Last fall, Southwest Airlines introduced a new boarding system. Passengers now line up by boarding group (A, B or C) and number (1-60) and board in order. Each Southwest gate has a group of poles or pillars with number groups on them – 1-5, 6-10 and so on – to help passengers arrange themselves correctly. There’s still pre-boarding for children traveling alone and for travelers who need some extra assistance. Families with young children board after group A and before group B. (Tip: Check in online exactly 24 hours before your departure time to get a good boarding group and number. I checked in at 8:26 A.M. for an 8:25 A.M. flight the next day and got position A27.)
Today I had three opportunities to see the system in action because I flew from Ontario, Calif., to Baltimore, Md., via Phoenix and Austin. Each time, Southwest’s gate agents explained the process to waiting passengers. In Austin, my final stopover, I was a little mystified because several passengers clumped up near the jetway, but no one lined up in group A’s first 20 positions. The gentleman in front of me explained that Southwest saves these positions for “Business Select” passengers at certain airports. The people in the clump were Business Select passengers, and they boarded first.
All in all, I think that Southwest’s boarding system is much better than the old process. I don’t have to get to the airport extra early, race through security and stand in my group’s line. Instead, I can take my time and make sure my children have something to eat before we board. I can sit in the boarding gate area or stretch my legs. Thanks, Southwest!
(Tip #2: If you're planning a trip, check out Southwest's fare sale. Prices are good through February 21.)
Photo © Alex Parode