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How to Upgrade Your Southwest Boarding Zone

Sign that says Upgrade your Southwest boarding position A1-A15

Have you ever ended up in the back of the B boarding zone, or God forbid, the C boarding zone on Southwest Airlines?

We have quite a few times, some because we messed up times zones and did our Southwest check-in too late.

While other times, we checked in right at the 24-hour mark only to still end up in the back of B.

The good news is that sometimes you can upgrade your Southwest boarding zone to A1-15 online within 24 hours of your flight’s scheduled departure time.

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In fact, you can purchase upgraded boarding, if available, when checking in online. After you check in, you’ll see an option to purchase upgraded boarding.

If you hold Early Bird Check-in, which costs $15 per direction per person, you are checked in after Southwest Business Select fare holders and after Southwest A-List and A-List Preferred elite loyalty members.

While that does NOT guarantee you A1-15, it does mean you’ll be ahead of everyone else checking in on Southwest’s cheapest Wanna Get Away fares.

However, you can only purchase Early Bird Check-in up until 36 hours ahead of your departure time and not after.

SO… if you hold a bad boarding position and it’s too late to purchase Early Bird, what to do?

Purchase upgraded boarding on Southwest’s website 24 hours before your flight departs or, better yet, purchase upgraded boarding right after you check in.

They will sell upgrades for any unsold Business Select seats for a fee of $30-50.

Business Select passengers are supposed to get A1-15 boarding positions, so if all 15 are not sold, you can purchase one! If they are sold, you are out of luck, but on several recent flights, we found that it was an option.

If you’re unable to purchase upgraded boarding online, you can try to ask the ticket agent at the gate if you can upgrade once you’re at the airport.

But it’s much more likely that you’ll be able to get upgraded boarding if you do it online 24 hours before your flight.

And, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that your boarding position is secure!

Have you ever upgraded your boarding position? Was it worth it?

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8 thoughts on “How to Upgrade Your Southwest Boarding Zone”

  1. I’m pretty sure I’ve purchased Early Bird Checkin much more than 36 hours before the flight. It asks you to purchase it when you purchase your ticket. Has the policy changed?

  2. We forgot to check in for a flight recently and ended up in the end of the C zone! We were worried about not getting seats with our kids and scared no one would trade so upgraded one of us for $40 and saved seats at the back of the plane for the rest. It was worth it for us and lucky that noone seemed to mind me holding the seats. I didn’t sit in the business select seats though. When I upgrade to business select though for the $40, am I supposed to get the benefits such as free drink coupon or extra miles??

  3. Hi Megan, thanks for the question! No, unfortunately, you don’t get all the Business Select benefits, only the benefit of being A1-15 zone. Basically, they are just selling off the “zone” if it’s not full. But since you did not pay the full Business Select price, you won’t get the free drink, bonus miles, etc. Bummer!

  4. Tip: If you have the Southwest Priority Card, you get 4 upgraded Boardings per year. Just simply purchase with your Priority card and SWA will credit your account.


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