What Is Southwest Early Bird Check-In & Do I Really Need It?

Southwest Airlines Early Bird Check-In

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Southwest Airlines is an extremely popular U.S. low-cost carrier for a number of reasons. They regularly offer cheaper fares compared to other airlines, and they’re very transparent about their fees. Southwest doesn’t charge for most of your luggage (your carry-on and first 2 bags fly free), and they don’t issue change or cancellation fees.

Additionally, Southwest gets pretty great customer satisfaction ratings and provides a fairly comfortable inflight experience with some freebies along the way.

However, when it comes to seat assignments and boarding, Southwest does things a little differently — that’s where their Early Bird Check-In comes into play.

So what is Early Bird Check-In, and do you really need it? Let’s take a look…

What Is Early Bird Check-In?

Southwest Early Bird Check-In Updated Fees
Image Credit: Southwest

Early Bird Check-In is an optional Southwest Airlines add-on that provides the ticket holder with automatic check-in starting at 36 hours prior to the flight’s scheduled departure time.

For $15-$25 one-way, Early Bird Check-In customers are automatically checked in and assigned a boarding number before the general 24-hour self-check-in period. Pricing depends on the length of the route and the popularity or demand for Early Bird Check-In on each specific route.

To realize how Early Bird Check-In can be a plus, we need to take a look at Southwest’s boarding process.

Southwest Airlines Boarding Groups & Process

If you’ve never flown Southwest, their boarding process can be slightly confusing. If you’re familiar, you’ll instantly see the benefits of Early Bird Check-In.

Southwest Airlines doesn’t assign seats. Instead, passengers line up at the gate according to boarding position; once called, they are free to sit in any available seat on the plane.

So how does Southwest decide who boards first?

Boarding numbers are assigned by Group (A, B, or C) and Boarding Position (1-60). Boarding flows in order from A1 through C60. Again, once you board the plane, you may sit in any available seat.

Southwest’s boarding positions are assigned based on a few factors:

  • Fare type purchased (Business vs. Anytime vs. Wanna Get Away)
  • Status with the airline
  • Whether you’re traveling with a family
  • Time at which you check in
  • “Pre-boarding” qualifications

Hot Tip: In general, the earlier you check-in, the better your boarding position will be when flying Southwest (cue Early Bird Check-In light bulb!).

Southwest Pre-Boarding: SWA states that pre-boarding is reserved for customers that have a “specific seating need”. This need may be considered to accommodate a disability and/or need for assistance in boarding or stowing an assistive device.

All passengers requesting a pre-board designation should notify a Southwest Airlines employee either at the ticket counter or at the departure gate, prior to boarding. In order to verify a passenger’s necessity to pre-board, agents may ask the passenger “fact-finding questions”. Those who meet the qualifications will receive a new boarding pass with a pre-board designation.

Southwest also states that if a customer with a disability simply needs a little extra time to board, they will be permitted between Group A and Group B, before Family Boarding. These individuals should also speak with a gate agent and will likely be reissued a boarding pass with an extra time designation.

SWA’s general policy for those traveling with a pre-board passenger is that only one “travel companion” acting as an attendant may pre-board alongside them. Any other family/friend is required to board with by their assigned boarding group and number.

A small detail to note: Pre-board individuals may not occupy an exit seat.

Positions A1-A15: Reserved for Business Select customers

This doesn’t mean A16 is always the sixteenth person to board — there aren’t always 15 people who purchased a business fare. If there are open A1-A15 positions (i.e., 15 business fares haven’t been sold), then the gate attendant may give passengers an option of upgrading their position just before the boarding process begins for $30, $40, or $50 per segment depending on the itinerary.

The best positions following A1-A15: Usually assigned to A-List Preferred/A-List Members and passengers with EarlyBird Check-In.

Southwest states that these distinctions in and of themselves do not guarantee an A boarding position, but they do ensure that you will receive the earliest position available.

Family Boarding: Families traveling with children 6 years of age or younger are allowed to board together between A and B groups.

Non-priority positions: General positions are distributed after all Business fare, status, and Early Bird Check-In passengers have been assigned.

The remaining boarding positions are assigned in order of the time a passenger checks in. For this reason, you’ll find many Southwest passengers set reminders to ensure they’re checking in at the very moment check-in opens.

This can be a huge pain if you’re busy at that time or you simply forget the 24-hour policy. Earlier boarding positions usually go in a matter of minutes.

