Effective today, Southwest Airlines offers a new last-minute early boarding option that works like this: Pay $40 at the gate and be among the first to board, apparently within the coveted “A” group of passengers.
Differences between New and Old Early-Boarding
It appears the new fee will duke it out with another early boarding option but there are some differences. Southwest’s EarlyBird boarding which was introduced just a couple of years ago at the bargain price of $10 must be purchased 36 hours before take-off and there is no guarantee of A group boarding though it is considered “likely” [Editor's note: I've paid the EarlyBird fee several times and always boarded in the A group].
Great Fees for Cheapskates
Both fees likely appeal to leisure travelers who are too budget-conscious for the higher priced Business Select fares (which include priority boarding) but don’t mind spending a little for this particular perk. The new ‘pay at the gate’ fee may be targeting flyers who initially turned up their noses at the EarlyBird boarding fee only to be confronted with a long line of travelers ahead of them in the pre-boarding area. And, since the traveler waited until the last minute, the fee has gone up.
New Fee Available 45 Minutes before Take-Off
Note: The new gate fee will be available beginning just 45 minutes before departure – if slots are available – and only credit cards are accepted as payment.