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Southwest Airlines Introduces Earlybird Check-In, A New Customer Convenience That Simplifies Travel

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EarlyBird Check-in Automatically Assigns and Confirms Customers’
Boarding Positions in Advance of General Check-in

Don’t race. We’ll save your place! Southwest is proud to announce its newest product, EarlyBird Check-in, which gives Customers the option to score an early boarding position by adding an additional $10 to the price of a one-way fare. The low-cost service automatically reserves a boarding position for Customers prior to general check-in, allowing EarlyBird Customers to begin boarding the plane after Southwest’s Business Select and Rapid Rewards A-List Customers. EarlyBird Check-in is available for purchase beginning today, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009, for travel beginning Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009. For additional information on EarlyBird Check-in, visit

http://www.southwest.com/flight/early-bird-retrieve-reservation.html or the Company Blog at www.nutsaboutsouthwest.com.

“With EarlyBird Check-in, you no longer need to watch the clock or set your alarm to be one of the first Customers to check in for a Southwest flight. EarlyBird Customers can relax, and let us do the work for them,” said Kevin Krone, Southwest’s Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Distribution.

An early boarding position provides Customers with the opportunity for a better seat selection and earlier access to overhead bin space, giving Customers the option to enhance their travel experience while creating incremental revenue opportunities for Southwest.  Early boarding privileges are already included in the purchase of a Business Select fare and are a benefit of being on the Rapid Rewards A-List. All Customers are required to print their boarding pass prior to their scheduled departure.

Customers can purchase EarlyBird Check-in through a link in the Travel Tools section of southwest.com. They also can select EarlyBird Check-in from their southwest.com confirmation page online and from their confirmation e-mail. EarlyBird Check-in can be purchased up to 25 hours prior to the scheduled departure time of the Customer’s flight.

After 38 years of service, Southwest Airlines, the nation’s leading low-fare carrier, continues to stand above other airlines—offering a reliable product with exemplary Customer Service.  Southwest Airlines is the most productive airline in the sky and offers Customers a comfortable traveling experience with all premium leather seats and plenty of legroom.  Southwest recently updated its gate areas and improved its boarding procedure to make flying Southwest Airlines even more convenient.  Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV), the nation's largest carrier in terms of domestic passengers enplaned, currently serves 67 cities (adding Milwaukee later this year) in 33 states.  Based in Dallas, Southwest currently operates more than 3,300 flights a day and has more than 34,000 Employees systemwide.


37 Comments
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Wow, all it will take is 1 time for me to buy "early bird" and end up with a 'C' pass because everyone else on the flight chose to pay as well and I'm done. I'm not against the idea, I just think it should have a limit per flight. That just makes no sense.
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sort of loved the chase - it was part of the fun - where did yesterday's comments go? what do I have to do to see them? thanks for help on this.
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I agree what happened to all the negative comments? Decided to start over and see if today brings more positive feedback? Don't hold your breath it is still at BAD idea!
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Personally I hate this idea. I don't want to have to pay $20 more round trip to gain a decent seat on your flights. Adding this fee basically forces customers to pay an upgrade or they may be stuck with a seat they don't like (aka middle seat). I hope you listen to the negative comments you are receiving on this and give up on this idea. I'm surprised to see only 3 comments on this, and not surprised that none are positive.
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I do not like this at all! You say you 'do not' have to purchase this option. Let's look at that. You wait until the 24 hour point to check in on-line. Now after all the Business Select passengers/A-Listers/ and now Early Bird - you might as well sit in the lavatory (ok-bit extreme) - but you probably be in the 'C" boarding group and just hope for a good seat. So - really you are forcing us - YOUR CUSTOMER - to pay this. Your pushing people away instead of bringing customers in. Raise the overall fare by $10, go to assigned seats or limit the number of seats for this program on each flight. I mean not every seat on the plane is a discount fare, so why have every seat open for early bird?
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I want to sit with my family. This was introduced 3 days before our flight and I didn't know anything about it. Here I am just waiting for the 24 hour window to open up so that I can insure I am sitting with my kids, 7 & 13 who haven't ever flown before and are nervous. I open up the page and see NEW EARLYBIRD ONLINE CHECKIN. So even if I wanted to pay the $10 I can't do it. I agree, there should be a limited number of seats to this option. If my 7 year old is sitting by herself because everybody paid the $10, I will be more than upset. I like assigned seats, at least you can sit with the people you are traveling with.