Additionally, if the flight is pretty full and you’re the last to board, there’s a chance that your carry-on may not fit in the overhead compartments, meaning it will have to be checked. Southwest doesn’t charge extra for this, but if you’ve only packed a carry-on to expedite your airport process, you’ll probably be disappointed having to wait at baggage claim.

Remember, even if there are quite a few families (flights to Orlando for example), they all get to board between A and B groups.

A note about boarding “direct flights”: A direct flight is where a plane flies from an initial destination to a final destination via one or more intermediate airports. In the case of a direct flight, the flight number does not change and passengers already onboard that are flying straight through to the route’s final destination do not have to disembark.

This is a consideration in regards to boarding as these passengers will be on the plane, occupying seats, prior to new passengers boarding.

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Additional Notes on Early Bird Check-In & Boarding

Southwest doesn’t limit the number of passengers who can purchase Early-Bird Check-In.

This means that purchasing Early Bird Check-In won’t necessarily guarantee you an A boarding position.

Does that mean there’s a boarding order within the early birders? The short answer is yes.

Southwest states Early Bird customers who purchased an Anytime fare will receive priority over those who purchased other fare types (such as Wanna Get Away). After that delineation, “boarding positions are assigned based on the timestamp of the EarlyBird Check-In purchase relative to passengers within the same fare class.” (source)

Basically, the earlier you purchase your ticket with the Early-Bird add-on, the higher your boarding number will be.

When can Early Bird Check-In be purchased?

Customers usually purchase EarlyBird Check-In as part of their original flight purchase. However, if not purchased with the initial ticket, customers can add Early Bird Check-In to a flight after purchase up to 36 hours before a flight’s scheduled local departure time.

Early Bird Check-In is nonrefundable. 

If a customer cancels his or her flight, the Early Bird Check-In fee for that particular flight is not refunded. However, if the flight is canceled by Southwest, the fee will be refunded.

So, Do I Need Early Bird Check-In?

Technically, no one needs Early Bird Check-In. On the other hand, whether or not you want it depends largely on your personal preferences.

You’ll Probably Want Early Bird Check-In If…

  • You can’t check in exactly 24hrs before departure and do care about where you sit
  • You may not remember to check in 24hrs before departure and do care about where you sit
  • You prefer to sit near the front of the plane (turbulence is generally less severe for passengers toward the front)
  • You prefer an aisle seat, window seat, bulkhead seat, or exit row (or just despise the middle seat)
  • You’re not traveling with children, but you’re on a flight to a destination that’s family-friendly (e.g., Orlando/Disney)

You Don’t Need Early Bird Check-In If…

  • You bought a Business Select fare
  • You have A-List preferred or A-List status
  • You have family boarding (traveling with children 6 years old and under)
  • You need “extra time” or assistance boarding the plane
  • You’re buying a ticket for an unaccompanied minor (pre-board included in fare type)

You Probably Don’t Really Need Early Bird Check-In If…

  • You’re uber-confident in your 24hr check-in skills
  • You don’t really care where you sit or what type of seat you sit in
    • Keep in mind boarding positions go fast, and you never know how many other passengers have opted for this add-on.
  • You’re traveling with a friend or partner who has a Business Fare, status on Southwest, or Early Bird Check-In
    • Technically, “saving seats” is discouraged, but it’s rarely reprimanded.
  • Your flight is at an obscure time on an unpopular day or route

You Might Be On The Fence About Early Bird Check-In If…

  • You might have to cancel your flight — remember Early-Bird is nonrefundable!
    • You can always wait a little while and add it later, as long as you purchase before the 36hr deadline
  • Your family is traveling together, but your children are over 7 years old
    • Family boarding between A and B groups only applies to those traveling with children 6 and under
  • You’re traveling with friends and don’t want to be split up
  • Your flight has come from another city, and passengers already on board are passing through to your destination with no plane change

Bottom Line: In our opinion, if the up-charge isn’t a huge financial strain and you don’t want the stress of boarding toward the end of the pack, go ahead and add it.

How to Add Early Bird Check-In

Alongside Your Original Ticket Purchase

If you’re purchasing a ticket on Southwest.com or via the mobile app, there’s no doubt you’ll be prompted with a pop-up or other notification asking if you’d like to add Early Bird Check-In to your ticket.

If the answer is yes, simply select it at that time and continue with your purchase.

If you’re making a reservation over the phone with an agent, they will ask if you’d like to purchase Early Bird before completing your transaction.

After Your Original Ticket Purchase

If you don’t’ select Early Bird Check-In with your original ticket purchase, you can still add it to your itinerary up to 36 hours prior to your flight’s scheduled local departure time.

