Anyone on the SAME RESERVATION (that means you’ll have the same confirmation number) on Southwest Airlines as someone who holds elite status with Southwest (called A-List or A-List Preferred) can now board with the elite status member.

The same is true for those who hold “Companion Pass” status, which is itself an elite status.

Those who hold A-List or A-List Preferred status with Southwest are checked in ahead of everyone else (36 hours ahead of the flight departure time) aside from Business Select passengers who are guaranteed A 1-15 boarding orders, meaning they get a higher boarding order and thus first pick of seats on the plane.

Southwest check-in


Does This Apply to Companions?

Yes! According to Southwest’s rules and regulations, this does apply to a Companion, who is flying with you on your Southwest Companion Pass, except if the Companion Pass holder: 

  • Purchased a Business Select® fare
  • Purchased Upgraded Boarding
  • Added the Companion after they had been assigned a boarding position
  • Changed a flight on their day of travel
  • Was impacted by a flight delay or cancellation

The Southwest Companion Pass is a status that lets you bring one person FREE with you (aside from security fees and taxes) on ANY Southwest flight.

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Does This Mean That Those Who Buy EarlyBird Will Board Southwest Planes Even Later?

Southwest Boarding Gate

A question I’m often asked is about those who buy “EarlyBird” seating. You can purchase “EarlyBird” for $15-$25 per way on Southwest to be checked in ahead of the general public, who can’t check in until 24 hours ahead of departure.

[Everything You Want to Know About EarlyBird]

Yes, this pushes EarlyBird purchasers BEHIND those who board with elite status members.

But… it’s not a HUGE deal. There are usually only a handful of elite status members on most Southwest flights, as elite status is difficult to achieve except for those who fly frequently (usually for business and honestly other airlines have better perks for business travelers).

So, yes, that’s a bummer, but not the end of the world. 

This does make EarlyBird less valuable, however, and it’s already a bit of a gamble, because you’re not guaranteed any particular boarding order (you could still end up in B). Plus, you’re “checked in” in the order in which you purchase EarlyBird, so if you wait until close to your flight date to purchase it, it might not be very helpful or a good spend.

If I Buy EarlyBird, Does My Companion Get a Boarding Order Next to Me?

Yes! This is the good news. If you hold a Southwest Companion Pass, you only need to buy EarlyBird for yourself but not your Companion.

They will automatically get the boarding order next to you, and usually in FRONT of you :). So that can be a small cost savings.

You would need to purchase EarlyBird for anyone else in your group who is NOT your Companion if you wanted them to also be checked in early.

Why Did Southwest Doing This?

I think Southwest is trying to encourage more people to “pay” for flights, which is the primary way you earn this elite status.

By adding more “perks” for holding elite status, they are hoping you’ll see the benefit of trying to earn it :).

Here at Families Travel Free, we DO NOT recommend trying to earn A-List or A-List Preferred status, because it forces you to spend way too much money with Southwest or on one of their cards. You could instead be putting that spending on a different that earns flexible points and MORE points per dollar.

You’ll learn more about our simple system to always fly for free instead of our Families Fly Free membership.

What do you think of this new “perk” for elite status members?

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Please note, this card’s points DO NOT qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass but CAN be used to book FREE flights on Southwest.

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  • Lyn Mettler

    Lyn Mettler is a longtime travel writer for US News & World Report, USA Today 10Best and The TODAY Show who created Families Fly Free, a program which teaches families her simple system to use travel rewards to fly for free.

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