Southwest Airlines Seat Selection

Understanding Southwest Airlines’ Seat Selection Policy

Southwest Airlines stands out among major U.S. carriers due to its distinctive approach to air travel. One such aspect setting it apart is its unconventional seat selection policy a concept referred to as ‘open seating.’ Rather than assigning specific seats, Southwest employs a boarding procedure that grants fliers more flexibility while navigating the cabin. This article provides a comprehensive analysis of Southwest Airlines seat selection policy, highlighting key features and practical implications for passengers.

Understanding Southwest Airlines’ Boarding Process

Unlike many other airlines that assign specific seats at the time of booking, Southwest Airlines employs a boarding group and position system. Upon check-in, whether online, at the airport kiosk, or through a customer service agent (+1 (800) 435-9792 or +1-866-609-1576), you’ll be assigned a boarding group (A, B, or C) and a specific position within that group (1-60). This positioning determines the order in which passengers board the aircraft, with Group A boarding first, followed by Group B, and finally Group C. While this system may seem unconventional at first glance, it serves a strategic purpose: promoting efficiency and fairness in the boarding process. By allowing passengers to board in a structured manner, Southwest Airlines aims to minimize bottlenecks and ensure a smooth transition from the gate to the aircraft. Southwest Airlines Seat Selection

How to Get an Earlier Boarding Position?

There are a few ways passengers can increase their chances of getting an earlier boarding position:
  • Check in exactly 24 hours before departure when check-in opens to get a better position
  • Pay for EarlyBird Check-In ($15-25) to get automatically checked in earlier than general boarding groups
  • Have elite A-List or A-List Preferred status with Southwest, which provides priority boarding

Selecting Your Seat on Southwest Airlines

  • Once onboard and in their boarding position order, passengers can choose any remaining open seat, including window, middle, aisle, or exit row seats. Family members can sit together by making sure they all board in their assigned order.
  • While Southwest’s open seating is different than assigned seats on other airlines, it does allow passengers to pick the best available seat for their preferences when they board if they have an early enough position. Employing strategies like early check-in and EarlyBird Check-In can go a long way in getting your preferred seat.

Tips for Securing Your Desired Southwest Airlines Seat Selection

Armed with an understanding of Southwest Airlines’ boarding process and seating options, it’s time to explore strategies that can increase your chances of securing your desired seat or seating area.
  1. Check-in Early and Often: As mentioned earlier, checking in as early as possible is crucial. Southwest Airlines Seat Selection allows you to check in precisely 24 hours before your scheduled departure time. Set reminders or use online check-in tools to ensure you’re among the first to check in and secure a favorable boarding position.
  2. Consider Early Bird Check-In: If you’re particularly concerned about securing a specific seat or seating area, the Early Bird Check-In service can provide a significant advantage by calling (+1 (800) 435-9792 or +1-866-609-1576). By automatically being assigned a boarding position ahead of general check-in, you’ll have a head start on securing your preferred spot.
  3. Arrive at the Gate Early: Even with an early boarding position, arriving at the gate well before your scheduled boarding time can be beneficial. This allows you to be among the first to line up and board when your group is called, increasing your chances of finding available seats in your desired area.
  4. Consider Purchasing Upgraded Seating: For those seeking a more premium experience or guaranteed access to specific seating areas, Southwest Airlines offers the option to purchase upgraded seating. These seats, often located in the front or exit rows, provide additional legroom and amenities at an additional cost.


How does Southwest’s open seating policy work?

Southwest does not assign seats to its passengers. Instead, passengers are assigned a boarding group (A, B, or C) and a number (1-60) within that group. Passengers board the plane in numerical order and can choose any available seat on the aircraft.

Does Southwest Airlines assign seats?

No, Southwest Airlines does not assign seats in advance. Instead, passengers are assigned a boarding group (A, B, or C) and a position within that group (1-60) upon check-in. This determines the order in which passengers board the aircraft and can select their seats.

How do I get a better boarding position?

The earlier you check in for your flight, the better your boarding position will be. Southwest Airlines Seat Selection allows check-in exactly 24 hours before the scheduled departure time. Checking in as close to that 24-hour mark as possible will increase your chances of getting an earlier boarding position.

What is Early Bird Check-In?

Southwest Airlines offers an optional service i.e. ‘Early Bird Check-In’ that allows passengers to automatically check in earlier and receive a better boarding position than general check-in. There is a fee for this service, typically ranging from $15-25 per passenger.

Do elite-status members get priority boarding?

Yes, passengers with Southwest Airlines’ A-List or other elite status tiers receive priority boarding positions, ensuring they can board earlier and have a wider selection of available seats.

What are the best seats to select on a Southwest flight?

Popular seat choices include aisle and window seats for easy access or views. Moreover, you can pick exit row seats for extra legroom and bulkhead seats for increased legroom (but limited storage space). You can easily purchase seats with extra legroom for an additional fee by calling (+1 (800) 435-9792 or +1-866-609-1576).

Can I purchase an upgraded seat assignment?

Southwest Airlines offers the option to purchase upgraded seating, such as seats in the front or exit rows, which provide additional legroom and amenities at an extra cost.

Can I choose my seat in advance?

No, Southwest does not offer advanced seat selection. However, passengers with disabilities or those traveling with young children can pre-board to ensure they have enough time to find seating that meets their needs.


Southwest Airlines’ open seating policy may seem unconventional, but it has proven to be a successful and customer-friendly approach. It allows for a simpler and more efficient process while giving passengers the freedom to choose their seats. This policy, coupled with Southwest’s exceptional customer service, has made the airline a favorite among travelers. So the next time you fly with Southwest, embrace the open seating policy and enjoy the ride!


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