You can do this by accessing your reservation:

Tips for Online Purchase: It’s really easy!

If you’re opting for adding the perk online, you simply need to enter your confirmation number, first, and last name. Southwest will then bring up your itinerary and the proposed pricing at which point you choose “Continue”.

Add Early Bird Check-In To My Itinerary
Image Credit: Southwest

You will then be directed to a payment page where you enter your preferred method of payment and select “Purchase”.

And that’s it – Early Bird Check-In has been added to your itinerary! You should receive an e-mail confirmation of this addition.

Adding Early Bird For Just One Person

Technically, yes, but you have to go a slightly round-about way to do so.

If you’re purchasing a group of tickets together but want to add Early Bird Check-In for just one person, do not purchase Early Bird Check-In with your original ticket purchase. (At the original purchase point, you’ll only have the option to add it to all passengers on the itinerary.)

If you want to add Early Bird for just one person, you have to add early-bird to an existing itinerary. You can do this in the same way we explained in the “After Your Original Ticket Purchase” section just above this.

How to Get Early Bird Check-In For “Free”

If you have the right credit card in your wallet, your Early Bird Check-In fee can be paid for by using your miles to pay off those expenses.

The table below outlines some of our preferred cards:

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card - This no annual fee card comes with a 20,000 bonus mile offer after spending $500 in the first 3 months. When you use your card for travel purchases (e.g. baggage fees), use your miles to pay off all, or part of, your statement balance! We've highlighted 30+ benefits of the card.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card - The "big brother" card to the VentureOne with 60,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. This card is full of benefits and perks and you can redeem your miles on travel or transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs.

Final Thoughts

Early Bird Check-In can be useful if you don’t want to deal with the stress of Southwest’s self-check-in policy, which requires action exactly 24 hours before departure. Additionally, you should strongly consider Early Bird Check-In if you’re pretty particular about your seat; while it doesn’t guarantee A Group boarding, it certainly gives you a much better chance of nabbing your desired spot.

However, if you’ve already got priority boarding through your business class fare or status, you won’t need this add-on. Similarly, if you’re traveling with kids under 6, you’ll already board right after A Group and likely won’t need it either.

Lastly, you could be on the fence. If you’re going back and forth about it and you’re worried about the added cost, remember you’re already saving on baggage fees (which are usually ~$25-$40 a piece on other airlines), so $15 per ticket doesn’t seem all that bad. Alternatively, if you’re on a route where the fee is $25 per ticket, the decision could be a bit more difficult.

As a last note, remember – if you’ve optimized your purchase by using a credit card that covers the fee, your Early Bird Check-In is basically free!

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Southwest Early Bird Check-In Explained

Frequently asked questions

How much does Southwest charge for Early Bird Check-In?

As of February 5, 2018, Early Bird Check-In costs $15 per one-way ticket. Southwest notes that a credit card must be used to purchase this add-on.

Do you have to check in with Southwest Early Bird?

Southwest Early Bird Check-In is an automatic check-in process. Passengers who have purchased Early Bird Check-In are automatically checked in for their flight starting at 36 hours before departure. Passengers do NOT have to perform self-check-in at 24 hours if they purchase Early Bird.

How does Southwest determine boarding order?

Southwest determines boarding order as follows:

  1. Business Select Fare ticket holders (guaranteed A1-A15)
  2. A-List preferred & A-List status members
  3. Early Bird Check-In (Anytime Fare), by timestamp of purchase
  4. Early Bird Check-In (Other Fares), by timestamp of purchase
  5. General ticket holders in order of 24-hour check-in


  • Unaccompanied minors: pre-board
  • Individuals with a disability and others requiring boarding assistance: pre-board
  • Family Boarding (those traveling with children ages 6 and under): board between A and B groups
  • Passengers who paid to upgrade boarding position (when available with gate agent): pre-board

Can I pay for Early Bird Check-In with points?

No. Early Bird Check-In can only be paid for with a credit card.

However, some credit cards offer a travel credit that will reimburse you for this Early Bird fee (see table above).

Is Southwest Early Bird Check-In Worth It?

The answer really depends on your travel preferences. If you don’t want the stress of 24hr self-check-in and you’re particular about which seat you get (aisle vs window, front vs back) then it could definitely be worth it.

If you’re a business traveler and already have priority boarding (or any other traveler with priority boarding – i.e. you have status, you’re a family with kids under 6) then you won’t need Early Bird.

