Southwest Airlines has morphed from an airline that focused on leisure travel to one that has a viable schedule for business travelers to many destinations across the US. Along the way, they’ve stayed pretty lean as it pertains to fees. They did create fares tailored to business travelers (Business Select). And, they also opened up an option to upgrade your board position on your day of travel.
This is different from Early Bird boarding. Upgraded boarding means paying a fee that allows you to jump the boarding queue. You receive a boarding pass in the first 15 numbers or so, depending on how many Business Select tickets are sold for that flight. It’s not a guarantee of an exit row aisle seat. But, it’s pretty close. Southwest has charged $30 or $40 for this service in the past.
Now, according to Tim at Smarter Travel, they’ve added a $50 tier to the mix. I’m not sure what routes this is applicable on. It could be very long routes or routes with very high demand (or both). This is per flight, not for connecting flights or a round-trip.
Is It Worth It?
Southwest generally only has 3 rows per plane that qualify as “extra legroom”. You’ve got two exit rows and the bulkhead row. If we use United Airlines’ Economy Plus product as a comp, I’ve seen prices as high as $90+ for a one-way flight in Economy Plus. In that context, paying $50 to Southwest is probably a better deal than United on certain routes. But, does that make it a good deal?
I’m 5’9″, so extra legroom isn’t as big a concern for me. For folks over 6′, I suspect travelers with a bit of extra cash would spring for as much as $50. That puts this option firmly in the “your mileage may vary” category. Business Select fares can sometimes be significantly more than Wanna Get Away fares. So, I could see a strategy where someone buys the Wanna Get Away option and hopes to add on Upgraded Boarding at the airport to save money.
Southwest usually only has a handful of folks who purchase Business Select on the handful of flights I take on a yearly basis. If that’s an accurate sample, then Southwest’s Upgraded Boarding is a virtual guarantee of extra legroom. It just might cost you a bit more on your next flight.
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