Southwest Airlines check-in

How can I check in when traveling with Southwest Airlines?

Southwest Airlines offers the following check-in options:

  • Automatic Check-in, with Early Bird Check-in.
  • Online Check-in, on southwest.com.
  • Mobile Check-in, with the smartphone app or on mobile.southwest.com, from your mobile device.
  • Airport Check-in, in one of the following locations: ticket counter, self-service kiosks, Skycap podium, or departure gate.

When must I check in when traveling with Southwest Airlines?

Depending on the option you choose, you can check in anytime starting 24 hours (Online or Mobile check-in) and up to 10-20 minutes (at the boarding gate podium) prior to scheduled departure of your flight. Southwest Airlines reserves the right to restrict Boarding Pass distribution at the departure gate podium.

For international flights, the check-in deadline is at least 60 minutes before scheduled departure (at least 75 minutes before scheduled departure for flights departing Aruba). Passengers who do not meet this check-in limit will not be permitted to check in or board the flight.

Although you can check in anytime within the time limits above, you must know that Southwest Airlines has a “no assigned seat” policy. There are no reserved seats on Southwest Airlines flights. Each passenger chooses his seat upon boarding the plane. Boarding order is given by the time of check-in, when you are assigned a boarding group (A, B, or C) and a number (1-60). That is your boarding position, and it will be displayed on your boarding pass. The earlier you check in, the earlier you board the aircraft and choose from more available seats.

Usually, recommended time for arriving at the airport is 120 minutes before your flight but may vary from 3 hours to 60 minutes prior to scheduled departure.

Does Southwest Airlines offer priority boarding privileges?

Priority boarding privileges are included for Business Select customers. They are also one of the benefits of being a Rapid Rewards A-List member.

There are two options that can be purchased by the other passengers in order to benefit of priority boarding privileges:

  • Early Bird Check-in – available for purchase for $15-25 one-way, up to 36 hours prior to scheduled departure time.
  • Upgraded Boarding – available for purchase for $30-50 fee per segment, at the ticket counter or departure gate.

Children traveling as Unaccompanied Minors will board the aircraft before general boarding begins. Also, passengers with disabilities that require preboarding and an adult traveling with a child aged 6 years or younger may board between the A and B groups.

Automatic Check-in

Through Automatic Check-in, Southwest Airlines checks in passengers and assigns early boarding positions 12 hours before general boarding positions become available. Southwest Airlines begins Automatic Check-in 36 hours before scheduled departure, assigning boarding positions to customers that benefit of priority boarding privileges.

Passengers automatically checked in by Southwest Airlines can print their boarding passes starting 24 hours before scheduled departure. Boarding passes can also be printed at the self-service kiosks in the airport lobby.

Business Select Fare and Rapid Reward A-List status

Automatic Check-in is one of the perks included in the Business Select Fare and a benefit for Rapid Rewards A-List members. In order to benefit of reserved boarding privileges, Rapid Rewards A-List members must include his/her Member number in the reservation at least 36 hours prior to scheduled departure.

Early Bird Check-in

Early Bird Check-in is available for purchase only with a credit card, for $15-25 one-way, up to 36 hours prior to scheduled departure time. You can purchase Early Bird Check-in online, using your mobile device (mobile site or app), or over the phone with a Reservation Agent. All Early Bird Check-in purchases are nonrefundable. Although Early Bird Check-in does not guarantee you a position in boarding group A, it is very likely that you will get an A Boarding Pass.

Early Bird Check-in Boarding Passes are reserved beginning with customers who have purchased Anytime Fare, who have priority over customers who have purchased electronic tickets at the Wanna Get Away Fare or Senior Fare. For the latter, Boarding positions are assigned based on the timestamp of the Early Bird Check-in purchase.

Online Check-in

You can check in online and print your boarding pass starting 24 hours before departure time, but not later than 1 hour before your flight. Also, you can print your boarding pass at the Ticket Counter, Skycap Podium or self-service kiosks. To begin Online Check-in, you need passenger’s first and last name, and the confirmation number. Group Travel Passengers can check in online with the option to select which passengers to be checked in.

