How to Automatically Check-In for a Southwest Flight Exactly 24 Hours Before Departure for Free! [Now Expired]

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Update:  Southwest didn’t like the automatic check-in and and had it taken down.

Emily and I love traveling on Southwest Airlines!

The flight attendants and ground crew are friendly, the boarding process is among the most efficient, they don’t fly small regional jets, you can check 2 bags for free, they have a lot more non-stop flights than other airlines, and they don’t file for bankruptcy.

And the Southwest Companion Pass which lets Emily travel for free on both paid and award tickets is the best airline perk I’ve earned.  2 Southwest 50,000 point credit cards and 10,000 transferred points can get you at least ~$3,340 in free flights!

Southwest Boarding Groups

Southwest has 3 boarding groups:

  • The “A” group which boards the plane first
  • Followed by the “B” group
  • And then the “C” group

Each boarding group has room for 60 people.  You should try to be in the “A” boarding group or in the 1st half of the “B” boarding group if you want:

  • An exit row or bulkhead seat with extra leg room
  • To sit towards the front of the plane (so that you can leave the plane quicker)
  • To sit next to your traveling companion
  • To ensure enough room for your carry-on bags

Checking-In 24 Hours Before Travel

However, your boarding group is determined by how early you check-in for your Southwest flight.  Check-in opens 24 hours before the 1st segment of your flight unless you:

  • Paid a lot more money for a Business Select fare which gets you priority boarding in the A1 to A15 boarding group
  • Paid $10 for EarlyBird Check-In
  • Have a connecting flight which hasn’t yet opened for general check-in, but your earlier flight is within 24 hours for check-in

I want to get in the “A” boarding group, but I’m too cheap to pay the extra $10 for EarlyBird check-in.

So I set an alert on my Outlook calendar and on my iPhone 5 minutes before it is time to check-in for my Southwest flight.  I also store the flight number and confirmation code to make it easier to check-in.

I then spend the next few minutes refreshing the screen trying to check-in exactly 24 hours before my flight.  In my experience, I can usually count on getting a seat in the exit row or next to Emily if we’re before the B15 boarding group.

But there’s an easier way to automatically check-in to a Southwest flight for free!

How to Check-in 24 Hours Before For Free

Travel By Points wrote about a great website called “Check In To My Flight” which automatically checks you in for your Southwest flights for free!

This will save me a lot of time and frustration so I entered in the flight information for my future flights.

All you have to do is enter your flight confirmation and departure time together with your name and email address.  Check In To My Flight will then automatically check you in and send you an email that you are checked in.  However, you still have to print out your boarding pass, just as you normally would do.

Southwest Early Check In

Automatically Checks You In For Free!

Check In To My Flight is not affiliated or endorsed by Southwest and is developed by Nikil Viswanathan, a Master’s student in computer science at Stanford and who has worked for Facebook, Google, Microsoft and other tech firms.

Some folks will be wary of submitting your data to a college student’s project, but do what’s comfortable and what makes sense for you.  I’m comfortable sharing my flight information and email address with a stranger, because I’d love to save some time.  But do your own research before using the application.

I don’t expect this to last very long because Southwest doesn’t like others to access their systems and has been successful in preventing companies, such as Award Wallet, from tracking Southwest points.  This also eats into profits from Southwest’s Early Bird boarding as well, so they have a strong incentive to unleash the lawyers.

Tips

1.   Check-in Separately.  If you have booked a round-trip with the same confirmation code for all segments, remember to enter your information in Check In To My Flight twice.

Once for the outbound flights, and again for the return.

2.   Time Zones.  Be sure to enter in the correct time and the correct time zone for your departing flight.

For example, if you fly from Kansas City to Seattle, your departure time zone is CST and the time zone of your return flights is PST.

3.  Changing Flight Times.  Flight schedules change, so I wouldn’t use this for flights which I’ve booked months in advance.  Instead, I’d submit my information to Check In To My Flight just a few days before departure to be automatically checked into my flight.

Bottom Line

Traveling on Southwest just got better because I no longer have to worry about checking-in to my Southwest flight exactly 24 hours before departure!

(Hat Tip to Travel By Points)

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29 responses to “How to Automatically Check-In for a Southwest Flight Exactly 24 Hours Before Departure for Free! [Now Expired]

  1. @MMS.
    Thanks for this tip.

