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Newbie Early Bird Check-In Questions

New Arrival

What is the advantage of an early bird check in if when you print your boarding pass you can still get a B or C as Boarding letter? You still need to sign on early to get an A?


Re: Newbie Early Bird Check-In Questions

Rising Star

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. When you go to print your pass beginning 24hrs before you flight you will need to click on "check in". Your boarding position was assigned to you by Southwest in the 36hr using the guidelines below.

While EarlyBird Check-In doesn't guarantee an A boarding position, it improves your seat selection options to help you get your favorite seat.

Customers who have purchased Anytime Fares will receive priority over Customer’s who purchase Early Bird with other fare types. Boarding positions are assigned based on the time stamp of the EarlyBird Check-In purchase relative to passengers within the same fare class.

Re: Newbie Early Bird Check-In Questions

Top Contributor

It's complicated.


If you pay the extra fee, and buy well in advance of the flight, you should get an A position, but it's not guaranteed. Your position depends on the number of A-Listers (Southwest's most loyal frequent flyers) who will always be ahead of EBCI, and how many people buy EBCI ahead of you.


If the flight is very full of people who have paid the extra EBCI fee, then some who did will get B positions (fairly common these days) or even C ones (unlikely, but possible since Southwest doesn't limit EBCI sales per flight). Not paying the fee and checking in at exactly 24 hours prior will still get you a position behind all those who paid the fee.*


*Unless you happen to get lucky, and at T-24 checkin receive the re-issued position of someone who was checked in previously, but then cancelled or changed their flight. Since these are often A-Listers, those positions are often very good -- A16 - 25 range. This means the lucky leapfrog ahead of everyone who paid the fee, and even some of the A-Listers. It's an unfair system but that's how Southwest does it.


All EarlyBird Check-In really does is check you in automatically. If that has benefit to you, that's worth $15/flight, then it's a valid option.


Ultimately, the real advantage of EarlyBird Check-In is in generating profits for Southwest, to the tune of $240 million last year alone. 😉

Re: Newbie Early Bird Check-In Questions

New Arrival

Great, I should have read these comments 1st before i wasted my money !!! I thought I would have at least be guaranteed an A position so that I would not have to wake up early and run to the hotel's computer room to try to sign in especially when overseas and the connection is crappy. What a rip off !!!!!!!

Re: Newbie Early Bird Check-In Questions

New Arrival

Don't buy it! Totally scam. They don't tell you you got checked in. You still have to physically checkin.  I got the same boarding position as when I didn't pay the fee. When I paid the fee, I was number 49. Southwest it trying to tell me at least 48 people have a list or bought the early bird? Sure, that's believable when they can't actually show any proof. Nothing for you to be assured that you have been checked in or have your boarding position reserved. Super lame and a waste of money. 

Re: Newbie Early Bird Check-In Questions

Active Member

Dear Cattran06 -

The early bird boarding spot of 49 may not have seemed like a good deal; however, the spot of A49 is not a bad spot.  Spots A1-15 are always for the Business Select customers who pay the highest price on a refundable ticket.  If that flight has more than 15 people buying Business Select, I assume that they bump everyone back to put those folks first.  Next are the A-List Preferreds and A-List customers who fly 25 or more flights/35,000 Rapid Reward Points per year.  Then the Early Bird buyers, then the boarding passes are assigned based upon check-in times. 


I fly at least once per week, so I am A-List preferred, but if I happen to be on a flight with lots of business travelers or flying commuters (Monday mornings/Friday afternoons), I often end up with an A boarding spot between 35 and 50.  If I fly late at night or on a Saturday, I am usually A-16 to A-20. 


I often buy an early bird spot for my college student's trips because (1) I want her to have a window so she can sleep, (2) remembering to check in at 24 hours before flighttime is not a routine for her, and (3) she prefers to carry on her bag/backpack rather than checking one, so it helps make sure there is bin space available. 


An early bird purchase is basically just a way to make sure the traveler is not in a center seat in the back of the plane.


I hope this information helps you evaluate whether or not to make the EB purchase on future flights.  I will say that if you are on a 10PM flight or the middle of a Saturday afternoon, the benefits may not be worth the cost, but if it is a full flight or a frequently traveled route, it might be a smart move if you dislike center seats (like me). The good news is that it is optional which helps Southwest keep fares lower. 

Re: Newbie Early Bird Check-In Questions

Active Member

I had a bad experience with Early Bird Check-In. I bought the Early Bird Check-in due to the credit from one of my credit cards (use it or lose it). My wife did not buy it  but end up she got a much better A position (A20's) better than mine (I got A59 or B1). I asked Southwest agent at the gate she said it is possible since the time my wife check in someone in A position just cancel his/her flight.

Re: Newbie Early Bird Check-In Questions

New Arrival

Thanks so much for this perspective.  I'm trying EBCI for the first time because I want to make sure my husband and I get to sit together on our upcoming trip.  On our last flight, I forgot to check in at the 24-hour mark and we were far enough back in the check in where we each had to have center seats several rows from each other.  For me, it is a fail safe.


Re: Newbie Early Bird Check-In Questions

New Arrival


....I got the same boarding position as when I didn't pay the fee. When I

paid the fee, I was number 49....



@Cattran06 there's absolutely no way you can know what you would have gotten without paying vs paying the fee. Unless you have a time machine and go back and never pay the fee. #SMH


Re: Newbie Early Bird Check-In Questions

New Arrival

I am new to flying Southwest.  I have purchased a ticket with my partner and we are in the same PNR.  We also purchased Early-bird.  Do we have to check in separately or is it done simultaneously?