For international flights, Online Check-in is available up to 90 minutes before departure to secure a boarding position. However, passengers traveling internationally must check in at the ticket counter upon arrival at the airport to have their passport verified, check in luggage, and receive the boarding pass. At US airports, kiosks can also be used to check in, scan the passport, add emergency contact information, and print the boarding pass for international flights.

Fare restrictions

Passengers traveling on Military Fare must check in at the airport. Passengers traveling on Senior, Child, or Infant fares can check in online only if they are Age Verified and the passenger’s account number is present in the reservation. Age Verified means you have a Rapid Rewards or Southwest account indicating that date of birth has been verified by a Customer Service Agent.

Mobile Check-in

You just need the confirmation number and the first and last name of the passenger when using your mobile device to check in. Mobile Check-in is available for passengers traveling in a multi-passenger reservation.

At the end of check-in, the confirmation screen will indicate your boarding group. You can print your boarding pass at the self-service check-in kiosk, by requesting a reprint, or you may get it at the Ticket Counter, Skycap Podium, or online.

Mobile Boarding Pass

Mobile boarding passes can be used at all US airports, but not for international flights.

Infants, Unaccompanied Minors, passengers traveling on a Military Fare or Senior Fare and need to be age verified, and nonrevenue passengers are not eligible to receive a mobile boarding pass.

Airport Check-in

The following types of reservations require the passenger to check in at the airport ticket counter:

  • Unaccompanied Minors.
  • Customers traveling with pets.
  • Customers traveling on Infant, Child, and Senior Fares and are not already Age Verified.¹
  • Customers traveling on a Military Fare.
  • Customers traveling with paper tickets.

¹Customers traveling on age-qualifying fares must present valid proof of age at the airport when exchanging the confirmation number for a boarding pass.

For all other passengers, self-service check-in kiosks (available including in all non-U.S. airports except Nassau) can be used to check in. Kiosks located at the Southwest Airlines Ticket Counters can be used to check your baggage. You cannot check your baggage at the kiosks located in the airport lobby area. You can access your reservation either by entering your confirmation or Rapid Rewards number, or swiping your credit card or Rapid Rewards A-List Membership card.

At US airports, kiosks can also be used to check in, scan the passport, add emergency contact information, and print the boarding pass for international flights.

For flights that have been gate restricted or when checking-in 20 minutes or less before scheduled departure, boarding passes can be obtained only at the Departure Gate. You will need a Security Document allowing you to pass through security checkpoints in order to get to the gate. You can get the Security Document online (24 hours prior to your flight) or at the Ticket Counter, Skycap Podium, or self-service kiosk (only for ticketless customers). Upon arrival at the departure gate, the Security Document will be exchanged with a boarding pass by the Customer Service Agent.

Boarding

Upgraded Boarding

The new option offered by Southwest Airlines, Upgraded Boarding, is an opportunity for passengers to obtain a better boarding position. Available boarding positions in A1-A15 group will be announced beginning 45 minutes before scheduled departure. Usually, these are the Business Select positions on every flight, but when there are less than 15 Business Select customers on a flight, the available positions will be offered for sale. Available at the ticket counter or boarding gate, these positions can be purchased only via credit card for $ 30-50 per segment. Purchase of the Upgraded Boarding option does not offer any other benefits associated with Business Select Fare. Upgraded Boarding is available in limited quantities and varies flight by flight.

Time Requirement

Although boarding may begin 30 minutes before scheduled departure time, you must be present in the boarding gate area at least 10 minutes before scheduled departure time to avoid your reservation being canceled.

Preboarding

Before general boarding begins, a Southwest Airlines will announce preboarding for passengers that benefit of priority preboarding:

General Boarding

General boarding starts when the Southwest gate agent calls boarding group A. Also, current boarding group is displayed on TV monitors near the jetbridge entrance. When your group is called, you need to take a position next to the column that represents your boarding number, proceed through the jetbridge onto the airplane and choose your seat.

Boarding Order

  • Business Select customers
  • Upgraded Boarding customers
  • Rapid Rewards A-List Preferred members
  • Rapid Rewards A-List members
  • Early Bird Check-in customers (assigned in Group A)
  • Passengers with disabilities that require preboarding and one travel companion.
  • Family Boarding²
  • Group B (including Early Bird Check-in customers assigned in group B)
  • Group C

²Family Boarding allows an adult or families traveling with children 6 years old or younger to board after Group A, but before Group B.

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