    I only now wonder how long will it be, before the Flyer Talk community comes on here to complain about you providing another tidbit of great info that will help but only a small percentage of the flying public.

    ;-)

  2. not just AwardWallet… there have been tons of these before and Southwest always shuts them down very quickly… nothing to see here.

  3. Wonder how long it is before Southwest blocks requests from his site. Wasn’t there something like this in the past that got shut down because the airlines didn’t want people doing this?

    If it gets really popular then in theory most people on a flight would use it, which would greatly reduce its usefulness and/or risk ticking off other passengers. I would think, in general, people are okay being in C if they realize they forgot to check in, but not if everyone else just automated the process.

  4. This guy will be getting a nastygram from WN’s lawyers soon.

  5. Yeah, he can expect that nastygram in a matter of days.

    They shut down these services before — and that was before they started charging $10 to do what he does!

  6. Will be shut down in no time by SW especially after it is now on the blogs. Nothing to see here, move along, there were a couple sites already and they did all get shut down in the past.

  7. *groan*

    Another millionmileclub post with no use other than to drive traffic to his site.

  8. Hopefully it lasts for a while before it is shut down.

  9. damn…this blog post is exactly 3 days too late! i would have LOVED to know about it this weekend!

    on a positive note…our next flight on SWA is at the beginning of NOV! Thanks for the info!

  10. If I were to have a flight from Seattle to Boston with a connection in Chicago, would I need to check in 24 hours before the flight from Chicago to Boston instead of 24 hours before the Seattle to Chicago flight?
    would I then limit my chances of getting A or B seating?

  11. * groan *

    Just another MMS post trying to help his readers travel more easily, relaying information from another blog with attribution. What a terrible thing.

  12. I used to fly SW until they shut down the PHL-BOS route, and now I rarely use them at all. The no assigned seat idea was confusing the first time I used it, but I like the idea.

  13. Corey….24 hours before the flight from SEATTLE departs.

  14. I just did this for a flight leaving at 10:40am PDT tomorrow. It didn’t work and did not automatically check me in.

  15. Tips: As WN will likely shut this down soon, still do your own check in close to 24 hr before departure – it does not hurt if you check in and the auto system checks in as well. Chance for Exit row small unless you are one of the first 15 to board, which will go to Busn. Select, A+, and Early Birds – all done before 24hr normal check in. If you have a 3+ hr flight, worth the $10 to get Early Bird and guaranteed of a non middle seat (and closer to front if you need to get off quicker for connection or whatever). Often Early Birds take up to B15 spot (up to 75 people in front of normal check in), especially on a long flight. Even using the auto check in, unlikely you will have a wide choice of seats on a long flight.

  16. We’ll see if this works i tried to set this up for my wife’s flight on the 19th it kept showing confirmed for my the th18th it so set it for the th20th and it showed conffirmed for the 19th so it did have a calendar glitch for me

  17. Just tried this earlier today for my sister flight from LAX. She got the group B boarding order. I entered the required info 2 hours prior to the 24 hour check in time.

  18. You seem to be running out of good things to say! Come on–start covering good stuff again.

  19. Great tip! Will definitely use this next month when I fly on SW! Thanks for sharing!

  20. Great tip. Thanks!

    In your experience, how quickly after the 24-hour window begins does group A fill up? What’s the fastest you’ve seen it fill up? Have you ever missed it and/or B?

  21. @Bored – What do you have in mind?

    @Joe – In my experience the A group goes within a few minutes of check in. I’ve been in the C group before and had a middle seat with Emily in another middle seat!

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  23. When this is shut down, don’t blame MMS or SW — blame Nikkil for creating a web app instead of an embedded one (or a distributed one). Surely the nastygrams Nikkil will get are only to be expected, as is the traffic and higher profile. If this ran open source from your phone (or computer), it would be much more difficult to block. Perhaps he’ll launch a v2.0.

  24. I try to check in 24 hours before my flights too. Just did it yesterday. I do the same thing as Darius. I set an alarm on my phone to go off 24 hours before my departure time. Then I would go on the site and get checked in. I did it on Friday and got assigned A36. If I am not in front of my computer, I will use the Southwest phone app to check in. It is very convenient.

  25. Now, I know why I am always in “C” group flying Southwest – I check in a few hours before the flight.

  26. @Lara – Thanks for the update! Sad to see it go, but glad that Nikil got a job offer from it!

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