Southwest Check In Procedure for International Flights
Southwest has been trying to expand their route system over the last several years. They are adding in flights to Hawaii in 2018 to expand domestically. This was after Southwest purchased Air Tran a few years ago in order to increase their international routes.
Now Southwest claims great international locations like Aruba, Montego Bay, Cancun, Punta Cana, Costa Rica, Turks and Caicos etc. As they continue to grow more people are flying them internationally. That is where their annoying check in process can cause some problems.
Southwest Check in Procedures
most annoying second most annoying thing about flying Southwest is the need to check in 24 hours before your flight. You have to do this in order to get a boarding position. Southwest does not assign seats (the most annoying thing about flying Southwest) but rather assigns a boarding position. You are then free to choose any available seat once on the plane.
That is where the trickiness of international travel may slip you up. When checking in 24 hours out the minutes matter, heck maybe even the seconds. The closer you are to A-1 the better the seat you get. And if you are traveling with a group then you want to get in the high B’s at a minimum to ensure you sit together.
The one thing that may trip you up when checking in internationally is that you need to provide your passport number when checking in at the 24 hour mark. There is nothing worse than getting up early in the morning to check in the day before your flight only to be left scrambling for your passport number. So make sure you have it handy before checking in or those minutes you spend looking for it could cost you dearly.
There is one way around this and that is early bird check in. This is when you pay $15 for the pleasure of not having to remember to check in. This guarantees you automatic check in (usually resulting in A or high B boarding). The cost is one way only, a total of $30 roundtrip. Early Bird is also non refundable if you have to cancel your flight in the future you lose the $15.
I did verify with Southwest’s twitter team that there is no way to load in your passport number prior to checking in. If someone has a way around that let me know in the comments section.
UPDATE: It may be possible to avoid this by loading your passport info and emergency contact info while booking the flight or by going to the manage reservations page. You will still need to provide your passport at the airport when checking in to receive your ticket.
Also if you book your return flight to the US on a different airline you will not be able to complete your check in until you show proof of your return at the airport. (Thanks Ryan F.)
Southwest is a solid airline with a good rewards program for a low cost carrier. But they have the worst check in/boarding procedure of any other airline. Make sure you are properly prepared in order to guarantee success, especially on international flights. Remember to have everyone’s passport number on hand 24 hours before departure to ensure the best boarding position possible.