The Best Seats When Flying on Southwest Airlines

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Having the right seat on your flight can sometimes make or break your day (or trip). Unlike other airlines, Southwest has an open seating policy. That means you can choose any open seat on the plane once it’s your turn to board.

But if you aren’t a frequent flyer, how do you know which seat will be right for you? Here are some tips about choosing the best seat on Southwest Airlines so that you’ll have the most comfortable flight possible.

Why Fly Southwest Airlines?

Why would you even want to fly on Southwest Airlines anyways? There are a lot of reasons — here are just a few:

Southwest Airlines Boarding Process

Since the Southwest Airlines boarding process is a bit different than other airlines, let’s take a quick look at the basics.

You will board your Southwest flight based on a boarding group (A, B, or C) and boarding number (1-60). Once you’re on the plane, you can choose any open seat.

Your boarding position is based on a few factors:

  • Check-in time: Check in begins 24 hours before your flight is due to depart; the earlier you check in, the better.
  • Type of ticket: Business Select tickets are automatically assigned an A1-A15 boarding position.
  • Elite status: If you have A-List or A-List Preferred status, you’ll be able to board before the B group regardless of your boarding position.
  • EarlyBird Check-In: If you purchase EarlyBird Check-In, you will be automatically checked in up to 36 hours ahead of time.
  • Upgraded boarding: You can purchase upgraded boarding at the gate, if available, which will get you an A1-A15 boarding pass. Select Southwest credit cards also come with free upgraded boarding passes.

Southwest Airlines Seat Configurations

Southwest Airlines flies 2 types of aircraft — Boeing 737-700 and Boeing 737-800.

Boeing 737-700

The Boeing 737-700 has 143 seats, and it accounts for more than 60% of Southwest Airlines’ fleet.

Southwest Boeing 737 700
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700. Image Credit: theflight.info

Boeing 737-800

The slightly larger Boeing 737-800 has 175 seats.

Southwest Boeing 737 800
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800. Image Credit: theflight.info

The Best Seats on Southwest Airlines

These tips have been collected from countless flights on Southwest Airlines. Keep in mind that since Southwest Airlines has open seating, a specific seat is never guaranteed — not even if you have an A1 boarding position (the flight could have passengers that are staying on the aircraft from the previous flight)!

The Best Seats If You’re Flying With Young Kids

Flying with kids can be interesting. Even the most seasoned young travelers are prone to meltdowns and tantrums occasionally. If you’re flying with kids on Southwest, head to the back of the plane. You’ll want to do this for a few reasons.

  1. You’ll find the most empty seats in the back of the plane, so you’ll be able to find seats together. If you’re traveling with kids 6 and under, you’ll be able to utilize family boarding which happens after the A group, so there shouldn’t be a need to purchase EarlyBird Check-In to guarantee seats together.
  2. Sitting in one of the very last rows will put you near the bathrooms and flight attendants. This can be crucial if you end up with a kid who’s sick, messy, or just “kind of” potty-trained!
  3. Most people with kids tend to end up near the back of the plane, so you’ll be among those that will understand if your toddler cries during the entire flight.

The Best Seat If You’re Really Tall

If you’re tall, flying in economy can be pretty uncomfortable sometimes. The good news is that Southwest offers more legroom than most other domestic carriers.

However, if you’re really tall, that still might not cut it. Sure, there’s more legroom in the bulkhead and (some) exit rows, but there’s 1 coveted seat that you’ll really want to find — The Money Seat.

The Money Seat is a window seat behind the exit row. It’ll be seat 12A on the Boeing 737-700 and seats 16A and 16F on the Boeing 737-800.

You need some luck to get this seat. Your chances are determined by your boarding position and the number of Business Select passengers ahead of you (these tend to be seasoned business travelers who know about this seat).

The Money Seat on Southwest Airlines
You’ll find the “Money Seat” in the second row of exit seats. Image Credit: Katie Seemann/Zen Life and Travel

If you don’t have a Business Select ticket, but really want The Money Seat, you may want to consider paying for upgraded boarding. Different from EarlyBird Check-In, an upgraded boarding position can be purchased at the gate if they are available. This will get you an A1-15 boarding pass and will give you a good chance at getting your desired seat.

These credit cards come with 4 upgraded boarding passes per year:

The Best Seat If You’re a Nervous Flyer

If you’re not a fan of turbulence (and, really, who is) look for seats over the wings. These seats offer the smoothest ride. Seats towards the front of the plane will shield you from turbulence more than seats at the back of the plane, where you’ll feel any up and down bobbing more.

