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Boarding the Plane

You will be assigned a boarding group (A, B, or C) and position (1-60+) upon check in. Your unique group and position combination (for example: A35) will be displayed on your boarding pass and represents a reserved spot in the boarding group at the gate. Numbered posts in each of our gate areas indicate where to line up. When your boarding group is called, find your designated place in line and board the aircraft in numerical order with your boarding group.

Southwest-operated flights have open seating. Once onboard, simply choose any available seat and stow your carryon items in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.

If you have an eligible reservation you may check in for your flight online at beginning 24 hours prior to your flight's scheduled departure time. You may also check in and/or get a boarding pass upon arrival at the airport at a self-service kiosk (where available), the Skycap podium (in select locations), the Southwest Airlines Ticket Counter, or at your departure gate.

If you purchased EarlyBird Check-In® or are a Rapid Rewards A-List Preferred or A-List Member, we'll automatically reserve your boarding position, allowing you the flexibility to print your boarding pass any time prior to your departure.*

*You must retrieve a boarding pass and be present in the gate area ten minutes prior to departure.

Available boarding positions will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis upon check in. The earlier you check in, beginning 24 hours before your departure, the lower your boarding group and position will be.

You may also purchase the Business Select® Fare to guarantee receipt of an A1 - A15 boarding pass. Alternately, if you are a Rapid Rewards A-List Preferred or A-List Member or purchase EarlyBird Check-In®, we'll automatically reserve your boarding position before general checkin begins. While this doesn't guarantee an "A" boarding position, it does ensure that you will receive the earliest position available. Don't forget that you must still retrieve a boarding pass and be present in the gate area at least ten minutes prior to departure.

Upgraded Boarding is an opportunity to secure an earlier boarding position in the A1 - A15 boarding group when available. Customers will have the option to purchase at the ticket counter or gate for $30, $40, or $50 per segment depending on Customer's itinerary. Upgraded Boarding secures you a position in the A1 - A15 group, but does not offer any of the other benefits associated with a Business Select Fare. A-List and A-List Preferred Members will continue to receive Priority Boarding as a benefit, and all Customers will continue having the opportunity to purchase EarlyBird Check-In when booking their travel. However, Customers can now also improve their boarding position at the gate on the day of travel with Upgraded Boarding when available.

Our friendly Agents will make an announcement in the gate area for each boarding group to assemble. When your group is called, line up in numerical order by the column that represents your boarding position (columns are labeled in groups of five), and board the airplane. There are also monitors at the front of the lines that display the group that is currently boarding.

30 minutes prior to scheduled departure time: We may begin boarding as early as 30 minutes prior to your flight’s scheduled departure time. We encourage all passengers to plan to arrive in the gate area no later than this time.

10 minutes prior to scheduled departure time: All passengers must obtain their boarding passes and be in the gate area available for boarding at least 10 minutes prior to your flight’s scheduled departure time. If not, Southwest may cancel your reserved space, and you will not be eligible for denied boarding compensation.

If you do not plan to travel on your flight: In accordance with Southwest’s No Show Policy, if you are not planning to travel on any portion of this itinerary, please cancel your reservation at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled departure of your flight. Customers who fail to cancel reservations for a Wanna Get Away fare segment at least ten (10) minutes prior to travel and who do not board the flight will be considered a no show, and all remaining unused Wanna Get Away funds will be forfeited. All remaining unused Business Select and Anytime funds will be converted to reusable travel funds for the originally ticketed Passenger only. If you no show your reward travel reservation, the points will be redeposited to the purchaser’s Rapid Rewards account. Any taxes and fees associated with your reward travel reservation will be held for future use in the form of reusable travel funds under the name of the traveler(s).


Two adults traveling with a child six years old or younger may board during Family Boarding, which occurs after the “A” group has boarded and before the “B” group begins boarding. If the child and the adult are both holding an “A” boarding pass, they should board in their assigned boarding position.

Yes. However, in order to maintain the integrity of the boarding process, we ask that earlier boarding positions board with the later positions. For example, if a passenger is assigned position A16 and wants to board with a passenger assigned position A45, the passenger holding the A16 boarding pass should board with the A45 passenger.

Preboarding is available for Customers who have a specific seating need to accommodate their disability and/or need assistance in boarding the aircraft or stowing an assistive device. If a Customer with a disability simply needs a little extra time to board, we will permit the Customer to board before Family Boarding, between the “A” and “B” groups. Those Customers who need extra time to board will receive a new boarding pass with an extra time designation. The designation serves as notification to our Operations (boarding) Agent that the Customer should be permitted to board before Family Boarding.

We will allow one travel companion to act as an “attendant” and preboard with a Customer with a disability. In most cases, the Customer requires assistance from only one other person, and any additional family members or friends are asked to board with their assigned group.

Customers should request preboarding from our Customer Service Agent at the ticket counter or departure gate. Our Agents are trained to ask fact-finding questions to determine if the Customer meets the qualifications described above. Those Customers who qualify for preboarding will receive a new boarding pass with a preboarding designation. The designation serves as notification to our Operations (Boarding) Agent that the Customer should be permitted to preboard.

It's important to keep in mind that Customers who preboard may not occupy an exit seat.

Note: Customers who are preboarding because of a need for a specific seat onboard the aircraft should speak with the Operations (Boarding) Agent prior to the start of preboarding to alert the Agent to the seating need.

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