Is Southwest EarlyBird Check-In worth paying?

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There are a variety of reasons Southwest is one of our favorite airlines. To start, they offer the Southwest Companion Pass — one of the best deals in travel. Plus, Southwest is still the only airline that doesn’t charge for checked bags.

These aren’t the only ways in which Southwest does things differently. They do boarding differently, too. So it’s worth knowing about Southwest’s EarlyBird Check-In option.

We’ll tell you what you need to know here, so you can decide if it makes sense for you and your traveling companions.

What is EarlyBird Check-In?

With EarlyBird Check-In, you can pay $15 to $25 to check in 36 hours before your departure — 12 hours before general boarding becomes available. In theory, this will allow you to be given an earlier boarding assignment and in turn, get a better seat. 

Keep in mind, EarlyBird Check-In purchases are nonrefundable. So if there’s a chance you might change your flight itinerary, we’d recommend holding off from adding it to your reservation.

That said, if you make a change to your flight at least 25 hours before departure, you change to a flight that doesn’t depart for at least 25 hours, and your confirmation number stays the same, the EarlyBird Check-In should transfer over.

Is Southwest  EarlyBird Check-In worth it?

EarlyBird is popular with certain Southwest flyers who like to get to the overhead bin space first. Or if you want to sit together with family and friends.

But it’s worth noting that paying for EarlyBird does not guarantee you an “A” boarding position, so some travelers don’t think it’s worth paying extra for.

Eliyahu Yosef Parypa
(Photo by Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Shutterstock)

MMS writer Keith and his wife fly Southwest all the time because they have the Companion Pass, and they’ve never paid for EarlyBird check-in. Keith just sets an alarm for 24 hours prior to departure to check-in manually. And they’ve found that it’s rare that they don’t get a boarding position in the “A” or “B” group when they check-in right at the 24-hour mark.

Also, don’t forget about Family Boarding, which is available to those traveling with children 6 and under. With family boarding, eligible children, their siblings and up to two adults can board between the A and B groups. 

If cost isn’t an issue, EarlyBird Check-in might be worth it if you’re facing a long flight (Hawaii anyone?). Or, if you don’t qualify for Family Boarding and are concerned that you won’t be able to find seats together, it could be worth it.

How to get EarlyBird Check-In with Southwest

If you’d like to pay for EarlyBird Check-In, head to the EarlyBird page on Southwest’s site. Then, enter your name and confirmation number and pay the fee.

Fees are $15, $20, or $25 each way depending on the length of the flight and the demand for EarlyBird Check-In on your route.  

If you do decide to pay for EarlyBird, don’t forget to use a top travel card that reimburses miscellaneous airline fees, like the:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® ($300 annual travel credit each calendar year)
  • Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (up to $250 annual airline incidentals credit). Terms apply.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express (up to $200 annual airline fee reimbursement). Terms apply.

The information for the Hilton Aspire card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Best credit cards for Southwest flyers

There are a number of different Southwest credit cards, so you’re sure to find one that fits your needs. Southwest cards include:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card – Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card – Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card – Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card – Earn 60,000 Southwest points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card – Earn 80,000 Southwest points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

In addition to these great offers, any points you earn with these cards (welcome bonuses included!) will count toward the Companion Pass.

Bottom line

Earlybird check-on allows Southwest to check in early and (hopefully) secure a better seat and boarding position. Whether or not it’s worth paying for comes down to your budget and how important it is to ensure you and your travel companions sit together. 

Meghan Hunter is an editor for Million Mile Secrets. She covers points, miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels and general travel. Her work has also appeared in The Points Guy.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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