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Southwest Family Boarding: Everything You Need To know

Last updated: May 28,2022
Originally Published: February 04,2022
by Jestan Mendame

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Most airlines don’t offer priority boarding for families and if they do, it’s usually upon request or comes with extra fees. Luckily, families can fly with Southwest Airlines and take advantage of the Southwest family boarding policy.

Since Southwest Airlines also has an open-seating policy (no seat selection prior to boarding), it would be difficult for family travelers to compete for seats against other types of flyers. To make family traveling easier, the family boarding policy was implemented so families can board the aircraft ahead of other boarding groups and find seats that are next to each other.

For those families who are flying Southwest soon, let’s break down all the details that you need to know.


Read More: What Is The Southwest Companion Pass And Who Should Sign Up?


Southwest Family Boarding allows two adults who are traveling with a child 6 years or under to board the plane after boarding group A and before boarding group B.
The Southwest family boarding policy gives priority boarding to two adults who are traveling with a child who is 6 years old or under.
(Image courtesy of Envato Elements)

How Does Southwest Family Boarding Work?

Before we get into the details about Southwest family boarding, here’s a quick recap on how Southwest’s entire boarding process works. There are three boarding groups that are assigned to you upon check-in, Group A being the first then followed by Group B and Group C.

Each boarding group will have 60 passes so you’ll get a boarding pass that will say something like A-60, B-40, or C-30. When your boarding group is called, you will be required to line up in numerical order.

Checking in early might get you a spot on Group A but that might not always be the case. This is where Southwest family boarding comes in because it allows families to board the plane after Group A and before Group B, regardless of whether they were assigned a B and C boarding pass.

This is what is stated on the Southwest Airlines website:

“Two adults traveling with a child six years old or younger may board during Family Boarding, which occurs after the “A” group has boarded and before the “B” group begins boarding. If the child and the adult are both holding an “A” boarding pass, they should board in their assigned boarding position.”

Families can choose any unoccupied seat that they want upon boarding the plane. Additionally, military personnel is also allowed to board the plane between Group and Group B.

How Many Adults And Children Are Allowed?

Southwest clearly states that only two adults per one child are allowed during family boarding and they can either be grandparents, uncles, or friends.

But what if two adults are traveling with more than one child? Well, Southwest typically allows all children to board with their accompanying adults. It’s up to the discretion of the gate agent on what to do but most of the time, it’s not going to be a problem.

Are Infants Allowed?

Children between 14 days and two years are allowed, and they are even free of charge as long as they’re not occupying a seat. A Boarding Verification Document is required, particularly a birth certificate, to confirm the age of the child.

Are Pregnant Women Allowed?

Southwest Airlines allows pregnant women to fly unless they are expected to deliver within 14 days. Other than that, pregnant women are allowed to fly under general rules, however, Southwest recommends that women who are 38 weeks pregnant should not fly for health and safety reasons,


Read More: How To Earn Southwest Points For Companion Pass


Children between 14 days and two years can fly for free as long as they’re not occupying a seat. A Boarding Verification Document is required, particularly a birth certificate, to confirm the age of the child (Image courtesy of Envato Elements).

Tips On How To Sit Together

Southwest family boarding only guarantees flyers priority boarding but it doesn’t guarantee seats. As mentioned, each boarding group will have 60 passengers so if all of Group A has already boarded, you will only have 120 seats left.

You need to remember that there are other families and military personnel who are also boarding with you. Plus, if you happen to be on a segment flight, there will be passengers who are already occupying some seats.

To make sure that you get to sit with your family, you might want to try these other methods:

Purchase A Business Select Fare Or Get A-List Status

A Business Select fare can guarantee you a seat between A1 – A15 but it can be a little bit pricey especially if you’re a large family.

The better option would be to get an A-List or A-List Preferred status. A parent who has an A-list status can reserve boarding positions (36 hours before departure) for the entire family as long as the flight booking was made under one reservation. The family would be assigned to Group A, somewhere between seats A16 – A60.

Reaching A-List status requires 25 qualifying one-way flights or 35,000 qualifying tier points while A-List Preferred requires 50 qualifying one-way flights or 70,000 qualifying tier points.

You can earn status faster by getting a Southwest credit card. You can earn 1,500 tier qualifying points for every $10,000 you spend on a Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, or a Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

Additionally, applying for these cards will also give you other travel perks and benefits:

Get Southwest EarlyBird

Southwest EarlyBird costs $15 to $25 per passenger and it allows you to check-in 36 hours prior to departure. This guarantees you a boarding position in Group A but there are times when you might be assigned to Group B as well.

We don’t really recommend this option since you’ll be boarding after Group A with Southwest family boarding anyways.

The question now is, are you’re you willing to spend $15 to $25 per passenger just to bump up your chances of getting a few seats higher? You’ll be competing with A-List members, A-List Preferred members, and Business select passengers for seats in Group A so there’s a possibility that you’ll be assigned to Group B.

However, there are also Southwest credit cards that come with free 2 EarlyBird statement credits:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
    • 75,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of card membership
    • Earn up to 2x points on rewards categories
    • 3,000 anniversary points per year

Check In 24 Hours Before Departure

Checking in early does help bump up your boarding group but it might not happen all the time. However, it doesn’t cost a penny so it’s worth a try. Who knows? It might be the difference between getting you into Group A or Group C.

Purchase Upgraded Boarding

Upgraded boardings are unsold Business Select seats that are offered to passengers on the day of departure. This means that you won’t be able to buy them in advance availability is not guaranteed. They are quite expensive and could cost between $30 – $50 per passenger.

This should be the last option on your list, however, there are Southwest cards that come with statement credits for upgraded boardings:

Bottomline

Southwest family boarding is a great perk for family traveling. It allows families to work around Southwest’s open-seating policy – FOR FREE. There are not a lot of airlines that do this and they usually charge extra for priority family boarding.

  • Earn 60,000 Bonus Points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • $50 Annual Ultimate Rewards hotel credit
  • 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3x points on dining, online grocery purchases, and select streaming services
  • 2x points on other travel purchases

 

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