The Best Seat If You’ve Got a Short Connection Time

If you’ve got a short connection time, you’ll want to get off of the plane as quickly as possible. The bulkhead seats (first row) will be your best bet. However, these seats tend to go pretty quickly, so if you’re really short on time, you may want to consider paying to upgrade your boarding position. As mentioned, some Southwest credit cards come with free upgraded boarding passes.

If you choose the bulkhead, remember that you won’t be able to put a carry-on or personal item in front of you, so everything will need to be stored in the overhead bins.

If the bulkhead seats are already full, choose the first aisle seat you see.

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The Best Seat If You Want an Empty Seat Next To You

There’s never a guarantee that you’ll have an empty seat next to you, but you can do your best to be one of the lucky ones if your flight isn’t full. After boarding, head towards the back of the plane, and grab a seat that’s about three-quarters of the way back.

Once the last people have boarded and are looking for an aisle or window seat, they have a tendency to go towards the back of the plane before admitting defeat and taking a middle seat. If you’re just a little way up from the very back, you stand your best chance at missing these people and ending up with an empty seat next to you.

Southwest Airlines Exit Row
The exit row is great if you want extra legroom, but not if you want to recline your seat or are traveling with kids. Image Credit: Katie Seemann

The Best Seats If You’re Traveling with a Large Group

If you are traveling with a large group and you all want to sit together, your best bet will be to head to the back of the plane. It’s probably not necessary to purchase EarlyBird Check-In as long as your whole party can remember to check-in exactly 24 hours ahead of time. You’ll most likely end up with boarding positions in the B boarding group, which should be enough to get most of your group together.

The Best Seat If You’re Sick

Flying while you’re sick isn’t fun for anyone. While it’s best to stay home if you can, sometimes you have to get on a plane when you aren’t feeling your best. If this is the case, head for the last row of the plane. This way, you’ll be close to the bathroom and you won’t have anyone looking at you, so you can be as discreet as possible.

However, if you have a tendency towards motion sickness, a seat over the wings will be your best bet to avoid as much turbulence as possible.

The Best Seats if You Want to Recline

If you are looking forward to putting your seat back to take a little snooze on your flight, be sure to choose a row that can actually recline!

You’ll want to avoid the exit rows, the row in front of the exit row, plus the last row of seats on the airplane. These seats typically do not recline at all.

Final Thoughts

Flying on Southwest Airlines can be great — you won’t have to pay to check your bags and you can change your flight with no penalty. Plus you can choose any seat you want once you’re on the plane. While that might be a little confusing at first, once you know what you’re doing, it’s a great system.

Knowing what type of flyer you are can help guide you to the right seat. Once you know what works best for you, you’ll be boarding your flights like a pro.


Frequently asked questions

What rows have the most legroom on Southwest Airlines?

If legroom is what you’re after, you’ll want to look for a seat in the first row (the bulkhead) of the aircraft or the exit row. If you’re flying on a Boeing 737-700, the absolute most legroom is in seat 12A which is missing the seat in front of it. On a Boeing 737-800, the seats with the most legroom are 16A and 16F.

Can families sit together on Southwest?

Yes, if you’re traveling with young children you will definitely be able to sit together. When you are traveling with a child 6 years old or younger, you’ll be able to use family boarding which takes place before the B group. This ensures you’ll be able to find seats together. If you aren’t traveling with young children, head to the back of the plane when you board for your best chances of finding seats together.

How do you get priority boarding on Southwest?

If you’d like a better boarding position on Southwest, there are a few ways to get it.

  • You can purchase a Business Select ticket which will automatically come with an A1-A15 boarding position.
  • You can purchase EarlyBird Check-In which will automatically check you in up to 36 hours ahead of time.
  • You can purchase an upgraded boarding position at the gate if there are spaces available. This will give you an A1-A15 boarding position.
Katie Seemann

About Katie Seemann

Katie is an Ohio native who caught the travel bug after spending a semester in college in Nottingham, England. In addition to exploring England, she visited Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands during that time and loved every minute of it (everything except the hostel in Scotland – that’s an experience she doesn’t intend on repeating!) In 2015, Katie discovered the world of points and miles, and since then she’s earned countless points and has an embarrassingly large number of credit cards in her wallet (which she needs a spreadsheet to keep track of!)

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