Southwest Transfarency a Thing of the Past
Southwest Airlines has quietly increased the upgraded boarding fee on some flights. It would previously cost up to $40 at the gate, but in some markets it has been increased to $50.
Southwest Boarding Process
If you’re not familiar with Southwest, the airline does not assign seats. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. People do not rush the plane and grab whatever seat they find while jumping over each other.
When you book a flight you are assigned a boarding group (A, B, or C) and position (1-60+) upon check in. Your unique group and position combination (for example: B22) will be displayed on your boarding pass and represents a reserved spot in the boarding group at the gate. Boarding positions within each group are based on factors such as frequent flier status, type of ticket and time of online check-in.
Numbered posts in each of our gate areas indicate where to line up. When your boarding group is called, you find your designated place in line and board the aircraft in numerical order with your boarding group. If you have B22, you would board 22nd in group B.
As you would imagine, those in Group A get the best seats and those in Group C get stuck in middle seats or can’t find seats next to each other. Business Select fares and those with status automatically go first.
Upgraded Boarding Fee
Upgraded boarding was introduced in 2013 as a way to monetize open spots in group A at the gate. Southwest started out with a price of $40 per person each way. In 2015 they added a $30 option on some flights. Now they have quietly introduced a $50 option as well. The new pricing is already showing on the Optional Travel Charges page on the Southwest website. The $50 fee will likely apply only to some of their markets.
Southwest keeps making these changes without any notice, and making “transfarency” a thing of the past. They added in dynamic pricing on award tickets a few years ago. Last year they made changing flights more difficult. And now they raised the upgraded boarding fee on some flights. Not the worst news, but it might catch some people by surprise when they’re asked to pay $50 instead of $40.
The upgraded boarding fee at the gate might not be worth it for everyone, especially on short flights. But if you’re flying for several hours and you’re stuck at the end of Group C, is might make sense. They also offer EarlyBird Check In, which costs $15 each way, but that only improves your place in line but doesn’t guarantee you Group A.