If you’re in conflict, remember you’re saving cash on checked bags – the $15 per ticket for Early Bird is quite a bit less than the typical baggage fees on other airlines. AND, if you use the right rewards-based credit card this fee could be covered – your Early Bird Check-In is basically free!

Dr. Erin Miller

About Dr. Erin Miller

Erin currently maintains her status as Alex's adventure-seeking partner-in-crime and contributes to Upgraded Points through in-depth content creation & relationship management.
She caught the travel bug just after high school when her grandmother took her on a two-week, whirlwind trip around Europe. That was that - she's been gallivanting around the globe ever since (26 countries & counting)!

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  1. evelyn duchay September 7, 2018

    my phone tells me the price is $25 not $15.00 for each way! Pretty bad to have to pay $50.00 for this.


    • Hi Evelyn – yes, we recently learned about this too and are about to update the piece. Thank you for the nudge.

      $50, as you say, is pretty hefty and I’m sure it’ll turn away a lot of people who were previously buying Early-Bird. $15 e/w was fine, $25 is not fun.

      Airlines can be generous (e.g. Southwest don’t charge for seat selection or baggage) but then as you can see, it is made up in other areas!


    • linda baral January 17, 2021

      my phone charged me $20 not $15


  2. My daughter and friend are travelling from Las Vegas to Denver, then to New York on Southwest. They have a early check in ticket and Wanna Get Away.
    If they log on 24 hours before will it show they have checked in if it normally does it 36 hours before? Just want to make sure it will all be ok for them.
    They will also have 2 bags to check will they have to do at the airport?
    Sorry I’m from Australia and your airlines are different then ours. Thank you so much.


  3. I paid for upgrade at the airport in Baltimore and received A5 to board however the gate attendant let on first not only people reboarding but also families and allegedly, people with “ medical conditions” one of those were a couple not much older than me with clear B passes and a very fit woman with her dog. We were told they had medical conditions when we questioned the gate attendant. Apparently, that gate attendant did not read this article and needs to be retrained. I want a refund!


  4. I purchased the Early Bird Check In. When and how do I get my boarding pass? Do I automatically receive an email of the boarding pass when they automatically check me in?


    • Hey Cynthia, you will receive an e-mail of the boarding pass and you will be automatically checked in if you purchase Early Bird check-in.


      • Trudy Mann March 27, 2019

        I purchased one senior ticket and 2 adult tickets to Los Angeles Ca. However my senior conf # is separate from the other two confirmation numbers. At some point we have to change planes on both the departure and the return flights. If I pay for early bird for all three tickets, does that cover the early check in on the other planes when we have to transfer?


  5. Is there any advantage to purchasing your tickets in advance at the southwest ticket counter?


    • Hi Bill, I don’t totally follow. The boarding number that you get when buying Early Bird depends on the number of other passengers who have also bought an Early Bird, as well as A-list members on the flight. In other words, the sooner you buy your ticket with early-bird, the lower your boarding number will be. It’s almost always an “A” number when buying Early Bird. For quiet flights that we’ve booked early on, we’ve been allocated A11 or A12 (from memory) but usually you’re in the A20’s.


      • If 3/4 of the passengers have purchased Earlybird check-in is it worth getting the early bird check-in still?


        • Hi Kare,
          No, if 3/4 of the passengers bought Earlybird too, it would essentially be worthless. The kicker is that you never know how many Earlybird check-ins have been purchased. Although I think that scenario would rarely occur.


  6. I purchased the early-bird check-in. Will I have to print out a boarding pass before heading to the airport, or can I just show SWA employees the email on my phone indicating the boarding pass? I won’t have access to a printer. Thanks.


    • Hi Carol, if you download the actual boarding pass on your phone you will be able to board with that. I usually snap a screenshot of it and keep it in my photos so I don’t have to go through the process of logging into my e-mail, etc when time is tight like at security and when boarding. Have it pulled up and ready or the lovely passengers in line behind you will likely get a bit agitated.

      Alternatively, Southwest has self-check-in kiosks at most airports, where even though you’ll already technically be checked in thanks to your early-bird status, you can print your boarding pass if you want a paper copy.


  7. I paid 25,00 for me and my wife round trip, What is the difference between 15.00 and 25.00. For 2 people round trip it is 100.00 on my end vs 60.00…Also so how can I find out if I’m an A list preferred


    • Hi Mile,

      The difference in pricing is according to the length of the flight and the popularity of early bird check-in on the route in question – it’s determined by Southwest & subject to change at any time.

