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Southwest Boarding Group/Check-In Questions (UPDATED)

Weather_Lady

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
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UPDATE: Just got back today and wanted to let y'all know how it went.

On the flight down (Monday, 2/18), I checked in at exactly 24 hours out via the SW website and got our party of 5 boarding positions B4-8. There was much rejoicing... until we got to the airport and saw the hordes smugly lined up for family boarding (many of whom had children who looked clearly older than 6 or were gunning to have 3 or 4 adults board with one kid: despite the fact that both are against Southwest's published policy, nobody was checked or questioned).

For a plane that seats 143, with boarding position B4 and just 2 preboarders, I ended up being the 127th person to board! (In other words, a whopping 64 people boarded with family/disabled boarding between the A and B groups.) The flight was full, but my party of 5 managed to score the very last row available -- which was, of course, literally the very last row. Everyone behind us, with positions B9 and later, was limited to single, center or aisle seats scattered throughout the aircraft - and the poor woman who boarded last got stuck wedged between a morbidly obese window seat passenger who was occupying 1.5 seats, and the aisle seat passenger, who had unhelpfully put down their armrest. She basically had to sit sideways for the entire flight! While I can't complain about where my family ended up (we still got to sit together, after all), I was genuinely surprised that our "good" boarding positions ended up being so terrible in practice, and that Southwest was showing so little interest in enforcing any of its family boarding restrictions.

On the way back (today, Friday, 2/22) -- for which I'd purchased Early Bird about 4 months ahead of time -- we got boarding positions A50-54; not too far ahead of our assignments without Early Bird, but on the right side of family boarding. This time, we were all able to obtain seats in row 11. I should add that those who purchased Early Bird much after the 4-month mark when I did would have ended up in the B group anyway, and would have been behind the several dozen family boarders who were sauntering onto our return flight after the A group, waving their offspring around like golden tickets.

In short, I would warn anyone bound for Orlando (especially during a school vacation) that if you don't purchase Early Bird - and do so the second your travel dates become available - (and of course, if you're not otherwise entitled to earlier boarding or to family boarding) family boarding has the power to condemn you to some pretty undesirable seating choices if you're flying Southwest. I understand the reasons for the family boarding policy (nobody wants to be stuck sitting next to a 2-year-old whose parents are across the aircraft, and sorting everybody out would delay departures if any families with small kids ended up getting on last), but when you're stressing in the B group lineup, it is pretty maddening to watch dozens of people jumping ahead of you, especially when it looks like some of those people have no business doing so. For me, the no-assigned-seats policy is the fly in the ointment for an airline I otherwise really like.
 
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ninjaprincesst

Well-Known Member
We fly Southwest all the time, and by checking in via computer at the exact 24 hour mark we almost always get the end of the A group and have no problems, the only time we have been lower than that was one time coming home from Disney I forgot to check in ahead of time (we were traveling with my parents who are both handicap) and the Disney airline check in desk checked us in and we were in C group (I didn't care because we had to get my parents on the plane so we would be boarding first anyway). But that was the worst of it, and still not bad.
 

ninjaprincesst

Well-Known Member
UPDATE: Just got back today and wanted to let y'all know how it went.

On the flight down (Monday, 2/18), I checked in at exactly 24 hours out via the SW website and got our party of 5 boarding positions B4-8. There was much rejoicing... until we got to the airport and saw the hordes smugly lined up for family boarding (many of whom had children who looked clearly older than 6 or were gunning to have 3 or 4 adults board with one kid: despite the fact that both are against Southwest's published policy, nobody was checked or questioned).

For a plane that seats 143, with boarding position B4 and just 2 preboarders, I ended up being the 127th person to board! (In other words, a whopping 64 people boarded with family/disabled boarding between the A and B groups.) The flight was full, but my party of 5 managed to score the very last row available -- which was, of course, literally the very last row. Everyone behind us, with positions B9 and later, was limited to single, center or aisle seats scattered throughout the aircraft - and the poor woman who boarded last got stuck wedged between a morbidly obese window seat passenger who was occupying 1.5 seats, and the aisle seat passenger, who had unhelpfully put down their armrest. She basically had to sit sideways for the entire flight! While I can't complain about where my family ended up (we still got to sit together, after all), I was genuinely surprised that our "good" boarding positions ended up being so terrible in practice, and that Southwest was showing so little interest in enforcing any of its family boarding restrictions.

On the way back (today, Friday, 2/22) -- for which I'd purchased Early Bird about 4 months ahead of time -- we got boarding positions A50-54; not too far ahead of our assignments without Early Bird, but on the right side of family boarding. This time, we were all able to obtain seats in row 11. I should add that those who purchased Early Bird much after the 4-month mark when I did would have ended up in the B group anyway, and would have been behind the several dozen family boarders who were sauntering onto our return flight after the A group, waving their offspring around like golden tickets.

