CNN and other news outlets are reporting today that Southwest Airlines will be offering A-group (first to board) privileges for $40.
That's correct, as far as it goes, but the headlines tend to leave out the important (and money-saving) details.
According to Southwest Airlines, the new same-day boarding pass option offers passengers a last-minute opportunity to cut in line. If any of the first 15 A-group boarding passes are still available (not purchased in advance via Business Select or obtained via Southwest's A-List, A-List Preferred or other programs), passengers can show up at the boarding gate no later than 45 minutes before departure time, pay $40 using a credit card and obtain an elite A-group boarding position.
As a regular Southwest flier who usually pays for EarlyBird Check-In ($10 per flight), I'm happy boarding anywhere in the A-group or first half of the B-group. Even when I've traveled with strangely-shaped carry-on items, I've never had trouble finding a place to put them. Perhaps that's because Southwest still allows passengers to check two bags for free, as long as those bags meet weight and size requirements.
On many, if not most, Southwest flights, you can avoid paying for EarlyBird Check-In and still make the A- or B-group, but you need to be ready to check in for your flight exactly 24 hours before your departure time. It's very doable - I'm living proof - but you might want to consider some of Southwest's fee-based check-in options if you are going to be boarding a plane that is already filled with passengers who boarded earlier in the day at another airport.
Photo © Alex Parode