Credit Cards The Basics

Does Southwest Boarding Pass “A1” Get You Any Seat on the Plane?

Written by Charlie

Southwest boarding pass A1 means you are the first customer in line to board, but does that mean you get any seat on the plane? Not necessarily so, as I found out on my flight!

If you fly Southwest, you know about their unique boarding style. Basically, you get a certain number at checkin that is preceded by an “A”, a “B”, or a “C” that will let you know which boarding group you are in. You can pay for Early Bird Check-In that should get you an A pass or you can try to check in right at T-24 hours before your flight (but, you will still possibly wind up with a mid “B” assignment!).

Does Southwest Boarding Pass “A1” Get You Any Seat on the Plane?

The Southwest Boarding Process

This boarding system decides where you will sit. If you are in the “C” boarding group, you are going to be in a middle seat – just as easy as that! If you are traveling with a young child, you will be able to board in “family boarding” between group A and B and that will let you get a better selection of seats, even if you got a “C” pass during check-in.

So, to get the best seats on the plane, you are going to want an “A” boarding pass! But, this will likely cost you something, depending on the route, because of how many people are trying to get checked-in. That cost will be for Early Bird Check-in (which lets you just ignore that T-24 cyber rush and let the system check-in for you) and that will cost you $15-$25 per person.

How to Get a Southwest A1 – A15 Boarding Pass

If you are a Southwest Business Select customer (which means you bought an expensive ticket), you will automatically get boarding pass A1 – A15. That means you will pretty much get the seat of your choice on the plane.

Another way to get an A1 – A15 boarding pass is by purchasing it at the counter (if available). It costs from $30-$50 for a flight (depending on the route) and it will give you a random assignment in that very first boarding group.

Two Southwest Cards Give 4 Upgraded Boarding Passes Each Year

does southwest boarding pass A1

This new Southwest card gives you 4 upgraded boarding passes per year

But, the reason I wanted to write about this is that the newest Southwest premium credit cards give you 4 upgraded boarding passes each year that could get you that coveted A1 (or at least a A1 – A15 assignment, when available) for picking your own seat. If that is important to you, those cards’ annual fees could be worth it to you! This perk is available on the Southwest Priority credit card and the new Southwest Performance Business card.

Does Southwest “A1” Boarding Pass Give You Your Pick of a Seat?

So, does the “A1” Southwest boarding pass give you your pick of seats?

Not the First Boarder…

Now, they do pre-boarding of those customers who need more time (elderly, wheelchairs, etc) and those people must have special boarding passes assigned to them at check-in. That means they won’t be sitting in exit rows so that leaves those empty for you.

On the particular flight I was on when I had A1, they loaded 4 people first. Even though it was a 3 hour flight, I didn’t care about  getting an exit row seat. Since I needed to get off quick, I wanted row 1 in either seat C or D for aisle access.

The Plane May Not Be Empty!

When I got on the plane, I was surprised to find about 14 or more people already on the plane. Then I remembered how Southwest does routes and realized these were passengers from the last stop that were continuing on to where I was headed.

The problem with this was that they all had moved around the plane while it was on the ground and they were already in the prime seats all over the plane. Fortunately, seat 1D was still available (the only seat in row 1 that was available) so I took that. But, had I wanted an exit row, I would have been pretty miffed that I paid that money for early access only to find other people already onboard and in those seats.

So, having boarding pass A1 does not necessarily mean you will get the exact seat you want. I would suggest that if you are buying up at the airport that you ask at the counter how many people will still be on the plane from the previous airport. That will give you an idea of whether or not you can get a prime spot with your purchase. In any case, my seat was still way better than whatever I would have had with C03!

How This Should Be Handled – In My Opinion

I think the right thing to do would be to tell passengers already boarded that they need to wait until the A1-A15 customers board before they switch seats. This way, Southwest’s customers that have paid for those seats (whether through higher ticket cost, upgrade fee, or credit card annual fee) would still have their option.


If you get a A15 Southwest boarding pass, you will still be getting an aisle or window seat, if that is what you want. But, you may not be getting an exit row seat or a front seat if this flight has people on it from the previous leg! Just be aware of that before paying up for that preferred boarding pass!

Featured image is from Southwest

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Southwest boarding priority is just about the biggest scam on the planet. You can be the absolute best 0.0001% of customers of WN and guaranteed A1 on every single flight, and still get a junk middle seat next to the lav if, for whatever reason (e.g. stomach ache), can’t make it to the boarding lane at the exact moment, bye bye seat-of-ur-choice hello 6-hr-torture-chamber-fighting-over-the-armrests.

  • On the one hand, I certainly agree with the principle of your proposal, but on the other, I think that the practicality is pretty limited. In my experience on Southwest, the gate agent takes A1-30 pretty much as a single group without a pause in between them, so once the Business Select passengers reach the end of the jetbridge, they are not distinguishable from the A16-30 folks. Since they’re trying to get the plane turned around as quickly as possible, that makes sense.

    Now, Southwest certainly seems extremely…forgiving…with the number of medical pre-boarding passes it issues. Wheelchairs and folks in walking boots – I get it. But anecdotally, they seem to issue an awful lot of those to people who appear to be perfectly able-bodied and are not accompanying a wheelchair-bound passenger. If you aren’t needing the gate agent’s assistance (or accompanying a passenger who does), then you shouldn’t be issued a pre-boarding pass, in my opinion.

  • I’m not sure how this would guarantee anything:

    “I think the right thing to do would be to tell passengers already boarded that they need to wait until the A1-A15 customers board before they switch seats. This way, Southwest’s customers that have paid for those seats (whether through higher ticket cost, upgrade fee, or credit card annual fee) would still have their option.”

    It’s possible all the A1-A15 folks from the originating flight are continuing on, so they’d already be in those seats.