      In terms of A-list and A-list preferred status, here is the criteria set forth by SWA:

      “To qualify for A-List status, you will need to fly 25 Southwest Airlines® one-way qualifying flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points per calendar year. To qualify for A-List Preferred status, you will need to fly 50 Southwest Airlines one-way qualifying flights or earn 70,000 tier qualifying points per calendar year. A one-way qualifying flight is defined as a one-way revenue trip on Southwest Airlines from an origin city to a destination city, including any intermediate stops and/or connections on Southwest Airlines. Points must be earned and posted to your Rapid Rewards® account prior to the end of the calendar year in order to count toward A-List or A-List Preferred status qualification.”

      You can find more details here.


  8. Nancy Jewell October 24, 2018

    I am a novice flyer and need to clarify what I need to do with Early Bird Check In which I purchased. Will SWA automatically notify me by email that I am checked in 36 hours in advance of my flight? Will they email me the actual boarding pass that I could print out or do I need to go to a kiosk at the airport to print one?


    • Hi Nancy,
      Yes, if you purchase Early Bird Check In you will receive and email from Southwest with your boarding pass. You can keep it on your phone to scan or you can print it out. If for any reason you don’t get the email or if you can’t find it, you will also be able to print out a boarding pass at the Southwest kiosk in the airport. Hope this helps!


  9. Anne DeGroff November 7, 2018

    I am flying to Baltimore, MD from Albany, NY on 11/21. My son made the arrangements with a SW gift card he bought me. I want to purchase Early Bird check in. Do I do that 36 hours before the flight? And what would be the charge for that since I am flying Albany NY -Baltimore, MD?


    • Hi Anne, do NOT wait until 36 hours before your flight – you will want to purchase Early Bird Check-In as soon as you know you would like to add it to your ticket. 36 hours is the time at which Southwest checks in anyone that has purchased early-bird check-in so you’ll be too late if you wait!

      This is what Southwest has to say: “EarlyBird Check-In can be purchased on Southwest.com, over the phone with one of our Reservation Agents, our mobile site, and apps, up to 36 hours prior to a flight’s scheduled local departure time.”

      You can log in here with your confirmation number and your name to find out the price.


  10. The app is charging $40.00 for the entire trip not $30. How do I get the Early Bird for $15.00?


    • Hi Jackie, Southwest’s new policy on Early Bird Check-In states the price is “starting from 15” and can be anywhere from $15 to $25 (one way). According to Southwest, the difference in pricing correlates to the length of the flight and the popularity of early bird check-in on the route in question – it’s determined by Southwest & subject to change at any time.

      Therefore, it’s likely that each leg of your trip is priced at $20, not the low end of $15. Hope this helps…


  11. I purchased a ticket for me and my son and added the Early Bird. I understand I will get an email with my boarding pass. Will I also get an email for my son’s boarding pass. I did not give SWA his email information.


    • Hey John,

      You should receive both boarding passes for you and your son, assuming you bough the tickets together and you’re both on the same reservation.


  12. If we have 3 on our reservation, can we purchase early for 1 passenger and have them “hold” seats?


    • Hi Angie. Technically, you can do this as Southwest does not have a policy against holding seats for others. However, if other passengers have paid for Early Bird, they would be entitled to sit in those seats if they choose to. The other 2 travelers in your party did not pay. So, the answer is yes you can do it but other passengers might be upset.


      • Buy two Early Birds and hold the middle seat if three are traveling. I don’t think anyone would complain that they can’t sit in the middle seat.


  13. Clifford J. Lundquist December 26, 2018

    If I can purchase early bird check-in up to 36 hours before my flight, why am I not able to purchase it four days before my flight?


    • Hi Clifford. Normal check in begins 24 hours in advance of your flight. By purchasing Early Bird Check-In, you will automatically be checked in 36 hours in advance, a real benefit. Unfortunately check-in in any form is not available any further in advance than the 36 hours. Thanks for your question.


  14. If I purchased Early Bird seating and have to change planes (not a direct flight), will I still have Early Bird seating on the connecting flight? Thanks!


    • Hi Mary, Southwest Representatives report if you’ve purchased a ticket with a plane change and also purchase Early Bird Check-In, you’ll automatically be checked in for both of the flight segments with your EarlyBird purchase.

      Since you will have a separate boarding pass for the second flight, your boarding letter and number may differ from your first flight – it will just depend on when and how many other passengers purchased EB for the second flight.


  15. Linda Schnetzler January 26, 2019

    My husband and I will be travelling from Phoenix, AZ to Islip,NY. We will both require wheelchairs. Should I still purchase the Early Bird check-in for us to make sure we both get aisle seats?


