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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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So, those of you that have purchased the Early Bird Checkin. When you printed your boarding pass did it state "early bird checkin" on it?
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I personally like the new program as we cruise a lot and it's very inconvenient to take time out of your vacation to stress over checking in at the 24 mark to get a good seat home. $10 apeice is well worth it to us and in the scheme of things, still beats the additional $15 per bag and much more expensive seats initially. Just my humble opinion:)
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I must admit I am terribly disappointed in this new fee. I am a single mom and travel with my 11 year old daughter. With the economy the way it is, pennies are very tight, but we've always managed to get a good deal with Southwest. I feel a little cheated now. I am always afraid of us getting seperated, so I was always at the PC exactly 24 hours ahead. Lately I have been getting "B" passes because the flights are always full. Now with this new system, I feel forced to pay the extra $40 round trip, or risk being in the "C" section. While 11 isn't a small child, I still don't like the idea of her having to sit between 2 strangers on a long flight. Bad idea Southwest. I'd rather you increase every fare by $1-2 to improve your revenue flows, than to play seat roulette with this new fee.
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I really like having the EBCI option since we can't (yet) select a specific seat. I've used EBCI twice so far (A16 & A25) and have it on two future flights. But about the time some moron has their crap piled in a seat and tells me "he's saving it", the FA had better be prepared to do something. They cannot institute these priviledge fees then let preboarders or large families / groups abuse the system. Come on SWA...seat saving policy needed! To Kathy, no your boarding pass won't indicate EBCI and you are likely to get EBCI reminders even after purchasing it. But just try to add EBCI again and you'll get a screen that says you already have it.
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We paid the Early Bird fee for my husband's business trip. He got B41 and B42. This is not acceptable.
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I have used EBCI twice and both times got a boarding pass number that was higher than a co-worker who did not "opt" for the extra EBCI fee. I checked in at the airport and was assigned (A-55) while my co-worker who did not pay for EBCI checked in online at T-24 and he was assigned (A-36). Is the computer system not working properly or is EBCI a rip-off? I like the concept, but the bugs need to be worked out with the computer assigning seats in accordance with the way the program is being marketed. Also, the gate agent must be required to enforce the boarding pass numbering system. If I am going to pay the extra fee for a better number, SWA agents should assure me (by enforcing the rules) that I am getting what I am paying for. Otherwise, SWA is engaging in an illegal deceptive trade practice. Hopefully the SWA employees monitoring this site will deliver this message load and clear to their supervisors, policymakers and gate agents.
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Gee, it would have been nice to know about this change in policy before I just bought tickets! Makes Frontier's pricing model more competitive. Dumb idea and terrible for Southwest's image. Ever fewer reasons to take the extra step to check "southwest.com".
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You are opening up a real can of conflict with this new "convenience". I know that people will try to game the system and pay for 1 early bird, then try to hold seats for family members. The extra money SW makes from this so called convenience is not worth the aggravation you are causing your loyal customers. You keep advertising how you are not like the rest of the airlines, well, you are moving in that direction with this system. And why do you try to disguise this as a "convenience"...you must think we are all grade schoolers who can't see the difference between a new fee and a real convenience. Bad idea ! This needs to be rescinded asap.
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I fly pretty often as well and admit I am not really a fan of this service. I do understand it's not a "fee". It's just that because getting on board early was a big deal to me, I was willing to go out of my way to use my computer or iPhone to check in exactly 24 hours ahead of time. I have major anxiety over flying and I'm usually "drugged up" each time I fly, so I'm out of it when I get on the plane. My fiance usually holds my hand and grabs our seat and helps me get in. It's easier if I'm one of the first on board, which is why I made a huge deal out of making sure I was checked in early. So I just find it a little frustrating that knowing what I was able to do for free, I'd now have to pay $20 r/t to do, which is basically check in as early as possible. I think that what would make me either a) take advantage of this program or b) feel better about my 24 hour check in is if there were a cap on the number of seats that could be taken up by Early Bird check ins. For instance, if A1-15 were for business class, A16-30 could be for Early Bird check in, and the rest could go on as usual. It's not really enticing me to pay $20 for Early Bird check in if you're not even guaranteed A group. If I paid the money and ended up in B or even C I'd be really angry for it. I think a cap is definitely something that should be added to this to make it worthwhile. I truly hope Southwest reads these comments and takes them into consideration. I can see value in this service if it's limited to 15 or so people, just as Business seats are.