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SW, Just to let you know---I frequent many travel boards. Folks are posting that if they're traveling with 2 or more people, only 1 member of the group will purchase the EB & save seats for others in their group. Not fair to other EB OR those of us who choose not to purchase EB. Please, please consider assigned seating. Thanks.
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I agree with the others; you are forcing us to just pay more for our seats now to be assured to not get stuck in a middle seat or be able to sit next to family members. You went toward the positive side when you changed to the early check in so that we all didn't have to arrive really early and start "squatting" in place in line for a good boarding position. Now I think you just went backwards in customer satisfaction in this area. Please reconsider this change.
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Ahhhhh! Southwest, what are you doing to me? I used to love how we were all more or less "equal" Customers flying with your airline, but all I see nowadays is more and more ways you're segmenting us. Business Select, A-list, and now Early Check-in? I agree with other commenters about this issue..this is something that, ideally, you will reconsider and eliminate (and perhaps re-examine the merits of ASSIGNED seating) or, if nothing else, LIMIT the amount of early bird checkins. Just to touch on the assigned seating thing for a second...I'd love to know more about why you choose to seat this way. I almost feel like, at this point, it's become SWA's "gimmick" - it's what you are known for, for better or worse. Speeding up airplane boarding? Hardly! People wander around looking for seats, people frequently shuffle around trying to get better seats, and families and people traveling together are stuck looking for seats together. Assigned seating flows more efficiently, in my opinion. I'm so sick of being nickel and dimed by airlines and I have always flown SWA because I knew they were different, but day by day I see you guys becoming just like the rest. Please don't let it happen. -A Loyal Customer
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Questions: How many customers do you think you are going to add with this new "convienence"? How many customer are you going to lose because of said "convienence"? I'm guessing from comments more than you are going to gain which could be as low as ZERO! Do the $10 fees collected on an unknown number of tickets make up for the lost customers?
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The thing I loved about Southwest was how simple everything was and how they seemed to serve their customers. Somebody at Southwest has forgotten to keep things easy. Guess you will need to take down all your "no hidden fee" signs which was something that certainly was unique about Southwest and one of the key reasons we have chosen them over other airlines.
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BAD IDEA! I agree with others. You're basically forcing everyone to pay an extra $20 roundtrip. I loved the new numbered boarding pass procedure. Before, I stayed away from Southwest because it was so stressful getting to the airport hours earlier than I needed to just to feel like I was being herded like cattle into the plane....and dealing with people actually pushing and cutting in line....very unpleasant. Since the institution of the new numbered boarding procedure I've been traveling Southwest quite a bit. I have a flight coming up in November and I've purchased the Early Bird option and will see how it goes. Hope I don't have to go back to Delta! WHY NOT GO TO ASSIGNED SEATING? It's the only thing that could improve Southwest service!
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Embrace change. Give it a chance - no one is forcing you to pay $10 more. It is merely a choice.
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EarlyBird Check-in;Typical MBA marketing scheme, Kevin Krone certainly doesn't understand why the public chooses (did choose) to fly with Southwest. Get rid of this guy and his ilk before he totally destroys what was a good deal for the flying public. When management gets "heady" it is easy too loose site of what made the company successful; do what you did well, quit trying to be cute.
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I have flown the LUV airline ever since it started service in Norfolk, Va since the week after 9-11. Been loyal....always telling my students in our local community college that this is the business plan you should follow to be successful. I LUV SWA and my students call me the Professor from SW since I always talk about your successful business model. However, your model is changing and I now I predict that your loyal customers will also be changing.........to the competition. It is not about $10 per leg but a loyalty issue among your customer base. Just increase your ticket prices by $10 across the board but don't start to nickel and dime me.
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Bad, bad , bad idea. I am as loyal an SA flyer as can be. The only time I have not flown SWA over the past 7 years is when I had to fly out of the country. But this idea just plain stinks! It's not too late to relent... please just realize this is a bad move and make this foolish new policy go away. Don't make your loyal customers pay for "Early Bird" seating, and don't turn SWA into just another fee-grabbing airline.
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OK, I tried the new early bird check for a flight from Phoenix to LaGuardia with a plane change on Chicago. My wife and I bought our tickets a few months ago. So I upgraded with the early bird option. Guess what happen? I got B38 and A51 on my two flights. And my wife got A20 and A28. I bought both upgrades at the same time. What gives??? BTW The charge for the two upgrades has already hit my visa, so I paid. I want my $10 dollars back!!!