    • Hi Linda,
      That shouldn’t be necessary. Southwest allows anyone needing extra time to board right after the A group and before family boarding regardless of boarding group. I would suggest letting them know about any special assistance you might need if you haven’t already. You can contact Southwest at 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792). Have a great trip. If you will require a specific seat, speak to the gate agent when you check in.


      • Susan Bailey October 17, 2019

        I was thinking of doing the early bird check-in. My question is if you have early bird check-in, do you still have to be at the airport two hours early to check bags?


        • Hi Susan,

          Southwest will allow you to check bags until 60 minutes before the scheduled departure time, this does not change whether or not you purchase Early Bird. Early Bird allows you to check-in for your flight before others, which will likely give you a better boarding assignment, but the time requirements for checked bags do not change.

          Thanks for reading!


  16. Danielle Landis February 5, 2019

    I have purchased this for my flight on Thursday that leaves around 10:30 am. Will I have my boarding passes after 10:30 tonight?


    • Catherine Luther February 6, 2019

      Hi Danielle,
      Southwest’s EarlyBird Check-in automatically checks you in starting at 36 hours prior to the flight time. You should be able to access your boarding pass from 24 hours prior to the flight.

      You are automatically assigned a position based on the number of business select customers that have purchased a ticket, the fare type you selected, the number of A-List Preferred passengers, the number of other passengers that have purchased early-bird, the time at which you purchased your ticket, etc.

      As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into this but in a direct answer to your question, you should be able to access your boarding pass from 24hrs out from your flight time.


  17. I purchased Early Bird and, if as you say I don’t have to manually check in, why was I prompted to do so when I went to download my boarding pass? At no point did I get a message telling me that I was already checked in.


    • Hi Izzi, we’re not sure why Southwest uses that prompt when customers purchase Early Bird – perhaps they’re simply encouraging passengers to check for their boarding pass?

      This is more of a question for SWA Customer Service… We assure you the terminology we use in the article is taken straight from the SWA website regarding Early Bird Check In:

      “EarlyBird Check-In is a low-cost option giving you the convenience of automatic check-in before our traditional 24-hour check-in… EarlyBird Check-In Customers will have their boarding positions reserved beginning 36 hours prior to their flight’s scheduled departure time. Boarding Passes can be accessed beginning 24 hours prior to the flight’s scheduled local departure time.”


  18. On prior flights with Southwest when purchasing early bird check-in it always had “EB” listed on my confirmation email itinerary. I have an upcoming flight in a couple of weeks that doesn’t have the “EB” listed although I did purchase it when booking the flight. I do however have a separate email (other than the confirmation itinerary) that says ‘Thanks for purchasing early bird check-in…’

    Now, Southwest did change my return flight time and it is now 5 minutes earlier and sent me an updated email with the itinerary change. It too doesn’t show “EB”.


    • Hi Frank, if you paid for Early Bird and received the confirmation e-mail, it should be applied to your itinerary. Have you tried logging in on Southwest’s website to look at your upcoming trip’s itinerary to see what it says there?

      Please be advised we are not SWA so we cannot confirm this is 100% the case. If you can’t find confirmation of your early-bird status when you log in to your account online and look at your itinerary/flights, we would suggest calling Southwest’s Customer Service line: 1-800-435-9792. Hope this helps!


  19. What a ripoff. Bought earlybird and are in the B boarding group, especially when our relatives did not buy early bird and are in A group with being on priority list, business, etc….


    • Hi Suzanne,
      That must have been frustrating! Unfortunately, purchasing early bird check in doesn’t guarantee an A boarding position. However, most of the time you will get an A boarding position. It all depends on how many business select tickets and A-List status tickets were sold for the flight. Sorry it didn’t work out for you!


  20. Nick Papagiorgio March 21, 2019

    In my opinion, boarding is where SWA sticks it to their passengers. Something worth mentioning about early bird check-in is if you have a credit on your SW account from a changed reservation, you cannot apply that credit to EBC. Credits can only be applied to bookings. Also, if you are Chase SW cardholder (like myself) – you cannot apply rapid reward points to an EBC purchase. SW only accepts “new cash” when purchasing EBC. EBC is SW’s way of nickel and diming passengers to increase their bottom line.


  21. If I’ve purchased Early Bird for my husband but not for myself, will I still be able to Check in at 24 hrs to ensure myself a place in line? Or will It let not me Check in because we have already done Early Bird for my husband?


    • Hi Cathy, you should still be able to check in at 24 hours prior to your flight time and we would definitely encourage doing so – you know how SWA can be with those boarding numbers!


