Southwest Airlines is modifying its distinctive boarding process by reducing the availability of paid "EarlyBird" options, limiting passengers' ability to purchase priority boarding privileges.
The airline clarified that while "EarlyBird" has not been entirely eliminated, it is now offering fewer spots for purchase on select flights, routes, or specific days, as part of ongoing product enhancements. Consequently, the service may be unavailable to some customers seeking to buy it.
The reduction in early-boarding spots, which became effective on August 15, 2023, was not accompanied by specific numerical details, according to a spokesperson for the Dallas-based airline.
Differing from many other major U.S. carriers, Southwest Airlines doesn't assign seats in advance. Instead, passengers board in the order of their check-in and select seats upon boarding.
EarlyBird buyers have been able to secure a favorable place in the boarding sequence by checking in before the standard 24-hour check-in window opens. This option has been popular among travelers desiring window or aisle seats near the front, along with ample overhead bin space for their belongings.
The cost for EarlyBird starts at $15, with pricing varying based on flight duration and demand. Southwest passengers also have alternatives like purchasing the premium "Business Select" fare, which includes one of the first 15 boarding positions.