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The Single Worst Mistake You Can Make When Flying Southwest

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On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I chose to fly Southwest’s new Newark (EWR) to Las Vegas (LAS) route. I’ve flown Southwest a few times in the past so I am familiar with the airline’s boarding process and how you need to check in exactly 24 hours before your flight to get a decent position in the boarding line. If you don’t, it’s likely you’ll only get to choose between middle seats or something perhaps a bit more desirable at the back of the plane.

SWABoarding
Southwest’s boarding process is orderly but you can get stuck with a bad seat if you don’t check-in on time.

On this trip, however, I only checked in 22 hours before my flight was scheduled to depart — and boy did I pay the price for that misstep. I was designated position B34, which put me boarding the aircraft at about half way through the process. I was optimistic that I’d be able to find a window or aisle seat near the middle of the plane. Upon boarding, however, I walked by row after row of passengers seated at the window and the aisle, with just the middle seat open. Determined to avoid the middle seat, I kept walking towards the back of the plane until I found a window seat — in the very last row.

SWABackRow
My untimely check-in resulted in me occupying a seat in the last row of the plane.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to avoid the situation I got myself into. Flyers who have A-List status with the airline are entitled to priority boarding on every flight. Another option is purchasing the Business Select fare, which comes bundled with a guaranteed A1 – A15 boarding position. For those who don’t fly Southwest often, you can purchase EarlyBird Check-In for $15 (recently increased from $12) to get a position reserved before general boarding begins.

If you fly Southwest often, consider the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, which is currently offering a 40,000-point sign-up bonus after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. Those bonus points count toward the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to bring along a companion for free each time you travel (plus taxes), even when redeeming points.

What’s your strategy for securing a good spot in the Southwest boarding line?

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

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  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • Chip-enabled cards with 24/7 fraud monitoring
  • Points Don't Expire as long as your card account is open, No Blackout Dates, Bags Fly Free®
  • 6,000 points after your cardmember anniversary every year
  • 2 points/$1 spent on Southwest® purchases and participating Hotel and Car Rental partners
  • 1 point/$1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable $99 0% Excellent Credit