Editor's Note: This is a recurring post that will be updated regularly with new information.
Few airlines can match the customer loyalty of Southwest Airlines, recognized as one of America's most family-friendly airline brands. The airline gets things right in many ways that other airlines don't: It offers two free checked bags per person; make it easier for parents to sit with young children; not charge any onerous fees; have an easy way to gain elite status; offering a family of credit cards; and the passengers three (soon four) Reservation Fees.
Related:Battle of the Airlines: Why I think Southwest Airlines is the best
Southwest thoughunique boarding processIt doesn't assign travelers specific seats -- a process that can be daunting for first-time travelers, infrequent flyers, or just newcomers to the airline. Do not be afraid. Our comprehensive guide answers all your questions about getting the best seat on your next Southwest Airlines flight.
For more TPG news delivered to your inbox each morning,Subscribe to our daily newslettereDownload the free TPG app!
Related:These are the best Southwest Airlines credit cards
How Southwest Boarding works
Like many other airlines, Southwest begins boarding approximately 30 minutes before departure. That's where the similarities end, as Southwest's boarding process is truly different than any other airline. The airline has an open seating plan, which means you can sit wherever you want: right in the front, far back, or right in the middle. There are no assigned seats - not even in the front of the plane. It is the first to arrive, the first to be seated.
There are of course some exceptions: if you wantsit in an exit row, You must still meet the age of the Federal Aviation Administration andphysical requirements. This should go without saying, but you cannot sit on another person's lap unless you are under 2 years old. If someone else is already in the seat you want, you must select a new seat.
Related:How to change or cancel a Southwest Airlines flight
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
If you can choose any available seat, who will board the plane first? The shipping order is as follows:
- Pre-boarding (persons requiring special seating to accommodate a disability, persons requiring assistance with boarding and stowage of an assistive device, and unaccompanied minors).
- Group A 1-60.
- A-List/A-List Preferred, active military service and family allowance (individuals with children under the age of six).
- Group B 1-60.
- Group C 1-60.
Southwest assigns each passenger a boarding group letter - A, B, or C - and a position from 1 to 60 when the traveler checks in for their flight. The unique boarding code, e.g. B. A45 or B52, is printed directly on the boarding pass and represents the person's place in the queue at the gate.
At the gate, passengers line up in single file on gray metal pillars matching their boarding group letter and boarding position. Boarding is called in groups of 30 (A1-A30 followed by A31-A60 and so on). However, three categories of passengers override A-C Group's standard boarding process: pre-boarding travelers, families, and A-List/A-List Preferred members.
Passengers who are allowed to board before everyone else, including Group A. These are travelers who require a specific seat to accommodate a disability, or who require assistance to get to their seat or to stow an assistive device. Pre-boarding is based on need and is determined by the gate agent before boarding begins. Pre-boarding priority passengers can board with an attendant for assistance and are not allowed to sit in the exit row.
Young families are also given special careBoarding Privileges, but only a little later in the process. Family boarding occurs immediately after Group A boarding is completed; Eligible family groups include up to two adults per child under 6 years old. Older children with the family can also board at this time, but other family members such as grandparents or aunts and uncles are welcome to board as per the assignment on their boarding passes.
Active military personnel may also board at this time.
A-List and A-List Preferred members are said to be given the "best available boarding pass number" but occasionally receive a Group B or C boarding designation. But as a nod to their elite status, they may be given "the best available boarding pass number" Receive Queue” at any time after Group A boarding is complete.
What comes after boarding?
Since there are no assigned seats on Southwest flights, those boarding the aircraft select their seats first. Typically, nobody particularly likes the middle seat, so these are left for Group C latecomers towards the end of the boarding process.
As soon as you board the plane, you can choose your desired seat. However, there is a lot of pressure to decide on the fly where you will spend the entire flight. You should read on to know which places to look out for in advance. Knowing a little bit about Southwest aircraft configurations is really helpful in deciding which seat is the best. As you will see in the charts below, Southwest currently has three different versions of the Boeing 737.
