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Tips and Hints for Low-cost and Efficient Travel on Southwest Airlines

Advice from a Frequent Southwest Airlines Traveler

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Southwest Airlines landing over Phoenix

Southwest Airlines landing over Phoenix

Elizabeth R. Rose
Updated September 02, 2009
Those who live in the Southwest or travel to the Southwest, often consider travel on Southwest Airlines. Here are some insider tips on how to save money and ease your travel on Southwest Airlines.

Seek Out the Best Fares

One way to know about rock bottom fares as they become available is to sign up for Southwest’s Click and Save and the Ding Program. With the alerts available right on your desktop, you will be prepared to jump on low fares as soon as they become available to your preferred destinations. But, beware, the fares are very time-limited. You need to decide fast!

Another way to save money is to plan ahead and visit Southwest.com early when the lowest fares are still offered. The longer you wait, the less chance you will have of landing a low fare.

Join the Southwest Frequent Traveler Program

It’s not about miles with Southwest, it’s about how many trips you take. A strategy I employ is to buy tickets for my short trips and then use the free tickets I earn for my longer, more expensive trips. Along with your free ticket, which comes automatically in the mail as soon as you earn it, are coupon booklets for free drinks on Southwest. I strongly suggest you join the Rapid Rewards program.

Understand the Seating System

Southwest does not assign seats. They found that boarding is more efficient and takes less time if they board travelers in groups. A is the best group to be in. The earlier to check in, the more chance you have of obtaining “A Status.” If you are an A, you board first. You have a greater selection of seats from which to choose and you are assured of a bin for your carry-on luggage. Since Southwest has many ways of ensuring that your flight will be full, you DON’T want to be “C Status,” as you will most likely end up in a middle seat or have to check your carry on luggage. Seating Chart.

Southwest has improved things by doing away with the so called “cattle call” and eliminating the need to “camp out” in the boarding line. You will be assigned not only a boarding group (A, B, or C) 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 your favorite seat. Boarding columns will be divided into groups of five. Confused? Here's the Boarding Tutorial.

Avoid the Incentives

Southwest offers Business Select status if you want to pay more. Southwest offers you the opportunity to board right after Business Select or permanent A-status folks if you pay $10 more on your one way ticket.

Kids and Those Needing Assistance

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 used to insist that you get up at 12:01 am, Midnight, to print out your boarding pass and assure your spot in the coveted “A” line, but since they are very consumer friendly, they allow a 24 hour window for printing boarding passes. This is much easier on the traveler who may suffer from sleep deprivation prior to traveling anyway. No need to add to the lack of sleep. If you don't have access to a printer, check in anyway as you can obtian your "A, B or C" status and get the printed boarding pass at the airport.

Lugging Luggage onto Southwest

Southwest is, by today's standards, generous. You are allowed to check two bags, each weighing 50 pounds or less. And they DO weigh them. You WILL NOT be charged for these bags. More on their luggage policies. Carry-on policies are strictly enforced. You must bring only one carry-on size piece of luggage and one personal size piece (purse or briefcase size). You are asked to place only larger items in the overhead bins and to keep your smaller items under the seat in front of you. And, as I mentioned, if they fill up the bins, those who are boarded last are asked to check their carry-on luggage.

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