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Southwest Airlines to raise EarlyBird boarding fee on some flights

Southwest Airlines to raise EarlyBird boarding fee on some flights
Passengers line up at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport. The airline is raising its early boarding fee from $15 to as much as $25, depending on the popularity and length of the flight. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

On Southwest Airlines, the early bird gets a price increase.

The Dallas-based low-cost carrier is raising the fee to board early from a flat rate of $15 per flight to $20-$25, depending on the length and popularity of the flight. On other flights the fee will remain $15. The change takes effect Aug. 29 and the airline says the fee on any route may be adjusted in the future based on changes in popularity.

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Southwest began offering early boarding in 2009 for $10 per passenger. The price has since increased to $15.

“EarlyBird continues to be a popular product for our customers and it’s a valuable source of revenue that helps us keep our everyday fares low while not nickel-and-diming our customers,” Southwest said on its website.

There are no assigned seats on Southwest Airlines, so being among the first to board means being able to choose a prime seat as well as find space in the overhead bin.

Southwest passengers are put into one of three boarding groups: A, B or C. Within each group, passengers get a number between 1 and 60. So, A1 is the most coveted boarding position.

Fliers who pay for EarlyBird boarding when they book a flight automatically get checked in within 36 hours of the flight's departure. That doesn't guarantee that the EarlyBird passengers get into the “A” boarding group, but it improves their position over travelers who check in a few hours before takeoff.

But that is not the only way to improve your boarding position at Southwest Airlines. Travelers can pay $30, $40 or $50, depending on the flight, for “upgraded boarding” when they show up at the airport. The fee guarantees that the passenger gets a boarding number between A1 and A15.

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