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Houston, TX, USA - 03.15.2024 - Southwest Airlines airplanes parked and awaiting departure times during a grounding event for inclement weather
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8 Things You Should Never Do When Flying Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is quite possibly one of the most polarizing airlines in America. Flyers either love it or hate it—indifference is rare when it comes to this carrier. The lack of assigned seating makes flying Southwest a uniquely different experience compared to other major airlines, and certain missteps can easily turn your smooth Southwest journey into a nightmare trip.

Avoid making these eight mistakes the next time you fly Southwest Airlines.

Check In Late

Southwest doesn’t have assigned seats. Instead, passengers are divided into three groups (A, B, or C), determining when they will be allowed to board. To ensure that you’re among the first group to board and snag a good seat, you’ll either have to buy a Business Select fare or purchase EarlyBird Check-In. 

Blue barrier tape with the ITA Airways logo inside an airport
rarrarorro | Adobe Stock

The remaining boarding groups are then filled in the order of people checking in, so you’ll want to ensure you check in exactly 24 hours before your flight to get in an earlier group. If you wait and check in closer to your flight time, you’ll likely be among the last people to board and get stuck in a bad seat. 

No-Show For Your Flight

Southwest Airlines has one of the most lenient cancelation policies in the airline industry, allowing you to receive a flight credit or full refund (depending on the ticket type you originally purchased). 

However, you must cancel at least 10 minutes before your flight’s original scheduled departure time in order to get a credit or refund, so it’s in your best financial interest not to no-show for a flight. 

Try to Skip the Boarding Line

If your travel companion gets the “A” boarding group and you’re stuck with the “C” boarding group, don’t try to skip the line and board with your partner. You’ll be sent back in shame to your assigned boarding group.

Stay with your assigned boarding group and only board when your letter and position number are called. 

Forget to Bring Headphones/Chargers

Don’t expect to find seatback screens on any Southwest flights. Instead, the airline offers free inflight entertainment that you can watch on your own tablet or smartphone (without having to pay for WiFi). 

However, not all Southwest planes have USB chargers or outlets at every seat, so make sure you bring a fully charged device (and backup battery) to stay entertained. And don’t forget to bring headphones—Southwest doesn’t provide or sell them onboard.

Saving Seats

Southwest doesn’t have an official policy around saving seats. However, if you board in an earlier group, it’s considered rude to save seats for someone in a later boarding group—especially if you’re trying to save an entire row (or more).

Putting Your Bag on Empty Seats

Likewise, don’t be inconsiderate and put your bag on an empty seat, hoping no one will sit next to you. Keep your belongings contained in your area so people boarding can easily see what seats are open.

Not Packing a Meal

Airlines aren’t exactly generous with in-flight meals these days, but Southwest is especially stingy. Only water will be available on flights traveling 175 miles or less. On flights over 175 miles, you’ll be offered a small bag of snack mix, graham crackers, or brownie brittle. 

Unlike many other airlines, Southwest does not offer food for purchase, so if you’re on a long-haul flight, you might want to bring your own meal or snacks. 

Crowding the Gate

At the gate for your Southwest flight, you’ll see two screens above a line of numbered poles indicating which group is boarding. The A group will line up first and board completely before the B group is called to line up. If you’re not in A group, don’t stand around the gate; you’ll crowd the area and make it harder for others to queue.

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