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Southwest Early Bird

The Southwest early bird & upgraded boarding fee has a higher cap now, a much higher cap. It seems like Southwest has continued to rachet the cost for these optional fees over the last few years. While they started out as a reasonable additional cost, they can now cost you upwards of $99 – $150 per use. That is in stark contrast to the humble beginnings of these fees. The good news is that they are still optional, and that they can be had for free with certain credit cards too.

Southwest Fees Increasing

Let's take a look at each of these fees, and where the new ceiling is with these recent increases. The floor still remains the same, and the cost will depend on which flight you are taking.

Southwest Early Bird Fee

The Southwest early bird fee allows you to skip checking in for your boarding space. The best practice is to check in 24 hours out, on the dot. The problem is that you could still get late B or early C boarding even when doing that. With early bird, Southwest will automatically check you in 36 hours before departure. Since many people can buy these, your boarding can still run into the early B boarding zone even with the head start on most of the passengers.

  • Southwest early bird will now be $15 – $99 each way, depending on the flight
    • It used to be $15 – $25
    • That is almost 4x the cost on the high end
Southwest Upgraded Boarding

Southwest upgraded boarding, on the other hand, should guarantee you a spot in the A1 – A15 boarding area. If you have to be on the plane first then this is your best bet.

  • Southwest upgraded boarding will now cost $30 – $149 per segment
    • It used to cost between $30 – $80
    • That is almost double the cost on the high end

Just The ToP End Is Changing

I should point out, once again, that even though the ceiling of these charges is increasing (substantially I might add), the floor stayed the same. How often will we actually see the price at the lower end is the question? They wouldn't add in the high end if they didn't plan on using it.

The real downer of these fees is that they are not refunded if you cancel the flight. While you will get the cost of the airfare back, or the taxes and fees, you will not receive a refund (or credit) for either of these fees if you cancel or change your flight.

Southwest Early Bird

How To Get These Perks For Free

You can get a few of these perks “for free” each year with the right Southwest credit card. I put for free in parenthesis since the cards do have an annual fee. Here are a list of the ones that have these perks included:

Personal Cards
Business Cards

Southwest Early Bird: ToP Thoughts

While is annoying seeing the Southwest early bird & upgraded boardings cost increased 2x – 4x on the high end, we will have to see how it plays out in practice. If the normal pricing is about where it was at before then this is a nothing burger. I have a feeling we will see more and more flights creep up towards the ToP end over time though. And having to pay $99 just so you don't have to wake up at 5AM while on vacation, to ensure you don't get a back middle seat on your return flight, is nutty in my opinion. Having said that, if you are diligent, or have the right credit card in your wallet, then you can skip this hoopla all together.

Let me know what you think of these increases over in the ToP Facebook Group.

HT: DDG

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