Would You Spend $50 To Board A Southwest Flight Early?

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.

The post Would You Spend $50 To Board A Southwest Flight Early? was published first on Pizza in Motion


  1. “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.”
    I realize that Southwest doesn’t have long-haul flights, but you should know that UA Economy Plus is normally over $200 for some seats on one-way long-haul flights.

  2. I flew LAS-MDW this past Monday and it was $50 to upgrade that leg. We had A31 & A32 and would have been given A9 & A10 so didn’t pull the trigger. We still ended up in an exit row. There were still isle and window exit row seats until somewhere near B-something i’m guessing.

  3. I actually have a post on this in the hopper when I get back home! I actually just did this for PHX-MCO because the situation was perfect for it. Got the best seat on the plane as a result (exit seat with no seat in front). I think it is worth it for certain situations for sure!

  4. Nope. Wouldn’t pay. I am attracted to southwest for the fares and the flexibility. If checking in 24 hours isn’t a pain enough, to now have to pay $50 for a chance at an exit row, is ridiculous. It’s bad enough when I check in “exactly” at 24 hours and still get the B group, I have to board behind every “family” going to or coming back from Disney.

  5. I pay for Business Select. It works out well except for the rest of the boarding procedure, you agonize over every passenger coming down the aisle hoping the wrong one doesn’t next to you, particularly after the aisle seat is filled. Once the worst case scenario turned into a big plus. A huge man was coming down the aisle. He picked my row. However, the aisle seat was still open so he sat there. No one wanted to sit next to that guy so the middle seat stayed unoccupied. I looked around the plane. There was only one open seat and it was next to me.

Leave a Reply