Southwest Airline Seat Selection, Vegas Style

With my freshman in college in Nashville, I am learning the ropes of Southwest Airlines. Choosing a seat on Southwest can be kind of like going to Vegas. The odds are not in your favor.

As with Southwest and Vegas, if I shell out a lot of money, I can get priority boarding and thus a good seat. End of dilemma. If I want to pay a somewhat low cost fare (Wanna Get Away fare), then the seat selection becomes a much more complicated issue.

Ok, so I opt out of a higher priced ticket and play their little game. Basically, I’m betting on myself, and the probability that I will be able to log in at the exact time as everyone else, and still receive a beginning of the line or “A” boarding position. I’m all in, baby. Let’s roll the dice!

To secure my seat on a flight, I must log into my airline account at exactly 24 hours before my flight. Everyone knows this. The problem is that I usually forget or find myself in the restroom, in a meeting, having lunch or driving my car. When this happens, and I am even 2 minutes late, welcome to the back of the plane. Dealer wins.

So, at exactly 24 hours before my flight, I frantically log into my account and click on the button that gets me my seat. In my mind I see the roulette wheel just spinning away. And just as in Vegas, the ball never lands where it is supposed to, and I get a “B” or sometimes a “C” boarding pass. A “B” boarding pass in the 1-30 rows is usually an acceptable position to find a decent aisle or window seat. A “C” boarding pass, which stands for “cursed,” has sealed my fate in a middle seat with a stranger who nods off on my shoulder.

I am a student of the Southwest School of Boarding and here are some rules to know that help you understand their system:

  • If you pay the most expensive fare (Business Select) you get A1-16.
  • If you are a top tier flier (A-List or A-List Preferred flier) you get a good (A) boarding position but not guaranteed.
  • You can upgrade to a better boarding position by paying $30-40. This gets you a position right after the Business Select group and the A-Listers.
  • If you pay the upcharge of $15 for Early Bird check-in, you can get an improved boarding position, but an “A” is not guaranteed.
  • If you have people staying on the plane that are connecting to another destination, this will affect your boarding position.
  • Families with children under 4 get to early board usually between the “A” and “B” positions. This also affects your seat selection.

Even with accurate, lightning speed computer/phone skills, it is highly unlikely that you will get an “A” boarding position without coughing up more money.   And just like all the casino goers in Las Vegas, I still remain hopeful.


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