  22. If automatic check-in is 36 hours prior to departure why can’t an EB customer manually check-in themselves at that time?


  23. This is not accurate. With early bird, I checked in around 21 hours before the flight time and got B 1 and 2 spots. After the A boarding was complete, all families were boarded, including C passes and there were MANY, with lots of children. The boarding agent was less than polite when I inquired and told me “All early bird does is check you in. Next time go online 24 hours before the flight.”

    That is not worth $50.

    Alison Edwards


    • Hi Alison, please be advised we are not SWA however, from our countless hours of research on the topic, it appears you may not be understanding Early Bird accurately.

      If you purchase Early Bird, you are automatically checked in at 36 hours prior to your departure time and given a boarding number. Yes, you will still see an option to “check-in” on your app or online, but this will not affect the number you were given with early bird. Actually, many customers are finding that if they didn’t purchase early-bird and check in even 2-3 minutes after the 24-hour release, they’re getting late B, early C boarding numbers.

      If you hadn’t purchased early bird and simply checked in 21 hours (3 hours past the release) you would have almost certainly received a MUCH later boarding letter/#.

      If I’m understanding correctly, you’re stumped because you weren’t given a higher A number. There could be a couple of reasons for this, one being the fact that A1-15 are reserved for Business Select customers. You will never get an A1-15 simply by purchasing early bird. That still leaves A16-60 where individuals with A-List Preferred/A-List Members are given priority and then on to early-bird. So, if there were a lot of these customers, they would have taken up some of the spots before you.

      Additionally, if there were other customers that purchased their ticket and their early bird before you, they will get priority in boarding number (e.g. if they bought 4 tickets with early bird in November but you bought yours in January, they’ll get a higher assignment). Also, southwest doesn’t limit the number of passengers that purchase early bird so if every single passenger on the flight purchased early bird, there would still be preference given to those who bought their tickets first and therefore you could receive C60 even if you bought early bird.

      As we state above (again, we are not SWA, we’re merely reporting their policies) simply purchasing early bird doesn’t guarantee you A boarding group. Additionally, we do state above that family boarding (which Southwest does not control for when assigning early bird positions) is between A and B so if your early bird gave you B, you’re out of luck and boarding after families too.

      I personally agree with you in that an early B boarding assignment is not worth $50 but that’s the toss-up you’re gambling with on Southwest. That’s why a lot of people don’t feel it’s worth it, especially with the recent uptick in cost.


  24. Sandra Friend April 25, 2019

    I must say early bird check in isn’t worth it on Wanna to get away flights. I paid for early bird — my two friends who booked after me didn’t. Our boarding pass at checkin has me in Zone B — and my two friends who didn’t pay the extra $20.00 are also in Zone B. I received Zone B 12 they both also received Zone B 14 and 16. I booked the flight back in January for a May departure. Something definitely does not work with Early Bird Checkin. Sad.


    • Hi Sandra,
      The value of purchasing early bird check in can very greatly depending on how many other people on the flight purchased it and how many A-Listers are on the flight. I agree it’s not worth it if you are going to get a B boarding zone. I have found that as long as you check in exactly 24 hours ahead of time, you can get a B boarding group and will usually be able to avoid the middle seat.


  25. Rosendo Pineda July 31, 2019

    I purchased three early tickets for my wife, daughter and myself but when checking the app, I see that we got different seats. Why? I thought three members will be assigned seats together. Thanks.


    • Hi Rosendo, have you flown Southwest before? Southwest does not assign seats, rather you’re given a boarding number and once you’re onboard, can choose any available seat. I suggest you read the section above “Southwest Airlines Boarding Groups & Process” – that should help explain things a little more clearly! 🙂 Hope this helps!


  26. Darwin McKenzie August 14, 2019

    If my flight is not direct and I have about a three and half hour layover in Chicago, will my boarding number be the same for my second flight to Cincinnati?


    • Hi Darwin, good question! You will be issued the same boarding group or better for the connecting flight so long as you check in as close to 24 hours out (from the start of the trip) as possible. This is because you’re essentially checking in early for the connection. Thanks!


  27. I purchased early bird after my original ticket purchase. Am I automatically checked in and don’t need to check in myself or do I still check-in at the 24 hr prior mark? It is telling me I can’t check in yet because it isn’t 24 hrs before yet. Very confusing.


    • Hi Don,

      With Early Bird check-in, you are provided with automatic check-in starting at 36 hours prior to the flight’s scheduled departure time. So you do not need to manually check yourself in.

