I recently flew Southwest Airlines for the first time in a while. I love the airline, I love what they have done for domestic air travel in the US, and I love so many of the people who work there. But I do also LUV having a seat assignment — which you cannot get with Southwest. I feel there is much added stress having to check-in early, making sure you are in the right place in line at the gate, and the worst of all: not knowing where you will sit. However, I have spoken to so many huge fans of Southwest, that actually like the process (mainly my dad and JL).
If you have flown Southwest Airlines before, you probably know the drill. When you check in, beginning 24-hours before the flight, you will be given a letter (A, B, or C) followed by a number between 1 and 60. A1 boards first, followed by the rest of the A group in numerical order. The process is repeated for the B and C groups. While the first fifteen seats are generally reserved for premium fare classes, frequent fliers, and paid upgrades, most positions are assigned in order of check-in time. End up in the C group, you will likely get a center seat (easy to remember – C for Center).
For my flights (Seattle-Denver-Tampa), I set an alarm five minutes before my 24-hour mark, but was in the grocery story when it went off. I forgot about it and, 90 minutes later, got myself B30 and B29 for my flights — embarrassing for an AvGeek like me. Yes, I could have paid $12.50 for EarlyBird, which check you in automatically at the 36-hour mark, but even that doesn’t always even guarantee you an A boarding group. I also could have paid more for a BusinessSelect fare which guarantees you’ll be one of the first fifteen to board.
My stress was heightened waiting to board, because of course I wanted a window seat. My first flight was SEA-DEN on a 737-700… which only holds 143 people. Even though the math was looking good – there were 48-window and 48-aisle seats versus 89 people in front of me – I still wasn’t sure how it would work out. I ended up with a window in the very last row (with the lavs), but at least I had my window. On my second leg, from DEN to TPA, I was in a 737-800, which seats 175 . However, as it was a continuing flight, the big wildcard was how many passengers were flying through. Fortunately, I ended up in 19A – another window. SCORE!
As I went through this whole process during my flights, I wished I had some sort of advice guide on getting the best seat on a Southwest flight. Wait… didn’t I write one of those back in 2010? I sure did: Guide to Getting a Good Seat Flying on Southwest Airlines. Really, I had no excuse for forgetting this story. Even after five years, it still makes the top 10 most read stories- month, after month, after month, after month. No other story has had that sort of LUV.
I decided to go back and update the story with some additional tips and thoughts on flying Southwest from flying them since 2010 (bonus tip: don’t spill your drink).
What are your strategies with flying on Southwest Airlines? Take a look at my tips, then let me know what your game plan is in the comments.