Brand new starting today Southwest will let other passengers on the same reservation as an elite member board with the elite. Travelers on the same booking will be assigned boarding numbers at the same time as the elite.
Priority boarding matters a lot more with Southwest than on other airlines.
- With most airlines it’s about getting overhead bin space. That is becoming less of a challenge as airlines like American and Alaska put in bigger bins, and is less of a challenge on Southwest because of free checked bags.
- On Southwest boarding order determines which seats on the plane you have access to.
In practice elites board separately from their travel companions now, and save seats which is not against Southwest’s rules. But that puts passengers in the position of awkwardly protecting seats. They’ve finally gotten the IT changes done to make this simpler for everyone.
A new elite benefit is a rare bit of good travel news this week. In order for the new benefit to apply the passengers must be on the same booking with the elite member’s Rapid Rewards number in the booking 36 hours prior to travel. It won’t carry through on last minute bookings or changes.
Update: Since this is the most popular question and issue in the comments, let me clarify that the new boarding benefit is tied to a specific reservation. When a Companion Pass holder adds a companion to their booking, a new reservation is created for the companion — so this process does not give that traveler priority boarding.
I still expect Southwest to roll out this benefit to Companion Pass companion travelers, however that takes a separate IT update to make happen. The airline chose not to wait to get that done to flip the switch on the benefit. Remember there are more A-List members than there are Companion Pass holders, so I applaud their pushing out the benefit they had ready now. Unclear how long it’ll take to get the final piece done.