Family Travel

Help! I’m flying Southwest for the first time

A lot of ink has been spilled about how Southwest Airlines is the best airline for families. And even though this purportedly is a family blog, I’ve never flown Southwest before 🙁 I know, Southwest is great because you can save money with price drops and bags fly free yada yada yada, but I’ve never had the opportunity.

Well, that all ends this weekend, as I need to be in St. Louis for a wedding for a very short amount of time. I wanted to minimize time away from my family which meant I needed a nonstop flight, and apparently Southwest is my only option. (Luckily, I was able to pay with US Bank Flexperks).

Anyway, for some reason, I find myself actually preparing for this Southwest trip in a way that I don’t for any other airline. In my mind, I envision a mad rush to secure my boarding group number and then a gate lice situation. Then, when I’m on the plane, who knows what’s going to happen as I board and push past old ladies to get my preferred seat.

I enlisted the advice of my two most trusted Southwest flyers, Leslie from Trips with Tykes and Sam from Milenomics to get some advice about what to do. 

Leslie gave me some advice on getting the best boarding group number. She told me to have my browser open and that a “check in” button will be open before I can actually check in. The goal is to click on that button as close to 24 hours in advance of my flight time as possible. Leslie says, “as soon as your phone clock ticks to the time, click on the check in button.” So I plan to do just that.

Sam had great advice like this:

Silliness aside, he did talk to me about how Southwest doesn’t oversell and that I could see how full the plane is by searching for eight seats on my flight. He also prefers to be a low C than a late B to avoid the gate lice problem. But his best advice was that since bags fly free, I shouldn’t be fighting for overhead space. So that won’t be an issue.

I’ll be landing AFTER the 24 hour window for my return flight, so Leslie and Sam both told me to download the Southwest app so I could check in to my return flight for free from the plane.

Anyway, this post is mildly tongue in cheek, but I’d also love to hear people’s tips and tricks for flying Southwest. What do I need to know before I fly in a couple days? Leave me ideas in the comments or tweet me @asthejoeflies. I know that flying Southwest probably is just like flying any other airline, but Sam DID say I should live blog this so…maybe not? Guess I’ll find out soon!

But please, do leave me some advice, would be much appreciated. Thanks!

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Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less

11 thoughts on “Help! I’m flying Southwest for the first time

  1. I’ve only experienced gate lice when flying American because Southwest has you line up according to your boarding number. Every SW gate I’ve ever used has clear markers that keep everyone in order, 1-30 on one side, and 31-60 on the other, and as soon as one boarding group files in, you can jump to your spot in the queue for the next letter group. Super easy, fast, fair, and no lice involved. (BTW, I had to look up that term!)

    1. Thanks! Sam was saying bc of the numbers people actually do a lot of “checking” to make sure you are in the right place, and so he prefers low C to high B.

      1. Speaking for myself, the only “checking” I do is to make sure I’m in the right place, not to police others. I imagine most people are doing the same.

  2. You’re way overthinking this.

    Check-in at 24 hours to get the best boarding position available. If you’re really worried pay for early bird check in, but if you can check in at 24 hours it’s not necessary especially as a solo traveler. Get on the plane and relax.

  3. “Then, when I’m on the plane, who knows what’s going to happen as I board and push past old ladies to get my preferred seat.”

    There’s no way you’re pushing past anyone on the plane., really. I really don’t understand your trepidation. Everyone gets a seat and the worst case is you get in a seat at the back of the plane you didn’t want. If you had a really tight connection or a short time to make it to a meeting I’d understand…but this is kind of strange.

    This isn’t Ryanair where draconian procedures can have you missing your flight or paying hundreds in fees for treating it just like another airline.

    1. Lol, okay the post wasn’t mildly tongue in cheek, it’s MOSTLY tongue in cheek. But – when I started asking people about Southwest, it was clear people who love their policies REALLY love them and those who hate them REALLY hate them, and the ones who hate them made me think they might be like a Ryanair. Reassuring to know that’s not the case

  4. I just flew Southwest to Chicago for Memorial Day weekend. On a completely full flight I was able to snag an A21 boarding position by purchasing their early-board check-in. I would highly recommend it for piece of mind especially since you can use Flexpoints to pay for it.

  5. At this point it could be a waste of money to now buy Early Bird. I did that once – bought EB about a week ahead but got late B boarding. Won’t be doing that again.

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