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Wasn't Business Select enough? I'm a pretty frequent flyer and as it is 23 hrs and 59 mins before departure and you get a A 36 - what's it going to be like now. If I add the $20.00 I'll just have to compare that fare to other airlines and many of your flights aren't that much cheaper but I've remained loyal for what...and what about the future flights I have already booked this should have been announced long before it was implemented. This is a bad idea! Please stop it or at the very least limit it!
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Early Bird Check-in is a BAD idea - wasn't Business Select enough! To everyone here don't forget to email SW directly (under contact us) they have probably stopped reading this blog by now! Great comments by the way...! Also if anyone has Kevin Krone's email at SW post it here and we can email him directly.
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Why I luv Southwest: * Pleasant, fun staff * Non-stop PHL to SAT and AUS * I can buy a ticket within 2 weeks for a fair price and usually avoid a middle seat * No fees for changing my flight, and even a credit if the price drops * No luggage fees (2 checked + 1 carry on is plenty for me) * No extra, complicated fees to deal with [Oops! Now, not so much] * Fair and simple boarding procedure [Oops! Now, not so much] EBCI feels like a fee for what I used to get a shot at for free. Until now I could tell someone SW had no fees (meaning no fees that they'd normally have to worry about). But no more. EBCI hurts your strong image of simple fares done right. You had also achieved simple boarding done right -- numbers on the A/B/Cs, Business Select, and boarding families with small kids after the A's. Everyone I know said this is great -- fast, fair, no standing around in line, you choose who you sit next to, and if you want seats together just go to the back. So why make it more complicated? Your current customers liked boarding as it was; if not they'd fly another airline. This change is going to degrade the experience for most of them without attracting new customers (who will still want assigned seating). So it isn't an improvement for either group, or for SW. And it dilutes your strong clear brand -- simplicity and no fees. My suggested 3-step profit-neutral fix: 1) Drop EBCI 2) Offer a drink or WiFi coupon to those with a C boarding pass 3) Raise fares $2 or so And to improve both fairness and flexibility in boarding: 4) Explicitly prohibit seat-saving except in the last 5 rows
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You know what, The traveling public is never happy. Your mad cause your frequent flier number wasn't entered and your an A-list member, guess what that is not Southwest's fault its yours! Your mad cause southwest makes you shift 1 to 2 pounds out of your only bag you checked that is now overweight and 50 dollars guess what Southwest you can fly with 2 bags free dont make the poor ramp guy down under the plane hurt himself cause of your damn laziness. 10 freaking dollars come on people its not a fee they require you to pay its a extra perk. I cant believe of all the people who complain when your only paying freaking 100 dollars on Southwest or even better yet when my friends who work for Southwest tell me these horror stories on how someone paid 49 dollars one way and complained about anything. You probably couldnt drive there that cheap. Lets think about all these things before we complain or even suggest its a bad idea. Southwest is just trying to make it a more enjoyable way for you to travel. All these threats on other blogs and sayings that im going back to UA, AA, or F9 go for it just remember change fee's, bag fee's, assigned seat fee's, reservation fee's, paper ticket fee's, curbside fee's is there ever going to be an end. If i were to be mad for Southwest suggesting paying 10 dollars to get a better boarding card I am going crazy then!
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Anonymous I think if you read the comments to this specific topic the fee is not getting you a better boarding card and the point most of us are trying to make is there wasn't anything wrong with boarding the way it was. I gave SW the chance to see how the Business Select system worked (no complaining) - it has pushed my boarding further back into the A group, not a big deal, but this doesn't seem to be having the same minimal impact and there is an increased cost if I choose it. Also if you are traveling with someone it's not an extra $10 it's an extra $40 and just keep adding if you have a family... As far as all the other airlines extra fees you mention you don't have to check your bag at the curb, you don't have to check a bag at all, you don't have to buy anything to eat or drink, you get an assigned seat, you get a printed at your convenience (not 23 hrs 59 mins prior to departure) boarding pass and not on all but many flights the base fares aren't all that different from SW. And lets see what happens when their pre-purchase fuel supply is used up. At the end of the day sometimes it's not even the money I pick SW because I liked the boarding process - with a little effort on my part - checking in 23 hrs and 59 mins prior to departure my trip and life was good. You are correct people will always complain and the ones you tell us about have nothing to do with this fee so those people will be those people and continue to complain - but this fee and change to a good system is unnecessary and doesn't appear to be improving the process - if it is really only about money just raise all the fares some and leave the boarding process alone.
