Tips for Saving Money and Time on Southwest Airlines

Advice from a Frequent Southwest Airlines Traveler

Southwest Airlines landing over Phoenix
••• Southwest Airlines landing over Phoenix. Elizabeth R. Rose

If you are considering traveling on Southwest Airlines, it can be difficult to navigate for first timers. Continue reading for some insider tips on how to save money and make your travels as easy as possible.

Seek Out the Best Fares

One way to save on airfare costs is to sign up for Southwest’s Click N' Save and DING! DING displays fare alerts directly on your browser, so you will be prepared to jump on low fares as soon as they become available.

But, beware, the fares are very time-limited, so you need to book quickly.

Join the Southwest Frequent Traveler Program

The Southwest Frequent Traveler Program is different than most other airlines because you are credited for the number of trips instead of miles. A good strategy to make the most out of this program is to purchase tickets for short trips and then use any free tickets you earn for longer, more expensive trips. It's also a good idea to sign up for the Rapid Rewards program.

Understand the Seating System

The most surprising aspect of flying Southwest for newcomers is that they do not assign seats. The reason for this is boarding is more efficient if done in groups.

The earlier to check in, the more chance you have of obtaining “A" status. If you are in group A, you will get to board first. You will also have a greater selection of seats to choose from, and you are assured of a bin for your carry-on luggage.

If you can avoid it, you do not want to be classified in “C" status, as you will most likely end up in a middle seat or have to check your carry on luggage.

You will be assigned not only a boarding group but also a number within that boarding group based on the time you check in for a flight (for example, A32).

This unique combination represents your reserved spot in your boarding group. Next, listen for one of the gate agents to announce your group. When your group is called, simply take a position next to the column that represents your boarding number and proceed onto the airplane to find the best available seat. Boarding columns are divided into groups of five. If you are still confused about Southwest's boarding process, check out this Boarding Tutorial.

Avoid the Incentives

Southwest offers many itemized upgrades including Business Select, and permanent A-status that will cost more, and are rarely worth the price, so it's best to avoid. 

Understand the Rights of Customers with Disabilities and Unaccompanied Children

Prior to general boarding, Customers with disabilities, and unaccompanied children between the ages of five and 11 will preboard. You will receive all the care, attention and priority that any other airline provides. Just make sure that when you make your reservation and check in, you inform personnel of your special status.

If you are a family with young children and do not have an A pass, you may be allowed to board after the A group but before the B and C groups.

Print Out Your Boarding Pass at Home

Southwest allows for a 24-hour window to print your boarding passes or receive a mobile boarding pass.

The latter is much easier as you will not need a printer and you will most likely be carrying your phone for the duration of the trip.