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I agree that SWA needs to limit the number of EBCI slots available or guest may be purchasing something that has no value (rather deceptive on SWA's part). But Southwest also needs to enforce boarding order and eliminate seat-saving. Or just bite the bullet and offer assigned seating. Too many issues keep coming up and no solutions are being offered.
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This will be my last southwest flight!!! The charm is gone and the prices arent any better than the other airlines.
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With this fee that Southwest has added, I will probably not travel to Philly to fly them anymore. I guess I should have read their webpage better. Had I know about this prior to booking I would have paid the additional fees for Airtran and flow out of Allentown. Sure I pay $15 for my bag to be checked and $6 for my seat selection, but if I have to pay $10 for a PLACE IS LINE, what's the difference? Yea, I know $11 but at least I guarantee our three travelers will be seated together. With a shorter drive and cheaper parking in Allentown, it would have evened out. I also think this may constitute false advertising. Here's how I determine this. From the SW Website: "BETTER BOARDING POSITION We'll automatically check you in and assign your boarding position within 36 hours of your flight's departure - that's 12 hours before general boarding positions become available. While EarlyBird Check-in doesn't guarantee an A boarding position, it improves your seat selection options to help you get your favorite seat." Since I have only had a boarding number higher than A29 on one leg of one trip, and now can't even guarantee an A position, how does this improve my seat selection? Could someone at Southwest please explain that to me? Since I am buying my tickets close to the travel date, how can I know if the additional fees will yield a reasonable boarding position? I wish the option for this ridiculous fee had been displayed before I confirmed my purchase so I could have made a more informed decision on the airline I am now forced to fly on. What a scam.
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I wonder if there has been any research within SW on this. What is the average seat a early-bird check in gets and what % of early bird check ins get an A, what % get a B and what % get a C. If these numbers were available it may alleviate some of the concern. I purchased eb for the first time on my trip to vegas this weekend. we'll see how it works before I pony up the addtl 80$ for my family to go to vermont next weekend.
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Kevin Kleistso's 09/02/2009announcement promises the following when paying an extra $10.00 for EarlyBird Check-in: - you can find that coveted seat without having to watch the clock for your 24-hour window to check in - customers will automatically obtain a reserved boarding position before general check-in begins - this help you get a better boarding position, which of course leads to improved seat selection and earlier access to overhead bin space - EarlyBird Check-in customers will begin boarding the plane after our Business Select and Rapid Rewards A-List Customers I spent the extra $10.00 to purchase the Early Bird Check-in option for a two-leg flight today from New Olreans to Baltimore. I bought this online yesterday morning. My husband traveled with me, but decided to wait until the 24-hour mark to get his group boarding pass. I received an A-24 boarding position on the first leg of the flight while my husbamd received A-27. On the second leg, I received A-34 while my husband got A-17. Southwest certaintly didn't live up to its promises to provide a "reserved boarding position before general check-in begins,"and "EarlyBird Check-in customers will begin boarding the plane after our Business Select and Rapid Rewards A-List Customers" on the second leg; and the two-position improvement on the first leg was clearly not worth the extra $10.00 I paid. So, I feel that I received little, if anything, for the extra $10.00 I spent. An added note: when I complained to the person at the airport SW checkin counter, she said "I have been telling peopleit is not worth it. Just write Southwest a letter of complaint."
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Wow, I can't believe how many people are complaining about 10 bucks! People like myself who do not like to stand in line to get a good seat appreciate this benefit that southwest offers. I actually would avoid southwest because of the seating thing. But I purchased nonstop tickets from Kansas City to Orlando for 59 dollars...what a deal!! so if I can pay an extra 10 bucks to get a better seat, I'll happily pay it, I appreciate the offer, and I will fly southwest more because of it. I don't mean to sound rude, but you don't HAVE to pay it. You can still print your ticket 24 hours ahead of your flight for free, and you may still get A seating. It's a crap shoot, I'm kinda gambling by paying the 10.00.
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On my last flight, an Early Bird saved 5 seats in addition to their own. When I wrote Southwest about this, I was told that's perfectly fine to save seats for someone who "may" (or may not) be boarding later. So presumably you can prevent that middle seat from being taken just by claiming you're saving it for a friend in C group who "may" be boarding later. Early Bird should entitle that individual to one seat only, not as many seats as can be roped off.
