Early Bird Check-In (EBCI) on Southwest Airlines (SWA)

I just found out that our return flight on SW (Oct. 31st) is completely sold out (verified on the phone with agent). We did not purchase the Early-Bird Check-In when we booked the tickets almost 5 months ago. We take the same flight (time and day of week)) every year and have never needed EBCI but now regretting not adding it months ago!

In your opinion, is it worth it to purchase the EBCI for our family of 4 (ages 13 and up so no early boarding for having little ones) this late in the game? If so, any guesses on what boarding position we are likely to get (with and without it)? If we don’t add it, we will definitely check-in at exactly 24 hours ahead. If it makes sense, then we’ll purchase it…

Thanks for you help!

We always fly SWA and always buy early bird. I would be afraid of being bumped if they oversold. I hope others weigh in here on this. My vote would be to pay for it this time.

I am planning on purchasing for our flight next year because our kids will be too old for the early boarding. We were on a sold out flight the last time we flew and there families having to split up all over the plane to get seats. I just feel better being close to my kids on a flight. I would probably buy the early bird just so I would not have to worry about it, but I tend to be a chronic worrier! :slight_smile:

I just worry (another worrier here) that since we are so late in purchasing the EBCI that everyone that wanted it, already has it, and therefore, it would be a waste of money.

I would buy into the early bird, even this late into the game. You will be ahead of all of those who will check in at the 24 hour mark… I would guess you will be in the B range maybe 15-40. Maybe you should call and ask how much it would cost to upgrade to business class select who boards A 1-15. That may be worth it.

My last flight the person boarding us announced before boarding if you wished to upgrade it was $40 per person at the time. If it is the same, I would do that.

Perhaps if you asked how many have purchased early bird they may tell you and that could help your decision. But they may not have that available to share with you.

You are not alone in worrying.

Does the system assign the boarding position based on number of people in a party? ie, will we possibly be placed further back in the boarding pass queue if we have 4 people vs. 2 people?

Or does it assign boarding numbers strictly on the order in which EBCI was added to the reservation regardless of how many in the party?

To summarize my question, do we have a better chance of staying together (mom and daughter and then dad and son) if we purchase EBCI for 2 members of our party, and then later purchase it for the other 2 members of our family?

Talk about over thinking the entire thing :smile: I just would rather have at least 2 of us together rather than having the 4 of us scattered throughout the plane, if that makes sense…

The early bird is assigned according to when the passes were purchased. If you bought the daythey were released you would be near the front of the line. If you buy them tomorrow you will be ahead of anyone who buys passes after you do. It does not matter how many are in the party, just how many early birds you have and when they were purchased.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am over my neuroticism now. Goodness gracious ~ I can’t believe how obsessive I can get over things when I am Disney planning :worried:

I just purchased the darn EBCI’s for the entire family and what’s done is done. I will check back here upon our return and let you know what boarding position we got based on our ultra-late purchase on a completely booked flight!

Thanks again to EVERYONE who walked me thru this…

p.s. secretly hoping they will offer a ‘volunteer’ forfeiting of the flight. Our family would take it in a heartbeat but only if the payoff would be greater than the $50 we just pluncked down :slight_smile:


I’ve flown Southwest several times recently and had no problems. I did NOT purchase the EBCI.
Just check in the day before your flight. Get on your computer 24 hours and 2 minutes before your flight is scheduled to depart and check in - you should get a high boarding class. Make sure you check in for each person in your party so nobody is left behind! (Maybe open a couple windows so you can do them all at once.)
I get into group A everytime and have my choice of half the plane. Definitely get online exactly 24 hours in advance if you want Group A. You might end up in Group B if you wait 5 minutes - which isn’t the end of the world.

Oh, and Southwest always overbooks their flights.

Well hell, my flight to MCO is sold out too, and since we booked out of a little airport I didnt think EBCI would be necessary. Between the sold out flight, and somebody telling me that often family boarding is cancelled because of SO MANY families…I’m worried we are totally screwed now. I haven’t flown in 10 years, and never with kids. Sigh.

I fly Southwest a lot, and if you’re willing to go to the last row you can usually find seats together even on sold out flights. I’ve had several instances where I’ve paid for Early Bird, but had flights cancelled or some kind of problem making a connection and then been boarded last on a rebooked flight (with no refund on Early Bird, incidentally). It can give peace of mind, but our only concern is that one adult gets with the kid, and it’s been pretty rare not to find two seats together at the back.

I fly only southwest since they are the only airline that fly’s direct from my home airport and I never use early check in. Yes I do have 2 small children that would get me to the line after the A’s but even still I get on my computer about 10 minutes early set up the web page and just start clicking and refreshing 2 minutes beforehand. Our last trip in September with 3 people since little one doesn’t count we got A’s both going and coming back. I wouldn’t worried about being bumped unless you didn’t get your boarding pass. Also twice before we have been on planes where people who had C’s could not find a seat together they held up the plane until someone moved so they could sit together.

Yikes! We are flying SWA in early November. First-time flying SWA with two kids, and I never even really considered the possibility of sitting apart. (Because clearly, I’m an optimist/ idiot.)

So did SWA tell you the flight was sold out? Or did you sleuth? @jkeasler and @LAM4764

Thanks. Might need to go investigate Early Bird check in. Was planning an immediate 24 hour check in though.

My experience every time I’ve flown SW, and I did it to and from Orlando last month, is that if you check in as others mentioned above right at the 24 hr mark you’ll get in the A group no problem. I missed it by a little bit on our return flight and still got B7 or something like that. Their planes are big enough you shouldn’t have a problem finding seats together if you get A or B.

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I always, except one time, log in before the 24 hour mark (fingers hitting the refresh button until it goes live) and have never got lucky enough to get an A position :frowning: Last year I logged in the very second that the boarding passes were assigned and got B30, 31, 32, and 33. One year I forgot to log in until about the 20 hour mark and we were the last to board on a sold out flight. The four of us were scattered throughout the plane. My daughter, 10 at the time, was beside herself but not a single person offered to let the two of us sit together. It was my fault for not checking in on time but I’ll never make that mistake again!

@lizzney22 - I went online to see if perhaps my flight was one that was on sale this week and noticed that every class of service said “sold out”. I called the airline and they confirmed it.

@lizzney22 I checked the website and said sold out.

thanks everyone for weighing in! I plan on being on the website and ready to check us in, and fingers crossed they dont cancel family boarding. Surely no on will want the seat next to me and an almost 2 year old, right :wink:

Oh, and I did buy EBCI for DH and our 6 year old for the flight home since we have a layover and I wanted to increase our chances of sitting together since we will all be overtired and crabby. Should have just gotten it for everyone both ways right off the bat and been done with it. Darn my cheap side.

Thanks for all the info folks. Makes me really glad DW had the foresight to purchase EBCI when she made the ticket arrangements.