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As a loyal South West customer I am extremely disappointed in the way they have rolled out the Early Bird check in option. I hope they realize their mistake and remove this option. I do intend to contact them directly as I hope all of their other customers will once they realize that this has been put in place.
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"As far as all the other airlines extra fees you mention you don't have to check your bag at the curb, you don't have to check a bag at all, you don't have to buy anything to eat or drink, you get an assigned seat, you get a printed at your convenience (not 23 hrs 59 mins prior to departure) boarding pass and not on all but many flights the base fares aren't all that different from SW." Lets talk about this comment above! Your right you dont have to do any of those things but guess what you dont have to check in 23h59m before your flight on SW you dont have to purchase the 10 early bird check in. The only reason you are all upset is because you thought you had the system figured out. Your the one who complains that you didnt get A16 when you were online exactly 24hours before and one of the A list members got it! But you were still A43 I think anything that is going make Southwest stay afloat during this economy is a good thing over all. Its going to make the company even better for the future!!
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As a couple who so far have traveled on 28 flights so far since January on Southwest - the latest this past weekend and the next one tomorrow, we are sorely disappointed by your new EB check-in. My husband needs an aisle seat because he is tall and has a bad knee. We never had a problem checking in at T-24 getting an A seat so he could get an aisle. Now, well for the first time in many years we will be looking into the competition so we can be assured an assigned seat. We loved Southwest , but, I guess all good things come to an end sometime. Our college student just lost her status too when you dropped the college program, so she will coming back and forth on another airline also. Where do we turn in our VISA Rapid Rewards card? We will not need it now. So sad....
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Duff - you are spot on. I liked the way it was dont' like the changes. I am not a frequent complainer or poster to blogs. I have never posted a compalint about Southwest before this Early-Bird nonsense. I absolutely hate the idea. You have not idea what you are getting for the FEE you are voluntarily paying. Southwest please roll back this plan just charge $10 more per ticket.
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to the anon poster about your husband needs an aisle seat. All your husband needs is a doctors note or kindly ask for a pre-board since he is requiring a specific seat he meets the critieria for the pre-board status. There is no need for you to turn in your rewards card or quit southwest all together if that is all your upset about.
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As a flight attendant and 7 yr employee with SWA, I've been reading all the negative comments in regards to EBCI. I understand that hesitation and resentment towards any change, especially when it comes to money in this trying economy. When I heard about this I was fearful of all the backlash that would come (and it has...) With the start of the EBCI, it states that you are not guaranteed an "A" boarding card. It just allows you the opportunity to not have to wait, set alarms for teh 24 hour mark. I also understand the problem of saving seats, if you have to equate saving seats to "I got the A17 boarding pass, and my wife received C36...we allow alot of leeway in regards to saving that sit next to you. However, with that being said, keep in mind that when you bad mouth a marketing idea to increase revenue, whether it is with an airline, retail store, car dealer or whatever...allow us/them the opportunity to try it out. I look forward to seeing each and everyone of you, even the anonymous posters, on my next flight. I will, as will ALL my friends and coworkers, give it our best to make your flight an enjoyable one.
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Anonymous (or should I address you as SW employee) Thanks for your follow up to my previous post but you failed to comment on the realized fee that isn’t just a $10 fee (which was a major point of your first post - all of us complaining over $10) it’s a $40 fee for a couple or more if you are traveling with a family and money spent with no guarantee of an upside from the passengers point of view, not even getting seats together - remember the passenger? Why you’re in business? And you completely missed on your complaint comment. If you read my comments (previous post) on the Business Select option being added I specifically stated that I hadn’t complained and haven’t to this day complained about an A-43 (or even an early B once in a while) boarding card at 23h59m prior to departure. I will admit I did question what the impact would be but figured if SW could sell a ticket for $256 on the same flight where I’m paying $99 because someone wants to be first on to get an exit row seat and a “free” drink then good for them. That is working just fine and you cut off the bottom of the above paragraph where I went on to say “with a little effort on my part…my trip and life was good”. You also chastise me for figuring out the system - thanks for the compliment but it’s not rocket surgery - I think everyone here knows/knew the system. And I’m just not sure how this additional fee and the uncertainty it creates for the passenger is “…going to make the company even better for the future!!” Even the 7 year flight attendant was fearful of the backlash and acknowledges it’s a marketing idea to increase revenue. First I think if you really read the comments overall it’s not a fear of change issue and secondly how early are your flights that someone has to set the alarm - if you’re taking an early flight you’re probably up at that time every morning anyway - put in a little effort take some responsibility. Many posts have stated raise the fares some if you have to, $5 a ticket and we wouldn’t be here…and you might do better then hoping 50 % of passengers opt for the EBCI. Bottom line: SW has been known for not being the extra fee airline, not being the nickel and dime airline but for being the simple user friendly airline, the free checked bag with a snack airline and that’s what we want back; simple, clear, we all know the rules, the total fare, and have some say in the outcome - that’s all.