Southwest has 506 Boeing 737-700 aircraft, making up more than two-thirds of its current operating fleet. Each Southwest 737-700 has 143 seats in the following configuration:
Southwest has 207 Boeing 737-800s in its fleet. Each Southwest 737-800 has 175 seats in the following configuration:
Boeing 737 MAX 8
Southwest has 34 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft - with 175 seats.
Where's the best seat in the Southwest?
Now that you know how airplanes are configured, what's the best seat in the Southwest? The answer is of course very subjective. Richard Kerr, former editor of TPG Loyalty and Engagement, is a big fan of thelast line in the southwest plan, especially with young children in tow. A lot of other people think the back row is the worst place imaginable.
TPG Editor-in-Chief and Southwest-based expert Benét Wilson swears by sitting in the first five rows (minus the bulkhead seats), even with kids.
If you're on an uncrowded flight, you're likely to find fewer people in the back of the plane - potentially leaving the seat next to you empty.
Let's say you're in group A and the plane is your oyster. where should you go Here are some options.
If you are waiting for a possible middle vacancy
If you're a group of three (or a multiple of three), consider taking the entire line - since all Southwest planes are three and three. This ensures that no one is sitting next to you.
If you don't fall into this category, choose a window seat. This gives you more privacy and ensures that nobody climbs on you to get in or out of your seat. You also won't have a cabin crew and other passengers running up and down the aisle alongside you.
So it's up in the air whether you should sit in the front or the back. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Sitting in the front means that anyone boarding the plane after you will walk past you while they choose their seat. But it also means that when you disembark, you'll be one of the first to leave the plane.
The rear part of the plane, on the other hand, can accommodate fewer passengers. On Southwest planes, people tend to take the first available seat(s) they see, which usually means there are more passengers in the first half of the plane than the second half. There is also a greater chance that the seat next to you will remain vacant on an uncrowded flight.
However, on the Boeing 737-800, there are two bathrooms at the rear of the aircraft and only one bathroom at the front. Therefore, more passengers are more likely to go to the back of the plane when they need to use the restroom.
If the flight isn't full, I personally always choose the back of the plane on the southwest.
Related:7 tips for choosing the perfect airplane seat
If you want legroom
Point to Seat 12A, the window seat on the right side of row 12 when facing the back of the aircraft on the Southwest Boeing 737-700. Row 11 is an "editing row" with only two seats on the right-hand side, meaning seat 11A is "missing". So the lucky passenger in 12A has room for two seats to stretch out – a godsend for tall travellers. However, if you're in one of Southwest's newest -800 and MAX8 models, the best seats are in rows 14 and 15.
When you want to get off the plane quickly
Select row 1. There is no storage under the seat in front of you, but you will be among the first to disembark and gain extra legroom as a reward for packing light. After boarding, go straight left or right.
when you are thirsty
Choose row 1, 9, or 17. Southwest flight attendants divide cabin service into three sections, and these are typically the rows where beverage and snack service begins.
If you only want one seat neighbor
Point to row 11, seats B and C. On the Southwest Boeing 737-700, this is a two-seat row, so you don't have to worry about sharing a seat with a third person.
If you sit straight
Select the last line or the line before the output line. Whileright to sit backIt's a much-controversial privilege among budget travelers, there are travelers who don't mind kicking back during the flight.
This is how you get the best seat in the Southwest
If you're new to Southwest, you might be wondering how to get the absolute best seat (aka first boarding position). Here are some tactics:
- Please check in exactly 24 hours before departure.
- Maintain Elite A-List status.
- Buy an early bird check-in, boarding upgrade or a business select ticket.
- Book the first flight of the day.
The best way to get the seat you want is to board as early as possible. But having a Group A boarding pass doesn't always mean you'll get the seat you want.