      Thanks for reading!


  28. My friend and I (traveling together) each purchased Early Bird and had Boarding passes in positions A59 and A60. When we got on the plane, there were numerous people that had boarded before us that were saving a seat for a friend or family member that had not yet boarded. If that is allowed, we could have only purchased one Early Bird and had one friend hold a seat. That doesn’t really seem fair. What would have happened had we said, “sorry, you can’t hold a seat for someone who didn’t purchase Early Bird?”


    • Hi Mary,

      Southwest does not have a specific rule for or against people saving seats for others. According to their website, “Southwest Airlines maintains an open-seating policy, general-boarding customers may sit in any open or unclaimed seat. With this in mind, as long as there is no safety concern, it would be acceptable for a customer to “claim” a seat for his/her family member or traveling companion who may be in a later boarding group. We are aware that the saving of seats is a by-product of our policy, and as long as the boarding process is not delayed and other Customers aren’t inconvenienced, it usually isn’t a significant issue.”

      Thanks for reading!


  29. Hi – If I purchase a wanna get away flight with points – can I then purchase early bird?


  30. Linda Patterson October 24, 2019

    We have a family of 6 adults and a 3-year-old. Will we all be able to board all together between A and B?


    • Hi Linda,

      You may be able to board in the family boarding group, but keep in mind that we do not represent Southwest.

      Thanks for reading!


  31. You don’t need to purchase Early Bird in order to board the plane in the front of the line. Just buy one of those medical foot boots. It seems there’s a ton of Southwest customers who wear boots, always more than the other airlines. Do these boot wearers prefer Southwest, or are they the ones who figured out “needing” a boot gets them preferential treatment?


  32. I purchased the early bird check in but want to know, how early do I have to be at the airport? Can I arrive an hour prior to my scheduled flight?


    • Hi Cataleya,

      Early bird check in simply means that you can check into your flight electronically and receive your boarding pass earlier than other passengers so that you receive a better boarding position. However, I would recommend giving yourself more time than an hour prior to your scheduled flight just in case the security line is long, or if you are needing to check a bag.


  33. We have a change of planes – we have early bird check in at our first leg – reading through the questions it says that it’s only good for our 1st leg and not subsequent continuing flights. How do we check into a continuing flight if our confirmation number has already been used to check in on the first leg?


    • Hi Traci,

      Was each leg of the trip booked together? If so it should have checked you in for both legs when you checked in for the first one.


  34. So basically, if I purchased early bird check in, I do not have to do anything? At 36 hours prior to flight Southwest checks me in and sends me an email with my boarding position? I do not have to check myself in at all?


  35. Flying during covid 19 concerns June19 -June 30 for mandatory business (sna-fll). After much research I’m choosing southwest over AA and others because of all the positive reviews SW is getting during COVID 19 and the massive negative reviews AA and other airlines that are packing them in. I don’t want to travel during a pandemic but have to so I’m trying to go for the lowest calculated risk at a risky time. Should I purchase the Early Bird check-in ($50 extra dollars on a $200 flight) or will SW still be having planes 50% full at that time? On their site, it says 50% max filled until June… what happens after that? Thanks in advance.


    • Hi Erin,

      I don’t think you would need to purchase EarlyBird Check-In for a June flight. Even during normal circumstances, you can usually get an aisle or window seat as long as you check-in exactly 24 hours ahead of time. Plus, EarlyBird Check-In isn’t refunded if you have to cancel or change your flight for any reason.


  36. Linda Murgolo August 12, 2020

    If I pay additional money to board on the business A-9 line and have to transfer do I have to pay again? Or does it carry over


  37. Claudia Allred March 20, 2021

    I will be flying to Orlando from MCI. Can I just purchase an Early bird check in on my return flight?


  38. KEVIN DAILEY May 26, 2021

    I think Southwest is dead wrong for not refunding or vouchering this Early Bird fee when a customer cancels a flight. This should be illegal. Imagine if another airline kept your baggage fees! Wrong Wrong Wrong!!!


  39. Kristin Morris June 24, 2021

    Hi! i jut want to make sure I read this correctly. I purchased the early bird check in. Does this mean I will receive an email with my check in as well as my boarding pass? When will I receive this? What happens if one never receives the email and still goes on the flight? Thank you!


    • Hi Kristin,

      With Early Bird, Southwest will automatically check you in and assign your boarding position within 36 hours of your flight’s departure. You should definitely receive an email, but if for some reason you don’t you can access your boarding pass on the Southwest website.


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