In short, I would warn anyone bound for Orlando (especially during a school vacation) that if you don't purchase Early Bird - and do so the second your travel dates become available - (and of course, if you're not otherwise entitled to earlier boarding or to family boarding) family boarding has the power to condemn you to some pretty undesirable seating choices if you're flying Southwest. I understand the reasons for the family boarding policy (nobody wants to be stuck sitting next to a 2-year-old whose parents are across the aircraft, and sorting everybody out would delay departures if any families with small kids ended up getting on last), but when you're stressing in the B group lineup, it is pretty maddening to watch dozens of people jumping ahead of you, especially when it looks like some of those people have no business doing so. For me, the no-assigned-seats policy is the fly in the ointment for an airline I otherwise really like.
One time flying out from Dallas , there were 10 people in wheelchairs! So , I understand, but the last time I flew without my handicap dad we had early bird leaving Orlando and we were A5-7 and were actually the first people to board.
 

Club Cooloholic

Well-Known Member
One time flying out from Dallas , there were 10 people in wheelchairs! So , I understand, but the last time I flew without my handicap dad we had early bird leaving Orlando and we were A5-7 and were actually the first people to board.
I was going to say that I was once on a flight from Vegas and there were so many wheel chairs that even though I had upgraded into A by the time pre boarding was done half the plane was filled.
 

ninjaprincesst

Well-Known Member
I was going to say that I was once on a flight from Vegas and there were so many wheel chairs that even though I had upgraded into A by the time pre boarding was done half the plane was filled.
Yes and somehow that one person with each disabled guest became or 4 people per each wheelchair, there were so many it was even hard for the people in wheelchairs to find a seat they didn't have to walk forever to.
 

PolynesianPrincess

Well-Known Member
I would say you should be limited on how many people can pre-board with you, but those people would just save seats for their traveling party anyway. One time I was flying and I was solo. There was one exit row seat available and as I went to get into it, the guy next to me told me it was saved. I said "well that's funny because you can't save seats here!" and I promptly sat down. The girl he was traveling with was none too pleased with me but oh well!! One thing I DESPISE about SW fliers are the people who do early bird check-in and then save entire rows for their family back in B or C boarding group. NOT COOL!
 

Bpmorley

Active Member
Don't you guys just love when all the people that needed wheelchairs when they boarded miraculously healed and walk right off the plane with no problem. SW must have Jesus on their side.
 

Bpmorley

Active Member
I would say you should be limited on how many people can pre-board with you, but those people would just save seats for their traveling party anyway. One time I was flying and I was solo. There was one exit row seat available and as I went to get into it, the guy next to me told me it was saved. I said "well that's funny because you can't save seats here!" and I promptly sat down. The girl he was traveling with was none too pleased with me but oh well!! One thing I DESPISE about SW fliers are the people who do early bird check-in and then save entire rows for their family back in B or C boarding group. NOT COOL!
I've removed things from seats just to make sure they lose those saved seats. Gotta love boarding near the end of the A's. The first 10 rows all have 1 person in the aisle seat and a book or purse in the middle and window. I just ask who's sitting there and they'll usually say whoever and I'll just scooch over and sit. Man, the dirty looks I get. I love it. It's even better when it's a couple or a group and they start arguing over how they were supposed to save the seats up front.
 

draybook

Well-Known Member
We're flying out on September 1st and returning on the 11th. I totally forgot about EB being assigned based on purcahse date. I'm sure we'll be alright and should get an A group number using it. This should be interesting as this will be our first flight with the two littles (3 & 2) at the time of travel. Of course we're getting a seat for the 3 year old and the 2 year old will be in her lap. I hope they handle the flight well, it's only about a 1:50hr flight, and that's gate to gate.
 

Bpmorley

Active Member
We're flying out on September 1st and returning on the 11th. I totally forgot about EB being assigned based on purcahse date. I'm sure we'll be alright and should get an A group number using it. This should be interesting as this will be our first flight with the two littles (3 & 2) at the time of travel. Of course we're getting a seat for the 3 year old and the 2 year old will be in her lap. I hope they handle the flight well, it's only about a 1:50hr flight, and that's gate to gate.
A few years back a couple was taking their kid on his first flight. Definitely younger than 2. Just before takeoff they handed out little bags of candy to all the surrounding rows. With a note, saying it's the kids for flight sorry in advance if they don't take it well. I thought that was a real nice gesture. The kid was quiet, but to be honest I always have noise cancelling headsets on so I wouldn't hear anyway.
 
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