Southwest’s EarlyBird Flies The Coop

by Shelli Stein

No traveler likes hearing that an airline has changed its program, especially when it doesn’t benefit passengers. Well that’s just what Southwest did. Southwest recently announced that it’s changing the rules of the Southwest EarlyBird program.

The Southwest EarlyBird program has not been eliminated. The change involves Southwest limiting the number of spots available for purchase. The limiting of available spots will be on certain flights, routes, or days. These new Southwest EarlyBird rules started August 15, 2023.

Safe to say jumping the line on Southwest flights just got more expensive!

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What’s the point of changing the rules for purchasing Southwest EarlyBird?

EarlyBird is the low-cost option of trying for a better boarding position. Essentially that means having a better seat selection on your Southwest flight.

Read more about EarlyBird and whether or not it’s worth it.

By limiting the EarlyBird availability on flights, Southwest is making passengers choose other higher-priced options. Those include “Upgraded Boarding” all the way up to what Southwest calls “Business Select.”

Business Select offers nothing different in terms of your seat. It does, however, assure you a front-of-the-line boarding position every time. Southwest hasn’t told us how extensive this change will be. But for sure, securing a top notch boarding position is now significantly more expensive.

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Beat of Hawaii reports that on the Southwest earnings call last month, the airline reported they had earned $100,000,000 on EarlyBird, in just the second quarter of 2023.

“EarlyBird had been lagging a little bit through the pandemic recovery, but it performed very well in the second quarter.” Southwest CCO Ryan Green also said that Southwest has been raising prices across its range of upgraded boarding options.

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You can read more here about some boots on the ground (or in the air) experiences with how securing EarlyBird is playing out now on Southwest flights. It’s a mixed bag.

Do you find everything about Southwest’s boarding sales and airport process to be stressful? Are you still purchasing EarlyBird boarding?

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Rene April 20, 2024 - 10:42 am

Early Bird is a joke until Southwest does something about the epidemic of lying preboarders.

Shelli Stein April 20, 2024 - 12:45 pm

Thanks for the comment, Rene. I think your sentiment is felt by a lot of SWA flyers.

JT April 27, 2024 - 12:54 pm

Appreciate that they will limit early bird. I’ve had a couple flights where I purchased early bird and ended up with a C boarding position. If well over half the flight already has early boarding I don’t want to purchase and waste my money.

Shelli Stein April 27, 2024 - 12:55 pm

I think many feel the way you do, JT. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.


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