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Flying with my 3 kids on Southwest this weekend. A little nervous we won't get seats together. If not I hope all the people who paid $10 don't mind if I strap my 2 year old in between them 🙂
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After purchasing tickets for upcoming family vacation this summer, I found the option for Early Bird Check-In. Sorry Southwest, but this will most likely be the last time I purchase tickets from you. Jet Blue is competitive in price, 1st piece of checked baggage free, and no Early Bird Check-In. You have made flying a great experience, but this type of fee just causes tension for those of us who just can't throw in the extra money that easily. We have a first time flyer with us this time, and it really doesn't seem fair to say, "you might get to sit with one of us, all of us, or none."
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I'm disappointed to see SW going the way of the other airlines and nickel-diming us by adding a $10 fee to get a good place in the check-in line. I was also disappointed to see SW add the "business" designation. The thing I really loved about the old SW was that it was a truly egalitarian airline: unlike UA, Delta, and the other legacy carriers who treated coach customers like cattle (or worse), SW treated everyone exactly the same. If you really cared about getting that aisle seat at the front of the plane, you'd check in 24 hours in advance and then get to the airport early and wait. You paid with your time, and that was fair. Now people are paying with dollars, and you're becoming more and more like the awful legacy carriers. I'm flying SW in a couple of weeks - the first time (for me) since this program went into effect. It will be a test of whether I'll remain a loyal SW customer.
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Does Early bird check-in guarantee that my entire family of 5 will board at the same time and be seated with each other?
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Hi LV--EarlyBird Check-in should reserve consecutive boarding passes for you and your family. Since you'll be some of the first to board after Business Select and our Rapid Rewards A-List Members, you shouldn't have any problems finding seats together. Laurel
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I fly weekly for work -- usually US Airways. I just had my first trip on Southwest, a vacation weekend in Las Vegas. The experience left much to be desired, and unfortunately all of the disappointments were due to other passengers and a lack of vigilance by the Southwest flight crew. The "cattle car" method of boarding ads tension as everyone is jockeying for their place in line to get the best seat available. People traveling with friends often try to save seats or entire rows, completely defeating the purpose of staged boarding. I was traveling with my wife as was denied access to two adjacent seats by a passenger who was saving the seats for his friends. He wouldn't budge and the flight attendants did nothing. My wife and I had to move back toward the front of the plane and sit apart from each other for the 4 hour flight. Passengers almost never abide by the "one bag under your seat" rule -- making it harder to take advantage of the bags fly free claim. Southwest; you could go from worst to first simply by vigorously enforcing your own rules and by insisting that passengers behave. I'll not fly SW again. Paying a few dollars more for a predictable experience is worth it.
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It doesn't work all the time anyway. I just flew from Las Vegas to Columbus with EarlyBird. I get to the airport and they hand me a security document because I'm not checked it. I get to the gate - they say: so sorry! We have a computer problem! They mark my boarding ticket XT and tell be to go between the A's and B's. The agent at the Gate tells the dozen or so of us that didn't get automatically checked in that XT is for people with disabilities. She doesn't want to let is on! We finally get on and I call customer service. Same story - so sorry, we will give you your $10 back. I don't want my $10 back - I want what was promised. They suggest that in the future I check in 24 hours in advance. Then why the heck am I paying the fee? I never got the refund either. Southwest used to be the no BS airline - now they are a corporate monstrosity.
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This is a lie. EB check in does not automatically check you in. I was involuntarily denied boarding with an EB check in. They said I never checked in. Not so automatic. Scam.
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Had purchased EarlyBird check in last week for a Mon flight (#2051) from Phoenix to Las Vegas that was cancelled and was relegated to the C group on another flight. Was told by the SWA rep rebooking me that the $10 would automatically be refunded to my credit card. Of course, it was not and I was just informed by someone with an attitude named Dawn at customer relations that it is not automatically refunded and that a call is necessary. She reluctantly refunded my $10 after skeptically stating that it had been used according to her records. Just a heads up, that if you are on a cancelled flight and are unable to use the EarlyBird boarding pass you paid for, you must call for a refund. Seems like the once customer service friendly culture at Southwest has all but disappeared. Very sad. I had been a big advocate since the 1980's...