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Good news: You can now upgrade your Southwest boarding group online

Aug. 22, 2022
5 min read
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Today, Southwest Airlines "flipped the switch to turn on" its Digital Self Service Upgraded Boarding system, according to a company post on FlyerTalk. Passengers can now upgrade their tickets online to one Southwest's coveted A1-A15 boarding positions.

If you want to make sure you have overhead space for your carry-on or have a chance to snag your favorite seat, then this will be a great new feature for you. Previously, upgraded boarding could only be purchased at the airport.

Passengers can purchase these upgrades at $30 per segment, subject to availability. The price can increase based on the popularity and length of any given flight.

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Upgrades can be purchased 24 hours prior to departure, and will be sold until 30 minutes prior to departure, according to Southwest's FAQ page on boarding upgrades.

For details of the new upgrade system and benefits to Southwest Airlines credit card holders, read on.

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Southwest's new online boarding upgrade system

Southwest Upgraded boarding page (Screenshot via Southwest.com)

All Southwest passengers who have purchased their tickets in the fare classes of Anytime, Wanna Get Away, or Wanna Get Away Plus categories are eligible for the online upgrade program.

Upgrades can be purchased through the Southwest app or on the airline's website. Prices for the upgrade begin at $30 but are subject to dynamic pricing based on flight length and popularity.

If you've purchased a Business Select Fare, you're already in the A1-A15 boarding section and would not need to purchase the upgrade. Passengers booked in a Business Select fare have priority over those with upgrades in terms of boarding zone. Should all 15 Business Select Fares per flight be sold out, then no upgrades will be available for purchase for regular flight classes on that segment.

If the flight for which you have purchased an upgrade is canceled, the upgrade charge will be refunded (but you have to contact Southwest to ask for the refund, which seems like an unnecessary hassle).

Also note that should you change your flight after purchasing an upgrade, it will not work for your next flight, as it is non-transferable and non-refundable for any customer-based itinerary changes.

The upgrade system is separate from Southwest's EarlyBird Check-in program, which allows passengers to check in more than 24 hours in advance, as EarlyBird customers would still be restricted from getting one of the A1-A15 seats (but can still pay for the upgrade if they choose).

Finally, this is in addition to (rather than replacing) the existing system. You can still purchase upgrades to the A1-A15 boarding section at the airport, subject to availability.

Related: Southwest Airlines flight credits will no longer expire, an industry first

Benefits for Southwest cardholders

(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

This change to online boarding upgrades should be cheered by some Southwest credit cardholders. And it may also inspire those frequent Southwest flyers to get one.

Both the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card include four upgraded boarding benefits per year. In the past, a cardmember would have to request to upgrade their boarding group at the airport, pay for the upgrade with an eligible card and be reimbursed in the form of a statement credit.

In theory, these cards should reimburse the cost of an upgrade if it's processed online too. However, the terms and conditions for each card still state that upgrades should be processed at the airport, as noted by View from the Wing:

"Each anniversary year you will be reimbursed for the purchase of up to 4 Upgraded Boardings which are positions A1-A15. Upgraded Boardings may be purchased at the departure gate or ticket counter on the day of travel only, when available. Price of Upgraded Boardings is based on your itinerary. Anniversary year means the year beginning with your account open date through the first statement date after your account open date anniversary, and the 12 monthly billing cycles after that each year."

However, we expect this terminology to change now that you can upgrade online. Additionally, online upgrades may be already coded the same as airport upgrades on a credit card statement and hence reimbursed properly.

Bottom line

Southwest is finally selling upgraded boarding spots online rather than limiting them to the airport. This is great for frequent Southwest flyers, as it gives a new way to secure a better seat on the only major U.S. airline with an open seating policy. Plus, if you have a premium Southwest credit card, your boarding upgrade benefit may have just become easier to use.

Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh.

Featured image by Southwest airplane (Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best for Southwest business travelers
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X points on Southwest® purchases.
3XEarn 3X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car partners.
2XEarn 2X points on rideshare.
2XEarn 2X points on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services.
1X1X points on all other purchases.

Intro offer

80,000 points
Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Annual Fee

$199

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

Business owners can justify the $199 annual fee after they take a look at the mile-long list of benefits that come with this card. For starters, you'll get 9,000 bonus points each account anniversary that's worth $135 according to TPG valuations. Additionally, get a free Global Entry or TSA Precheck every five years, up to 365 inflight Wi-Fi credits each year and four annual upgraded boardings when available. Tied together with Chase's expansive travel and purchase protections, this travel card is a terrific hybrid for business owners and frequent flyers.

Pros

  • 9,000 points on each cardmember anniversary
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit (up to $100)
  • 4 upgraded boardings a year

Cons

  • $199 annual fee means only those loyal to Southwest will truly benefit
  • Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • Earn 4X points on Southwest® purchases.
  • Earn 3X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car partners.
  • Earn 2X points on rideshare.
  • Earn 2X points on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services and 1X points on all other purchases.
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® Fee Credit.
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X points on Southwest® purchases.
3XEarn 3X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car partners.
2XEarn 2X points on rideshare.
2XEarn 2X points on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services.
1X1X points on all other purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

    80,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $199
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

Business owners can justify the $199 annual fee after they take a look at the mile-long list of benefits that come with this card. For starters, you'll get 9,000 bonus points each account anniversary that's worth $135 according to TPG valuations. Additionally, get a free Global Entry or TSA Precheck every five years, up to 365 inflight Wi-Fi credits each year and four annual upgraded boardings when available. Tied together with Chase's expansive travel and purchase protections, this travel card is a terrific hybrid for business owners and frequent flyers.

Pros

  • 9,000 points on each cardmember anniversary
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit (up to $100)
  • 4 upgraded boardings a year

Cons

  • $199 annual fee means only those loyal to Southwest will truly benefit
  • Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • Earn 4X points on Southwest® purchases.
  • Earn 3X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car partners.
  • Earn 2X points on rideshare.
  • Earn 2X points on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services and 1X points on all other purchases.
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® Fee Credit.