When you’re in Las Vegas and forget to purchase Early Bird Check-in on Southwest Airlines for your departing flight… it’s also easy to forget to manually check-in 24 hours in advance. In fact, it totally slipped my mind (perhaps it was the cocktails). By the time I remembered, their website was down for service so I had to call customer service. I was granted the dire boarding position of C22.

Anyone who flies Southwest knows that group C is an aggravating situation to be in especially when flying carry-on only. It is the very last boarding group, which means the entire plane less 38 or so people would find their seats before me. I am not a fan of unassigned seating, to say the least.

I wouldn’t care about a middle seat in the back of the plane, if I had time to check my luggage. But in this case, I had to get off the plane as soon as humanly possible and head straight home in order to make my daughter’s Girl Scout meeting. San Diego International Airport’s baggage claim is notoriously slow, and I didn’t have a minute to spare.

I was surprised by how much stress the C22 boarding position caused me, but it was likely due to a sub-par flight on the way up to Las Vegas that was delayed among other things.

At McCarran Airport, the Southwest Airlines gate agent made an announcement that early boarding positions were available for $40. If the Business Select seats are all sold in advance on a flight, this isn’t an option.

The flight from Las Vegas to San Diego is scheduled for just over an hour but is less than that in reality. Did I really need to spend $40?

I was the only one who paid the $40 for early boarding on the entire plane, despite the declaration that our flight was full. I paid with a credit card at the gate and a new boarding position was stapled on my existing ticket — A6. Cue the huge sigh of relief. The A7-A15 boarding positions behind me were empty.

Boarding the plane was obviously easy and I slipped my carry-on bag in wheels first, just like I did on the way up to Las Vegas and pretty much like I do on every flight. Strategically, I took the aisle seat in the second row and settled in to catch up on email before the plane left the gate.

During boarding, someone jammed their carry-on and other stuff in a manner that prevented our overhead bin from closing. My bag was moved a number of rows back before I could protest.

This means that I’d have to fight the stampede trying to disembark the plane in order to get my stupid carry-on that should have been in the second row in the bin above me. Believe me, it was awkward but I held my ground after the plane landed. I had to leave my other bag in my seat in order to do it and over my shoulder I heard a passenger report a “lost bag” to the flight attendant and had to scream across the plane that it was mine and to not touch it.

Early Boarding on Southwest Airlines is worth it if you:

  • are in a major hurry.
  • have a tight connection.
  • forgot to buy Early Bird Check-in.
  • checked in late and have a terrible boarding position.
  • prefer the first few rows of the plane.
  • don’t mind spending $40 (obviously).

Keep in mind that early boarding isn’t always available at the gate so you can’t count on it. Have you purchased early boarding on Southwest Airlines?

Southwest airplane flying into San Diego International Airport: Flickr/pfsullivan_1056

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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One Comment

  1. No I havent. But “lucky” for me I am a larger person, so with Southwest’s “person of size” policy I am able to request an additional free seat at the gate. I am given a new boarding pass that allows me to pre-board even before A1. I can take one person with me. They also give you a “reserved seat” sign to place on your free seat next to you. Flying is a pain, its an even bigger pain when you are bigger. Southwest is the only airline with a policy like this so they get all my praise and business.