Road-testing Southwest’s “Early-Bird” Check-in

As a follow-up to my earlier post about Southwest’s “Early Bird Check-in“, I can report that I have now tried it, and I think it has its benefits.

On a recent trip to California, I had the opportunity to compare the traditional online (24 hours pre-departure) check-in on the way there, and the new Early Bird check-in (up to 25 hours pre-departure) on the way home.

I chose the Early Bird check-in for my return flight because I did not want to be tied to a computer on my last day of vacation. It was much easier to just pay the $10 per person fee and let Southwest check me in automatically.

So, for my $40 fee (for four people), what did I get? Basically, a little less stress. It did not get me any further ahead in the boarding order (in both cases — traditional and early bird — we were in the A group, in about the 35-45 range), but it did free me from having to rush back to my computer in the middle of the day to check in.

It will be interesting to see if this new service catches on. If a lot of people start using Early Bird, and the regular travellers can no longer get into the “A” boarding group when checking themselves in online, we may see some backlash.

For now, I’ll probably continue to use it for the return leg of a vacation as a convenience. Air travel is stressful enough these days!


You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

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