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This is a bad idea. It may go ok for now, but that is because people are not aware of the program yet. Once people see that you will have to do this to get a seat, there will be a backlash from this program. Over the past week Ive had several people come to visit my family and they always fly southwest. In our conversations, they were all against this new policy. All stated if they have to pay more, they would rather pay for their bags or just pay more for a seat. In discussing this new policy and talking about it, there will be a time where you pay the extra money, but still can get a c boarding pass. So you are basically paying for nothing. My family is in the process of planning 2 trips towards the end of the year. We have flown southwest for many years and for the first time in awhile are actually going to look at other airlines. It is important to us to sit together and have our choice of seats when we fly. We just ask that Southwest read all of the comments about this program and change their minds about this.
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Yes, I just purchased this for $20 for my son and I for a FL trip, and I ended up at the end of the B Boarding section - what a waste!!! I've done better just checking in 24 hours in advance paying nothing. Once again we'll be scrambling for overhead space and, most likely, asking a flight attendant to get someone to move so my son and I can sit together. To pay $20 for a generally worse boarding position than I've ever had just stinks. I love flying Southwest but the boarding nightmare we experience as a mother and son is a big pain. My son's ten years old so we don't board early or anything, but we're not about to be separated for a flight. To pay an extra $20 to ensure this doesn't happen and then be stuck with a late B boarding position is just FAIL.
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OK, update: We had boarding B31/32. I spoke with no less than five other travelers/traveling groups with better boarding positions than we had and NONE of them purchased Early Bird. None of them were A-list passengers, frequent flyers, or traveling Business Select. They all had just checked in 24 hours in advance. This tells me I not only did not get what I paid for, but the whole system failed on us. We *are* supposed to board before those who paid nothing. I plan to complain.
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Customers who were already holding Southwest Vacations tickets at the time of this announcement (for the early bird option) are getting screwed. SWV flights aren't eligible. Hey Southwest, you seating arrangement sucks! Always has. When is Midwest Express going to go a direct flight from KC to Vegas (or at least one stop on the direct route?) Start assigning seats like a civilized airline!
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I for one am looking forward to Early Bird Check-In. I have two children who routinely get airsick and now I have an excuse for not sitting with them. Let them throw up on the early boarders, I'm waiting until the 24-hour period starts.
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This is crazy, I always fly southwest. But now with this early bird crap. I rather pay for my bags on another airline then have to deal with the earlybird. I don't like it and I will not fly southwest anymore until it is back to the way it use to be. Southwest prides it self on free baggage and not nickel and dime there customers. Well folks south west just joined the club. That is all this is, give me 20 more buck and hope you sit next to your wife or kids (goodluck). Who ever thought of this idea should be fired. YOU WILL LOSE A LOT OF BUSINESS OVER THIS EARLY BIRD! YOU HAVE LOST MINE.
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My wife and I have flown a minimum of at least 50 round trips per year (for over 10 years) on Southwest between Ohio and Florida and have enjoyed the great employees, low fares and ability to check in 24-hours early. This early bird check in would mean we'd be spending an extra $1200 a year on flights. No way. Why not charge for bags instead of penalizing folks who travel frequently on Southwest. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN 10 YEARS THAT I WILL NOW BEGIN CHECKING OTHER CARRIERS AND CONSIDER SWITCHING. You're a great airline and I hope you will consider eliminating this concept.
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So NOT cool. Flying tomorrow morning. Went to SWA to check-in and was slapped in the face with this new Early Bird "class structure." I checked-in 23 hrs and 59 mins before departure, and was assigned A40, A42, A44 for my family. Last time I checked-in, pre-Early Bird option, we got A25-ish assignments. It sadly feels like those of us who aren't spending the extra money ($60 round trip for our family of 3) are getting pushed even farther down the line behind Business Select and A-List. We will be seriously considering our options, and not just automatically going with our tried-and-true favorite SWA.