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Southwest Will Finally Let Passengers Do This, Effective Immediately

The airline's latest change could have a big impact on your next trip.

At a time when flight delays and cancellations are all too frequent, even the slightest policy update from an airline can make a huge difference in your travel experience. And it's not just fancy amenities for frequent flyers like lounge access: Even small changes in the way passengers board flights can significantly impact a customer's decision on which carrier will get their business. Now, Southwest has announced a big move of its own by finally allowing passengers to do one thing during their trip. Read on to see how your next flight with the airline could be different.

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Southwest has made other major recent policy changes that have been popular with passengers.

girl with suitcase on escalator
De Visu / Shutterstock

Southwest has long earned its fair share of praise for everything from its customer service to how they handle passengers' belongings. Even recently, the carrier has made changes that its most loyal flyers have applauded.

Earlier this year, Southwest announced that it would allow customers to buy tickets on the travel booking website Kayak for the first time. The change ended a long-standing policy of exclusively booking tickets through its own website, which the company told ZDNet it did to ensure customer service and overall experience were up to the company's standards.

And on July 29, the airline announced that it would be getting rid of expiration dates on flight credits issued to passengers, making it the first major U.S. airline to enact such a policy. The decision "aligns with the boldness of a philosophy to give our customers definitive simplicity and ease in travel, just like bags fly free, just like no change fees, just like points don't expire—they're a first-in-our-industry combination of differentiators that only Southwest offers," Bob Jordan, CEO of Southwest, stated in the press release.

Southwest will now let passengers do one thing before their flights.

southwest airlines plane taking off
Eliyahu Yosef Parypa / Shutterstock

Now, the company has made another move affecting the way it conducts business. In an official post by the company made on aviation forum FlyerTalk on Aug. 22, Southwest Airlines announced that it had "flipped the switch to turn on" its new Digital Self Service Upgraded Boarding feature, The Points Guy reports. An update to the carrier's website also confirmed the changes.

The new service will now allow customers to pay for an upgrade to the airline's earliest A1-A15 boarding section through the carrier's app or Until the latest change, passengers could only make this upgrade from the airport.

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The newly available perk could be enticing for flyers who want to board early.

A woman using her phone while seated in an airport terminal waiting to board a flight

The updated feature will allow customers to buy access to earlier seating zones 24 hours before their scheduled departure time and up to 30 minutes before takeoff, The Points Guy reports. Available upgrades will start at $30 per flight segment and can increase based on demand or flight duration. According to Southwest's website, "this allows our customers the opportunity to be among the first to board the aircraft, pick their preferred available seat, and access the overhead bin space."

Ability to purchase the upgrade will be available to anyone holding Anytime, Wanna Get Away, or Wanna Get Away Plus fare tickets, while those who bought Business Select Fare tickets are already included in early boarding. However, flights that sell out the top-tier Business fare will not have any upgrades available for passengers to purchase, per The Points Guy.

There are still a few limitations to the new upgrade system—and a few perks for certain loyal customers.

Shot of queue of passengers waiting at boarding gate at airport. Group of people standing in queue to board airplane.

While opting for an upgrade could make travel with Southwest much more manageable, the new boarding policy has a few limitations. Anyone who chooses to change or cancel their flight after purchasing early boarding access will forfeit the non-transferable purchase without the option of a refund. Additionally, any passenger whose flight is canceled by the airline will lose the upgrade on any rebooked departure but will be entitled to a refund after reaching out to the airline, according to The Points Guy. Also, anyone accompanying a passenger with the boarding upgrade will have to purchase the perk to move up their position.

However, the digital upgrade purchase expansion will come as especially good news to anyone who carries the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card or Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card. Each comes with four free Upgraded Boardings per year, and any purchased in person or by using the official app or website will be reimbursed on their statement, per the company's website.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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