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Traveler Says "Never Fly Southwest" Over Early Check-In "Scam"

One man is sharing his recent experience flying the airline with his family.

If you've ever flown with Southwest, you know they do things a little differently. Instead of assigning seats beforehand like other airlines, travelers are given boarding positions to determine when they can get on the plane and pick their own seats. For some, this flexibility is quite the selling point. But that's only if it works out in their favor, which one passenger is now claiming to be an unlikely scenario as he says Southwest's Early Check-In option is actually a "scam."

RELATED: Travelers Are Boycotting Southwest Over New Boarding Change.

TikToker Big Joe shared his recent experience traveling Southwest with his family in an April 6 video posted to his @jojoofficialtt account. In his TikTok, Joe shares that he was traveling to Orlando with his family of six, which includes several young kids.

"You know with Southwest, they don't have assigned seats… [But] you have the option to pay for Early Check-In," he says. "So for $300, I was able to pay for Early Check-In hopefully to get into the A row so that my family and friend who we took along could sit together."

As Southwest explains on its website, passengers can be assigned one of three boarding groups: A, B, or C. For each letter, passengers are also assigned a number from 1 to around 60 to determine exactly when they can board based on their boarding group. The earliest position to board is A1.

Joe's boarding position? "Like B7," he says.

But it's not only that Joe had to wait for all those in the A boarding group to go first. Southwest also offers Family Boarding, which allows up to two adults traveling with any child six years or younger to board after the A group has boarded and before the B group begins boarding.

"That means there were 60 people ahead of me that somehow got to check in earlier. And because we're going to Orlando, where Disney World is, of course there's gonna be a bunch of families," Joe explains.

RELATED: Southwest Rolling Out Controversial New Seats: "Is There an Option to Stand?"

So despite paying $300 for Early Check-In, Joe says when he finally got to board, there were no two seats still left together—which he explains is a problem because his youngest child is 8 years old and doesn't fall under the Family Boarding criteria but is still "terrified" to sit alone.

"So we had to try to just find our way in which was an awful experience," he says. "My kids were terrified. Worst experience ever. Don't fly Southwest, such a scam."

In the comment section of Joe's TikTok—which has already garnered over 63,000 views—other travelers shared that they've had similar experiences with Southwest.

"This happened to me coming back from Florida to Nashville," one person replied. "Our tickets ended up being $2,000 for two people. We got B31-32, AND FORTY. YES FORTY FAMILIES BORDED BEFORE US! I had to sit next to a kid."

This is also not the first time Southwest has faced backlash over this service. While Southwest Airlines offers EarlyBird Check-In starting at $15 one-way per passenger, the carrier warns that paying for the service "doesn't guarantee an A boarding position." Still, it is meant to improve "your seat selection options to help you get your favorite seat."

But travelers have said in the past that this is not always the case—especially when Southwest allows certain passengers (like wheelchair users or families with children under 6 in Joe's case) to board before those who have paid the extra fee for EarlyBird Check-In.

"Yeah I won't do EarlyBird Check-In," another traveler commented on Joe's TikTok. "I've paid for it and got B37 or something—crazy late boarding."

Best Life reached out to Southwest over these complaints, and we will update this story with their response.

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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