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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.
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.
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.
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)