How to Hack Southwest’s Boarding Groups

How to Hack Southwest’s Boarding Groups

Flying with Southwest Airlines requires a bit of strategy when it comes to their unique boarding process. Unlike other airlines, Southwest does not assign seats. Instead, passengers are placed into boarding groups (A, B, or C) and numbers (1-60). At the gate, passengers line up in order of their assigned group and number and choose any available seat on the plane once boarding begins.

To grasp the significance of this process, think of it as a first-come, first-serve system. The earlier your boarding group and number, the more choices you'll have when selecting your seat. This is why many Southwest flyers are eager to find ways to secure a spot in the coveted A group. However, this can often seem like a game of luck, but with the right strategy, you can increase your chances of getting a preferable boarding position.

Understanding Southwest's boarding process is crucial to ensuring a comfortable flight. The airline's open seating policy can be daunting for first-time flyers or those used to the traditional assigned seating system. However, the process can be quite straightforward once you get the hang of it.

Understanding the importance of boarding groups

The importance of boarding groups in Southwest cannot be overstated. As mentioned, the airline uses an open seating policy. This means that your boarding group and number determine the selection of seats available to you. The earlier you board, the better your chances of getting your preferred seat, whether it's the window, aisle, or even an exit row for the extra legroom.

If you're traveling with a group or family and wish to sit together, being in an early boarding group is particularly important. Southwest doesn't have a policy that ensures families can sit together, so the earlier you board, the higher the chances of finding adjacent seating. This can significantly reduce the stress of traveling with young children or in a large group.

Moreover, boarding early also allows you to secure space in the overhead compartments for your carry-on baggage. As the flight fills up, so does the overhead storage space. By boarding earlier, you can avoid the hassle of searching for a spot for your luggage or having to check it in last minute.

How to ensure a good seat with Southwest

To ensure a good seat with Southwest, it's crucial to check-in as early as possible. Southwest's check-in opens 24 hours before the flight, and boarding positions are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Checking in right at the 24-hour mark typically gives you a higher chance of being in the A or B group.

Another way to ensure a good seat is by purchasing EarlyBird Check-In. This add-on service automatically checks you in 36 hours before your flight, giving you a higher boarding position. It's especially recommended for peak travel times when flights are likely to be full.

Lastly, consider obtaining a Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card. Cardholders receive four upgraded boardings per year, subject to availability. This can put you in the A1-A15 boarding group, giving you the first pick of seats on the plane.

Using SeatGuru to understand the Southwest seating layout

SeatGuru is an invaluable tool for understanding the seating layout of Southwest planes. This online platform provides detailed, color-coded seating charts for all Southwest aircrafts, along with reviews from other passengers.

Using SeatGuru, you can identify the best and worst seats on the plane. It provides information about legroom, proximity to the bathroom, and whether a seat reclines or not. This can help you make an informed decision when choosing your seat during boarding.

In addition, SeatGuru also provides information about in-flight amenities, such as Wi-Fi availability, power outlets, and in-flight entertainment. This can be particularly useful if you're planning to work or need to charge your devices during the flight.

Strategies for hacking Southwest’s boarding groups

There are several strategies that can increase your chances of getting into an early boarding group. As mentioned, checking in exactly 24 hours before your flight is crucial. Set a reminder or alarm to ensure you don't forget.

Purchasing EarlyBird Check-In or having a Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card also significantly improves your boarding position. While these options come at a cost, the benefits of a better seat and increased comfort during the flight may outweigh the expense.

Another strategy is to travel light. Passengers without carry-on luggage that needs to be stowed in the overhead compartment are eligible for Southwest's Family Boarding. This takes place after the A group and before the B group, regardless of your assigned boarding number.

Best time to check-in for Southwest flights

The best time to check-in for Southwest flights is exactly 24 hours before your scheduled departure time. Since Southwest assigns boarding positions on a first-come, first-served basis at check-in, the earlier you check-in, the better your boarding position.

For those who have purchased EarlyBird Check-In, Southwest automatically checks you in 36 hours before the flight. Although it's an additional cost, it can be worth the investment, especially during peak travel times or if you're particular about where you sit.

Remember, even if you've checked in online, you still need to arrive at the airport in plenty of time to go through security and get to your gate. Southwest recommends arriving at least 90 minutes before your flight's departure time.

How to use SeatGuru to select the best seats

SeatGuru is an essential tool for choosing the best seats on a Southwest flight. To use SeatGuru, simply enter the airline and flight number to view the seating chart for that specific aircraft. The seating chart is color-coded, showing which seats are considered good, standard, or poor.

Look for seats marked in green, as these are considered the best seats. These typically have more legroom, are away from high traffic areas, and have other desirable features. Seats marked in yellow or red have some disadvantages, such as limited recline, less legroom, or are near the lavatories.

Also, take the time to read passenger reviews on SeatGuru. These often provide useful insights about individual seats, such as whether the window alignment offers a good view or if a seat is particularly noisy.

Tips and tricks for a smooth boarding experience with Southwest

To ensure a smooth boarding experience with Southwest, be sure to arrive at your gate early. Southwest begins boarding about 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time, and being present early ensures you're ready to join your boarding group when it's called.

Another tip is to have a seat in mind before you board. Use SeatGuru to identify a few preferred seats and have a backup plan in case your first choice is taken. This prevents you from holding up the line as you decide where to sit.

Lastly, be respectful and patient. Southwest's boarding process can seem chaotic to the uninitiated, but everyone is trying to find their preferred seat and stow their luggage. A little patience and understanding go a long way in ensuring a smooth boarding process for everyone.

Potential pitfalls to avoid when trying to hack Southwest’s boarding groups

While trying to secure a good boarding position, there are a few potential pitfalls to avoid. Firstly, don't forget to check-in. Even if you've purchased your ticket, you still need to check-in to receive a boarding position. If you forget, you'll end up in the C group and likely have fewer seat choices.

Avoid being late to the gate. Southwest employs a strict boarding policy, and if you're not there when your group is called, you'll have to wait until all other groups have boarded. This can significantly limit your seat choices and overhead bin space.

Lastly, don't assume that purchasing EarlyBird Check-In guarantees an A group boarding position. While it improves your chances, it doesn't guarantee it as it's dependent on the number of other passengers who have also purchased EarlyBird Check-In or hold elite status.


Navigating Southwest's boarding process can initially seem daunting due to its open seating policy. However, with a bit of planning and strategic action, you can secure a good seat. Use SeatGuru to inform your seat selection and take advantage of Southwest's EarlyBird Check-In or Rapid Rewards Credit Card if possible. Remember to be patient and considerate during boarding, and you'll be well on your way to a pleasant Southwest flying experience.

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