Check in 24 hours in advance
When every dollar really counts and you've purchased Southwest's lowest Wanna Get Away fares, the easiest way to get the first available boarding pass is to check-in on your Southwest flight exactly 24 hours before your scheduled flight. . Set an alarm to go off a minute before check-in, or have your mom call you at that time—whatever it takes. Even if you wait a minute or two past the check-in time, you can be significantly lower on the boarding list.
Please note that if you are using the Southwest Companion Pass for another passenger in your group, you will need to ship them separately as they will have a different confirmation number.
Related:13 lessons from 13 years of Southwest Companion Passes
Compare early bird check-in
For $15 to $25 (depending on distance) per person, each way, Southwest's computers can automatically check you in 36 hours before departure, instead of just 24 hours. That means you usually get a better entry position than if you checked in 24 hours in advance. Read more about whetherEarly bird check-in at additional costthe investment.
Business Select fares are automatically assigned boarding priority A1-A15
Even with the best memories, an instant check doesn't guarantee you'll receive a Group A rating - or even a Group B rating in extreme cases. Priority boarding points marked A1-A15, regardless of check-in Time.
Earn Southwest Elite status
Thereafter, Southwest frequent flyers who have achieved Elite A-List or A-List Preferred status will receive priority, including the "Best Available Boarding Pass Number".
Buy an A1-A15 boarding pass at the gate
If you just don't like the number assigned, upgrade boarding is sometimes available at the airport on the day of departure for $30-$50 per way per person if slots A1 through A15 are still available. Even if you don't want to spend that money, know that bothSouthwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit CardeSouthwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Cardcome with four of these A1-A15 slots each year (which is why these are some of oursSouthwest Family Favorite Cards).
Finding the perfect seat can be more important than ever, so this is a huge benefit of maps. In addition, the current subscription offer in theSouthwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Cardis a limited-time offer: get the Companion Pass® valid through 2/28/24 (excluding taxes and fees at $5.60 one-way) plus 30,000 points after you've spent the first three months Spent $4,000 on purchases after opening an account.
Related:The Best Southwest Airlines Credit Cards in 2022
Why you can see some passengers already on board
Sometimes you'll board a Southwest flight and already see passengers on the plane, even if you have a coveted A1 boarding point. This is because many Southwest flights make multiple stopovers in cities between their departure and final destinations. Travelers traveling to their final destination remain on board when others disembark midway. This becomes increasingly common later in the day as delays and cancellations sometimes occur and travelers are eventually diverted to other flights.
Related:This is the difference between a non-stop flight and a direct flight
There's not much you can do if someone is already in the seat you want. If you're one of the last people on the plane, we recommend you just smile, say thank you for boarding, and make the best of the situation for the next few hours.
There are some tricks you can use if you really want to sit down with someone else. Remember, the only time your wish is a worthy request is when you are the only caregiver for a young child or someone who otherwise needs your care. In these cases, Southwest asks other travelers to offer their seats and change positions to allow a parent to sit with an infant or toddler — but that's not a fair request to other passengers when you just want to cuddle with your significant other.
Can you reserve seats in the South West?
There is no definitive Southwest policy for or against saving seats. Kerr calls this "Südwest-Shuffle’, where a passenger boards earlySave seatsto the other travelers in the group, as you would at the cinema.
if you decideSave seatsto your fellow passengers, be considerate - don't get in, spread your belongings over six seats in two separate rows and wait for other travelers to pass without looking at you badly. You are not entitled to these seats if someone else really insists on being seated there and your companions have not managed to board the plane yet.
Print out this Southwest cheat sheet
If you're new to Southwest, save this Essential Info chart to your phone so you can board your next flight like a pro.
Southwest's boarding process can be intimidating or possibly frustrating for some unaccustomed to it, but there's a lot to appreciate once you get the hang of it. As a general rule, Southwest travelers have fewer carry-on bags for overhead bins due to their generous free checked baggage policy, and the open seats allow people to self-organize when boarding the plane.
So next time you fly Southwest, check out this guide and you'll know which seats to choose and how to get there as efficiently as possible.
Additional reporting by Benet J. Wilson.
Editorial Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are solely those of the author, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by any such entity.