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Wallet Watch: Southwest Raises Fees for Priority Boarding

SmarterTravel

Southwest has made a point of promoting itself as the airline that doesn’t nickel and dime its customers with the long lists of nuisance fees other carriers charge. While it’s true that Southwest doesn’t charge for the first two checked bags, and for flight changes, it can’t call itself a fee-free airline.

Among the airline’s fees are its Upgraded Boarding fees. These are the surcharges to snag a place at the front of the boarding queue, an option available at the gate on the day of departure only. And they’ve just effectively gone up.

Until this month, the boarding fees were either $30 or $40, depending on the length of the trip. Beginning this month, a $50 fee category was added, presumably for the airline’s longest, most lucrative flights. (There’s no published list of fees by route; passengers will be advised when they check in what the boarding fee is for their flights.)

So, $30, $40, or $50 to jump the boarding line. And that’s each way, so those fees will double for a roundtrip flight. Worth it?

It depends, of course. On the length of your flight. On your tolerance for claustrophobia. And on your finances.

We can infer from the addition to the new higher Upgraded Boarding fee that there has been no lack of demand for the service. Which says something about what flyers want and need. It also says something about Southwest: For all its benign public countenance, the airline is looking for ways to squeeze more cash from its customers.

No surprise there. Southwest’s management is answerable to its stockholders, as are the managements at American, Delta, and United.

Reader Reality Check

Would you pay $50 extra for a better boarding position?

More from SmarterTravel:

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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