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Southwest Just Quietly Changed Boarding Again

Passengers who like to board early on Southwest might have to pay even more.

Southwest Airlines' unique boarding process has its fair share of fans—and detractors. The carrier has made a number of adjustments over the past couple years, including raising prices for its Upgraded Boarding add-on option last May, and cutting its EarlyBird Check-In service from some flights in August. Now, Southwest has quietly made another change to early boarding, and it means you might soon have to pay more.

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

Southwest operates under an open-seating policy, which means passengers aren't assigned to a specific seat. Instead, the carrier gives each person a boarding group (A, B, or C) and a number (1 to 60+) to create a unique group and position combination that determines when they can board the plane. From there, they can choose any available seat on the flight.

With this process, the secret to being able to get your preferred seat before someone else does is getting an earlier boarding position. While you're likely to get a better spot the sooner you check-in for your flight, Southwest also offers add-ons that can allow passengers to improve their boarding position: Upgraded Boarding and Early Bird Check-In.

"Upgraded Boarding gives customers the ability to upgrade their boarding position to A1-A15 24 hours before the flight, depending on availability," Southwest states on its website. "EarlyBird Check-In gives customers the convenience of automatic check-in before our traditional 24-hour check-in, depending on availability."

You have to pay an extra fee for Upgraded Boarding and EarlyBird Check-In—and that cost has now been quietly raised.

Southwest started implementing dynamic pricing for Upgrading Boarding last year, making it so that a passenger may have to pay anywhere from $30 to $80 per flight segment for this add-on. But the carrier has increased that cap: Now, you may have to pay up to $149 per segment to get Upgraded Boarding, according to the airline's Optional Travel Charges chart.

RELATED: Southwest Airlines Hints That It May Abandon Unassigned Seating.

EarlyBird Check-In also operates under dynamic pricing, but the highest price a passenger would have to pay for this add-on was previously $25. Currently, Southwest's chart indicates that the cost for EarlyBird Check-In could be anywhere between $15 to $99 one-way, per customer.

"Prices can vary based on flight length and demand. Price points within the new range are subject to change at any time, as they do today," a Southwest spokesperson told USA Today in a statement. "This price range increase is a result of our regular evaluation of pricing for ancillary products based on market trends and customer demand and will generate incremental revenue in support of the company."

Best Life reached out to Southwest to confirm when these boarding add-on fees were increased, and we will update this story with the airline's response.

But it seems likely that the change was made some time last month, as travelers brought attention to the increased price ranges on a May 28 Reddit thread in the r/Southwest Airlines subreddit. Many are not a fan of the carrier's decision.

"That sucks. $99 for Early Bird is actually insane," one Reddit user commented on the thread.

Another responded that the increase for Upgraded Boarding is "shocking," claiming that Southwest is "getting desperate."

Others indicated that these higher prices for Upgraded Boarding and EarlyBird Check-In make it no longer worth it for them to book with Southwest over any other carrier. "At these prices, you might as well book with a legacy airline," one user wrote.

Another commented, "Not worth the hassle anymore. They are as expensive as the legacy airlines at this point, and you get less out of them."

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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