Southwest doesn’t offer advance seat assignments, and that works well for them. It helps get passengers on the plane quickly, since people show up at the gate on time and queue up in order to get better preferred seats. That’s a huge efficiency gain.
They don’t sell advance seat assignments. But since the order you board the plane determines what seat is available for you to choose, they sell getting the on the plane sooner.
- They offer ‘Early Bird Check-in’ – pay extra to get a boarding order number in advance of those checking in 24 hours prior to flight.
- The first 15 boarding spots are given to people paying for the most expensive ‘Business Select’ fares, which are more expensive than refundable tickets. When there are fewer than 15 people on a flight buying Business Select, they will sell the remaining spots. It used to be that you had to buy these at the gate, but last summer they began selling them during online check-in.
Since yesterday Southwest has increased how much they’re charging for upgraded boarding. Pricing is still dynamic, but has become more so, with a higher potential price than before, according to an internal memo reviewed by View From The Wing:
Effective yesterday, May 15, we implement a price change to Upgraded Boarding, now offering Customers the product for a variable price point between $30 and $80.
Upgraded Boarding prices can vary based on the length and popularity of each flight (per segment). Price points within the new range are subject to change at any time, as is the case today.
The airline gave employees talking points that are… somewhat suspect? They claim to be doing to “protect the value” that Upgraded Boarding “offers to our customers” as the feature “becomes more popular on specific routes.” But this makes no sense at all.
- The total number of spots available is fixed.
- They sell some of these with Business Select fares.
- And then monetize the rest at check-in and at the gate.
- Increased demand doesn’t mean more people boarding early, creating some sort of diminution of value for those purchasing it. It is just a price increase.
The price used to top out at $50, and then $60. Then also there’s this, from the internal memo:
This is another way we’re different. Other airlines charge you fees for things you need or have to have. This is a service that has a value that some Customers are willing to purchase. When they do, it helps us keep fares low for everyone.
According to Southwest Airlines, here’s their official statement on the price increase:
Upgraded Boarding is one of Southwest’s most popular ancillary products, allowing Customers the option to buy an upgraded boarding position in Group A1-A15 (when available). We’ve shared with our Employees that Upgraded Boarding now will be offered in a variable range of $30 to $80. Upgraded Boarding price points will work the same as they do today whereby prices can vary based on the length and popularity of each flight. Price points within the new range are subject to change at any time, as they do today. We hope our Customers continue to enjoy this product.
Holders of Southwest’s premium co-brand cards from Chase shouldn’t worry so much about this, since the terms of conditions of reimbursing upgraded boarding payments four times per year don’t specify a dollar amount.