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EarlyBird Check-in: A Convenient Way to Travel

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Once again, Southwest Airlines is introducing a new product to make traveling a little easier for our Customers.  Many of you have told us how important it is to get an early boarding position so you can find that coveted seat without having to watch the clock for your 24-hour window to check in.  Today, I am excited to introduce EarlyBird Check-in - one more way Southwest is providing convenience during your travel experience.  For just $10 (one-way), EarlyBird Check-in Customers will automatically obtain a reserved boarding position before general check-in begins.  You no longer have to worry about checking in for your flight as we will do the work for you to help you get a better boarding position, which of course leads to improved seat selection and earlier access to overhead bin space. 

 

This project is one of many that we have been working on to bring you more options.  The process has been fast and furious, but with the help of several Southwest Teams, we were able to bring this new product to life in just a matter of months.  It started with just an idea on the whiteboard, but quickly went from an idea to a creative concept online that is now EarlyBird Check-in.  The fun part was coming up with the name for the product.  Check out just a few that didn’t make the final cut, and let us know what you might have called the new product.

 

  • Shotgun                                                                      
  • Leapfrog Check-in
  • Jet Ahead                                                                   
  • Gimme a Lift
  • First Dibs                                                                   
  • Jump Seat

                                                           

Of course, we continue to offer Customers our premium Business Select product, which guarantees that you will be one of the first Passengers onboard your flight—with a drink; extra Rapid Rewards credit; and FlyBy Security Lane access (at select airports) as added benefits!  EarlyBird Check-in Customers will begin boarding the plane after our Business Select and Rapid Rewards A-List Customers. For more information about EarlyBird Check-in, visit our web site: http://www.southwest.com/flight/early-bird-retrieve-reservation.html  

