

by joeheg

I just realized that I forgot to purchase the EarlyBird check-in for our next set of Southwest flights, which are only a few weeks away.

I can already hear Sharon mocking me as she reads this post. (Note from Sharon: Who, ME??? Never. Well, at least not in front of all these people…)

We normally purchase the EarlyBird option when flying Southwest so that we get an early boarding position. The earlier you get to board a Southwest plane, you’re more likely to get your choice of seats as well as increased access to the overhead bins. Your place in line with EarlyBird is determined by how far in advance you make your purchase. Not when you purchase the tickets, mind you, but by when you purchase EarlyBird.

Since I’m an obsessive planner and book flights as soon as I can, we usually can get a boarding spot in the middle to end of the A boarding group. This is crucial when flying from Orlando since Family Boarding takes place between the A and B groups and in Orlando that might as well be an announcement saying “Anyone except Joe and Sharon, please board now.”

Waiting until the last minute to buy EarlyBird, everyone who already purchased it will get places ahead of us in line but we’ll still have to pay the same price.

So what are my options?

Purchase EarlyBird Check-In Now

I’m still able to purchase EarlyBird check-in. Sure, I’ll be in line behind everyone who purchased it when they booked their tickets but who knows how many people that will be. Now that Southwest has increased the price from $15 to either $15, $20 or $25 (our flight would cost $20 per person), it’s possible that families might opt out of paying for it and go with the family boarding instead.

Take Our Chances And Check-In At Exactly 24 Hours

This used to be the only way to get a good boarding spot for Southwest. Check-In opens up at 24 hours before your flight and the sooner you check in, the better your boarding number. We could hope people flying from Orlando will be too busy enjoying our local theme parks or melting from the 90+ degree temperatures and will miss the exact moment to check in. Since it’s just the two of us, there’s a good chance as long as we’re in group B that we can snag two seats together as long as one of us is willing to sit in the middle seat.


Maybe that’s not the best plan and it’s always good to have a backup, just in case.

Purchase Upgraded Boarding At The Gate

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For just $30, $40 or $50, you can pay to upgrade to boarding positions A1-A15 at the gate. These are held for those who purchased a top-dollar Business Select fare. If there are any spots left, Southwest will sell them at the gate (for a price).

I figure we can try to check in at 24 hours. If we get a really terrible boarding number, we can see if there are any upgrades available for purchase. I figure the cost will be $40 for our flight and I’d rather pay that than pay $20 to be at the end of the line for EarlyBird just in front of the people who checked in at 23:59:59 before the flight.

How I Can Soften The Blow Of Buying An Upgrade

I’m looking for a new credit card. The Southwest Priority card is currently offering a 60,000 Rapid Reward sign up bonus for spending $2,000 in the three months after approval. I’m currently under 5/24, have no Chase Southwest credit cards and it’s been more than 24 months since I’ve received a sign-up bonus for any Chase Southwest card.


While the card does have a $149 annual fee that isn’t waived the first year, it also offers a $75 Southwest credit and reimbursement for 4 upgraded boarding charges per anniversary year. For the $149 fee, I could possibly get $160 in upgrade fees, $75 in Southwest ticket charges and 60,000 Rapid Rewards points, which isn’t bad at all.

It’s true that getting the card now isn’t the best plan if I was looking to get the Southwest Priority Pass but I’ve had that already and for us, it’s not worth the trouble or effort to try and get it again. Your Mileage May Vary.

Final Thoughts

At first, I was kicking myself for forgetting to purchase the EarlyBird seating for our flights. I’d always done it in the past but I was in a hurry to book these tickets using a Southwest voucher and it slipped my mind. It wasn’t until I went to look at the reservation online that I saw it was still an option to purchase.

However, that mistake made me look at my options available and reminded me of the Southwest Priority card which I’d considered applying for in the past but had slipped from my memory.

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No actually, you can make mistakes when booking travel, like the time I booked flights to the wrong airport. Luckily, this time things didn’t end up so bad and I might have something valuable for the long term to show for it.

(Note from Sharon – OK, now that y’all are done reading this, excuse me while I go mock my husband for not getting the early bird check-in…)

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary



Ross Cunningham May 29, 2019 - 3:53 pm

Southwest A-List or A-List Priority levels will not get you a A1 – A15 boarding spot. Only purchasing a Business Select ticket will get you the first 15 spots. A-List and A-List Priority does get you automatic check in 36 hours before the flight.

joeheg May 29, 2019 - 4:00 pm

Thanks. I’ll correct. Website says “best available boarding pass” and I thought that meant the very front.


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