Southwest Airlines Quietly Increases Early Check-In Fee

Image courtesy of David Transier

Unlike nearly all other domestic airlines, Southwest does not offer assigned seats and instead boards passengers in groups based on when they check-in for their trip. In some cases, travelers purchase an EarlyBird Check-In option so they can ensure an earlier boarding group without the hassle of setting their alarm clock to check in 24 hours prior. If you’re planning to go that route on your next trip, you should expect to spend a little bit more. 

Southwest Airlines quietly increased the fee passengers must pay for the ability to get a better position when it comes to boarding, The Arizona Republic reports.

Now, passengers opting for the EarlyBird Check-In must pay $15 per person each way — or $30 for early check-in on a roundtrip flight. That’s about a 20% increase over the previous $12.50 fee previously charged.

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Under the EarlyBird program, passengers who pay the fee are automatically assigned their boarding positions beginning 36 hours before the flight.

However, paying the fee doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be one of the first passengers to board. Customers who buy the airline’s priciest tickets and frequent fliers who have A-List Preferred or A-List status still board before the EarlyBird Check-In customers.

In 2014, the program, which debuted in 2009, was at the center of a lawsuit from passengers who claimed the program was “deceptive, fraudulent, and misleading.”

According to the complaint, after purchasing EarlyBird Check-In the travelers continued to wait for the “B” group boarding. They claim that the travelers in front of them had not all paid for the early access and were not Business Select passengers.

Still, The Republic reports that the fee, which started at $10, has been a source of revenue for Southwest, bringing in $280 million last year.

A spokesperson for Southwest tells Consumerist that the increase was implemented as part of the company’s typical review process.

“Every few years, we review the price of our services in order to align with market and operational conditions as well as uphold the quality of our offerings. Effective March 14th, Southwest is increasing the price of purchasing EBCI from $12.50 to $15.00 one-way per passenger in order to meet these objectives.”

Southwest Airlines increases early boarding fee [The Arizona Republic]

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