225 Comments
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A fee in a not so clever disguise-WN cannot enforce boarding order now-how will they do it now that pax will be paying for an A?
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$10, paid only by credit card and not with TTF...disappointing.
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Not a fan of this - Its a good idea in theory I guess to make more $ - but is kinda getting like the other airlines (airtran, united, etc) where they charge for exit rows and front seats... Not Southwest-like
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I really think this is a bad idea. I hope it does not take SWA very long to realize that and go back to the airline they used to be.
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And what does this do to "A-list" membership? You put that in to win my business travel loyalty. Seems you're willing to trade that loyalty for $10.
New Arrival
This is just an option for the Customer who wants to be in the A group and did not make the cut. It is perfect for the family who want to be an A, or a large party who want to board together. I prefer my B because it is more important to me to make my own seatmate decision. Having a great seat is less important than a great seatmate. Those C just mean a center seat no matter how you cut it. See you on board, hey save me a seat!
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This "convenience" is a fee, pure and simple. Parents must pay the fee to ensure they get a seat next to their kids. It adds $80 to the price of a trip I booked yesterday for our family of four. First Business Select, then Rapid Rewards A List, now this. What happened to the customer-friendly Southwest Airlines we all knew and loved? For years our family has driven from Rochester, NY to Buffalo solely so that we can fly Southwest. In the future, we might as well just book a flight on another airline that leaves from our hometown. I'm very disappointed in this.
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Everytime I spend a lot of money buying Southwest Airlines tickets in advance, Southwest Airlines figures a new way to push me to back of the plane unless I pay some extra fee. My favorite airline is disappointing me. I know your airline has to make money, but these extra fees make your airline just like the rest. Every passenger used to be equal on Southwest, now you have created a 3 class system. Business Select-First Class Early Bird-Business Class Regular Tickets-Coach(Steerage) Soon Southwest Airlines will be like Saturn. From a company with great customer loyalty to a company just like the rest.
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We all thought SWA was different, they are turning into all the other airlines, Don't be fooled either bag fees are now hidden into the fares, we are seeing fares from Southwest this year that are different than years past.
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Anonymous, A-Listers will still board ahead of those with the EarlyBird option.
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I have mixed feelings on this. I recognize your need to enhance revenue streams but agree with prior posters that we all used to be in the boat together so it's really no longer an open seating policy. Not sure we really want that mom with the 3 year old boarding in "C" to really have to confront that Business Select traveler or Early Bird to get 2 seats together. "I paid for this seat, lady." It'll be interesting to see how this goes over. Even today, there are ususally no more than 4-5 folks in Business Select boarding slots A 1-15. I do not expect to use Early Bird myself.
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How does this work with Southwest Vacations? I dont see a early bird option for a already purchased vacation package. How do you buy your way out of C boarding and the middle seat on a 4 hour plane ride to Las Vegas? Nothing like having to pay a extra $40(2 passengers RT) on a already paid for vacation.
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I am really not a fan of this at all. My problem is not with the $10, but rather that you are losing control of your boarding position. Right now, I know that if I check in on time I will get a pass between A15-A30. Under the new system, it will be completely random as to what EarlyBirders get the best spots in line.
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This is disappointing news, not happy to hear about this. I liked how it pretty much was an open system, and if you weren't lazy you could board first. Now you can buy your way to the front. A small incremental step towards SWA being just like all the rest unfortunately.
New Arrival
The changes were to keep people from feeling like they had to camp out on the floor to stake out a spot to get a seat. We have gone to assigned feet to avoid assigned seats. This is a small fee to ensure you have a lower number. Just like our Business Select, these are options that give you choices. If we were not offering these items I am affraid you could see higher fares in the future. In this economy it is clear to the leaders that we have had to adjust, some of these changes are to lure new business and all the while keep our loyal Fans. If it will not work and does not produce I can assure you that they will rethink the idea. We always have responded to what our Customers want. Right now we want YOU and as many new Customers as possible to give us a try.
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I think this is a terrible idea. Basically what you're telling us is if we don't pay the extra $10 we'll probably get stuck in the C boarding group. The system works fine the way it is, I prefer everyone being able to check in at the same time without any fees.
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Wow. So the nickel and diming begins... I always held out hope for my favorite airline, but it looks like they've chosen to go down the same road as the others. In simple terms, if you want an exit row seat, now you'll probably have to pay $10. I'm sure the baggage fees are on their way soon...or maybe a change fee to change flights? Its a slippery slope.
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Sorry Southwest, but this is a bad idea. I love flying SWA because everybody gets the same chance to get a good seat. Not anymore, apparently. Now, if I don't pay $10 each way, I might get B or C boarding groups even if I check in 24 hours before? I gave up on Northwest/Delta because they charge you for everything. Looks like Southwest is becoming just another airline.
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Not a fan of this. Previously, everybody had the same opportunity to get an early boarding pass by checking in 24 hours ahead of time without having to pay an extra fee. This was fair and part of the reason I really like Southwest. Now, if I don't pay the fee not only am I guaranteed to get a later boarding pass than the Business Select & A-List customers (which I'm fine with), now I'm guaranteed to get a later boarding pass than people who can afford to pay an extra fee. What if this program really takes off? All of the A & B passes will be taken up by the fee-payers and everyone else will end up with C. I thought Southwest was the no-fee airline? I guess this tagline no longer applies. EarlyBird Check-in is just a nice name for an Advance Seat Assignment Fee.
