Southwest Announces New Dynamic EarlyBird Pricing: Cash Grab or Status Quo?

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Southwest Early Bird Dynamic Pricing

Southwest Early Bird Dynamic Pricing

I make no secret about advertising that I am not a huge fan of Southwest. Yes, the flight attendants are generally friendly and their planes are certainly no worse than the rest, but that boarding process is something I have never come around on. The “cattle call” as some like to call it, is loved by some (why?) and loathed by others including me.

With all of that said, I have flown Southwest quite a lot over the past few years for two reasons. First, my home airport LAS is a focus city for Southwest and thus they have a lot more direct flights to smaller airports. Second, I have a Companion Pass which allows me and my wife to fly for the price of one.

Early Bird Check-In Pricing

Since Southwest doesn’t have assigned seats, they need to get their revenue from somewhere. Just about every other airline has moved towards charging for seats, but Southwest can’t so they have something called “Early Bird Check-In”. This enables customers to pay $15 in order to get a high boarding position and a better seat.

As of now, no matter the flight, day, time or demand the price is $15 each way. Unfortunately that is about to change. Beginning on August 29, 2018 Southwest will begin pricing this option dynamically.

According to The Points Guy, here is how they will determine the price:

The pricing “will depend on a combination of two factors: length of route and EarlyBird demand on that particular route.” Prices will remain the same on any given route and “will not change by day of week or time of day.” Although, Southwest notes that it may “update pricing in the future based on route popularity and as the product continues to evolve.”

My Thoughts

The first thing I want to point out is that this is a price increase designed to drive increased revenue. While I’m sure there will be the occasional flight where they will charge less just to generate some revenue, my guess is the price will go up, especially on longer higher demand flights.

While they maintain that the dynamic pricing doesn’t have to do with the date and time of the flight, since they are factoring in demand it sort of does. Higher demand flights will have higher prices so a Monday morning packed flight will definitely cost more than a Wednesday afternoon lower demand one.


Ancillary revenue is the name of the game and I suppose I don’t really blame Southwest for doing this. Over the past few years I have enjoyed family boarding, but as my daughter grows older and as it becomes harder to get a companion pass, I see myself opting for other airlines more often.

What are your thoughts? Is this a cash grab or do you think it is needed in order to guarantee those who want to pay better seats? Let us know in the comments!


  1. We stopped using SW because of early bird. Purchased it only to see families of any age board before. Complaints fell on deaf ears. If you are going to charge people to board early then they should. Families etc can then board. BTW they have the same opportunity as everyone else to purchase early bird. Plus seat saving should not be allowed.

  2. I don’t understand the huge hate for the SW boarding process. Set your alarm for 24 hours before your flight and check in immediately and you pretty much always get a low B number which guarantees any seat option (aisle, middle, window) in the front half of the plane. If they had assigned seats, it would still be a first come first serve system for whoever books earlier.

    That said, the disability and family boarding policies need to change. I’ve seen one disabled person get to board early with 6 family members, that’s bs. Should be one accompanying person. For families, there should be an age cut off, immediate family or whatever allows a maximum 1:1 adult-child ratio. If two parents have 2 kids, cousins and grandparents don’t get to board with them.

  3. Agreed. This is the last year of my companion pass. I won’t be able to travel hack it next year. While it was nice to have, I’ll be honest – the boarding drives me nuts. My home airport is Orlando, and it really kind of sucks when regardless of what you do (rather than pay), I’m stuck somewhere in the B’s after family boarding, which I don’t think is too fair to me.

    I have to wait until T24 and pray for an A group, or wait for the slew of family boarders who don’t have a care in the world about their boarding position since they’ll always go in between A & B. I’d rather have an assigned seat than deal with this.


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