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What happened to the reasons that Southwest was founded? Fair treatment of all passengers. No hidden/nickel-and-dime fees? Great service? With the fees that Southwest keeps adding, maybe it's time to re-look at the legacy carriers. At least there I am assigned a seat. Sure I pay $15 for my bag to be checked... but if I have to pay $10 for a preferred place in line, what's the difference? Very, very, very disappointed in Southwest.
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What about us folks flying on an award ticket or a companion pass ticket? Or is this just for those that paid for the ticket?
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I really like this idea. I'd rather have the choice of being checked-in automatically 24 hours in advance as opposed to having to sit by the computer and do it myself. And if I don't want to pay $10 for this service, I don't have to. That's the big difference between Southwest and everyone else.......they are giving me options. The other airlines are continually taking away things that used to be free and charging me fees for it. That's a big difference......at least to me anyway! And, just check around on the plane.......everyone you are sitting around didn't pay the same price for their ticket; it's been that way forever. So, why shouldn't I get a few extra perks for paying more? It's my choice! Whether you like the boarding procedure or not, Southwest is the only airline that I have found that consistently boards the plane faster and pushes back quicker than any of the other airlines with assigned seating. And, with every flight being different, at least I have the option of being strategic and choosing my seat at the last minute. And, I don't mind a middle seat as long as I can pick which two people I want to sit between. :-) Great job, Southwest. And, thanks for carrying my two checked bags for free too!
New Arrival
How sad, SWA is beecoming just like the other fee, fee, fee airlines. I noticed there is no mention of "Bags Fly Free" on the home page, are checked bagage fees next?
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How will the Early Bird boarding passes be assigned? Is it done chronologically so that the person who booked furthest in advance gets the lowest boarding pass number?
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I am curious as to how Southwest will determine the boarding order of the Early-bird'ers. Will it be the first passengers that purchase the Early-Bird option? Will it be randomly assigned for those that purchase the option at least 36 hours in advance of their flight? If 100 people pay the $10 fee when they purchase their ticket, who gets to board first? Some people who pay the $10 might still end up with a middle seat. I would be pretty upset if that was me. One person who pays for this option with their ticket purchase months in advance should probably get to board before someone who purchases this option two days before their flight. For shorter flights, you won't be getting my ten dollars, but maybe for the cross-country ones.
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Call it "B List". :) OK, make it "A-minus" List. 🙂 :) Now we know how much A-List status is worth: $10 per flight. More motivation to reach the 32-flight threshold. nsx at flyertalk.com's Southwest forum
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I must have missed something here. I see 10 bucks as a small price to pay for not needing to remember to check in at the crack of dawn for a flight the next morning. Sure that's a convenience, but it's one I have the option to avoid if I choose. At United or American, I pay to check my stinking little bag whether I like it or not. Those kinds of fees are different, I think. Tad too many folks focused on only the total dollars spent I think. To me, I choose a carrier for overall value.
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Not a fan of this at all. I hoped against hope that this would never happen, but my SW has finally fallen to the "fee to breathe" business model so prevalent among competitors. When do the baggage fees start? What happens when one person in the family of six purchases Early Bird, gets on the plane with the A group, and then starts saving seats for the rest of their party who will be boarding with the C group? Bad plan, folks.
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This is simply an extra fee for advance seating with no way of knowing who will sit with you. I can avoid the baggage fee at the other airlines by simply using a carry-on, and I get to choose my seat. One more item to balance, along with price, when choosing a carrier.
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This is awful. It is a slippery slope of new fees. Southwest is seriously making me consider flying AirTran more.
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Very, very disappointed with the start of the nickel and diming on SWA. What next? Baggage fees?
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For those saying it's an "option"....is it?? What if almost everyone on the flight does it but I don't for my family of 4? Are you going to sit next to my 5 yr old during the flight since I "opted" not to pay the extra fee and couldn't get seats together? Bad idea SW!!
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Just increase the fare of my ticket and give me an assigned seat - that's ultimately what you're getting at! They also haven't considered how one might pay the $10 to get on first in order to "save" seats for the rest of their family boarding in "C" group (because that's all that's left)! BAD IDEA!
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I last flew WN in 2003 because I detested the boarding and seating policy. At 6'5" I'm miserable for even an hour in a regular-row seat. Truly, I can barely fit. At least with the legacy carriers I can almost always get an exit row seat. Most airlines take one look at me and make it happen. In my past experiences with WN, even with early check-in and standing in line, the "premium" munchkin flyers always ran for the exit row seats that their short stubby legs don't need (and I doubt most of them could ever dream of lifting the door in an emergency). I decided to give WN another chance for an upcoming flight to SF, traveling on an award ticket from an A-list colleague. Now it appears I can't purchase the EB option and because of all of those who can I'm probably going to be stuck for five hours in the middle seat of a regular row. I suspect after this flight it will be at least six more years before I decide to give Southwest another try. Way to go guys.
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It's been a long time coming. Southwest is no longer a no-fee zone. And that's fine, it was inevitable, but don't insult us by pretending otherwise.
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I can't say I'm too excited. I can see a few people using this to guarantee overhead bin space, which wouldn't be quite such an issue if SW was better at checking the size and number of bags people are bringing on board (I've seen people on my most recent flight with 3 and 4 bags, all of which they were putting in the overhead bin). I usaully check in right around the 24 hour mark and I'll be unhappy if I get a 'C' at that point. The first time SW makes me check my one, legal size carry on (that's all I bring) is the last time I fly SW.
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For those of you who have asked. You can purchase EarlyBird when traveling on a Rapid Rewards Award. Unforunately, Must Ride (or Green) passes and Southwest Vacations tickets are not eligible.
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I'm really glad to see that the majority of people here are upset about this... I wish southwest would've realized how little it takes for a public image to be hurt. If they think people will really see this as them caring for the customer, that's a bunch of rubbish. We all know it's just another attempt to get fee revenue.
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I know that with the A list check-in, the order is by how long each passenger has been on the A list (the more time on the A list, the higher your check-in priority). What ordering method will be used for early-bird? As for the chances I'll use this? Well, when I'm on vacation, and may not have access to the internet at check-in time, I'll definitely use this so I don't need to worry about checking in early. On the other-hand, if I know I'll have access to the internet around check-in time, why bother?
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Brian - perhaps you should tell your IT folks so they can correctly program your website. It will not let me purchase EB on a plaine ole RR award.
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Our Marketing folks are looking at this right now. Brian
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I've been a WN fan for many years, as a semi-frequent flyer and I feel like this is the final nail in the coffin. VX flies all the routes that I frequently take on WN, and all I have to do is not check bags and I'm at the same price. A-list got me upset because I was only semi-frequent and I would often get to 70% for A-list, but never make it. Now, EarlyBird makes it even less likely that I'll get my coveted exit row seat, especially for long flights like BWI-LAS. I feel like if I'm paying for the privilege, I should be prioritized ahead of A-listers. I'd pay $20 for that, to **guarantee** I get the seat I want. Legacy airlines charge $20 for those seats. $10 for barely a chance at it seems like a waste. But if you don't pay it, say goodbye to bin space and aisle/window seats. One fair way to do this would be to change A-list to be in the same lottery as EarlyBird people... but then they'd cry too. WN's attempt at an additional $10 of revenue from me per flight has most likely reduced WN's revenue by several thousand dollars because I doubt I'd fly WN by choice now. It seems like WN has forgotten about those who aren't business travelers but still pay fares that allow the average flight to make a profit. It takes 7 passengers on average to break even, and now you're down to 6.
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No thank you Southwest. No Thank you. Your image is tarnished; your brand weakended; the ease of working is no longer straight forward and most importantly is no longer simple. I never, repeat never, shopped Airtran or Jet Blue because I liked the simplicity of Southwest. But as you change your ways, I'll change mine.
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Sean, Marketing has never released the analytics for how A-List assigns seats, so that really is speculation. As we said above, Early Bird assigns on the basis of when the EarlyBird was purchased. If there are ten EarlyBird Customers, the one buying it first will get the lowest boarding pass number. Brian
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Not a good idea, SW. The slippery slope gets steeper. SW used to be my favorite airline because it offered good prices and gave me some control in turn, but it has been moving toward becoming like all the other airlines. This is not increased choice, it is an increased revenue stream. SW is unfortunately no longer my default airline.
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It's not a fee for something you've already had. Still no charge for checking in 24 hours early, or at the airport (for those of you who procrastinate and then expect a B pass). No charge for two check bags, no charge for cola's, juice or coffee, no charge for the great snacks, no charge for an aisle seat (and yes the B group still has a selection of aisle seats), no charge for window seats and many other items that other airlines do charge a fee. Not sure what "other" fees you guys are referring to that make you think SWA is like the others. SW is brining in new services that weren't around before and that's what you are being charged for, unlike the other airlines that are now charging you for things you used to get free. Also people, really, it's a short part of your day (or night) in most cases that you spend on the plane. Why act like you are going to be spending days in that seat? Worse things in life to worry about then a seat on a 3 hour flight.
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OK, so I just popped for another $20 for my October round-trip and will give it a try. Don't like it though. I will be curios to see what boarding assigment this gets me. If it is higher than a A-20's, I will be very disappointed indeed.
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This is one of the best ideas that Southwest has come up with! It's not always possible to be by a computer exactly 24 hours before. Southwest is still great when it comes to not charging fees, as other airlines do, such as checking 2 bags or changing a reservation. Thank you Southwest not charging for bags or to change a ticket!
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Metanoi... I'm lost in your logic? You'd rather fly from IAD to SFO to connect to LAS on Virgin America because of a $10 fee? Just did a quick search with random dates selected. 9/22-9/25, IAD-LAS, Virgin America is $625.39 with a change of planes in SFO, Southwest is $319.20 out of BWI and $329.20 on the nonstop flights. Still going to take that Virgin America flight? "It seems like WN has forgotten about those who aren't business travelers but still pay fares that allow the average flight to make a profit. It takes 7 passengers on average to break even, and now you're down to 6." -- You're seeing these new "fees" introduced to help raise revenue because it is a fact that people will not pay fares that allow the average flight to make a profit. It's not as if flights are already profitable and "fees" are being added to increase that profit...quite the opposite actually. Time to get your head out of the sand and face reality.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, This is not a fee, this a service that is available to use if you to choose. It will not effect A-listers or Business select passengers. This service also does not always guarantee an A boarding pass. Thank you for your comments, pro or con, we like to hear from you!!