Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 parked at the gate. The airline's livery is blue, yellow and red, with the word Southwest in white on the fuse.

Use these Southwest hacks for stress-free travel


As a devoted Southwest Airlines flyer for 26 years, I’ve uncovered hacks that make every trip smoother and more enjoyable. I’m loyal to the carrier because it gets me from point A to point B with good fares and convenient schedules. Southwest regularly shows me that it appreciates my business. And I feel the “LUV” on every trip.

Though Southwest is reportedly weighing changes to its boarding and seating processes, it does not currently assign seats. So, if you’ve never flown Southwest or are new to its unique value proposition, I’ll share my hacks to guide you.

Rapid Rewards

Join Southwest’s Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program and download the airline’s mobile app on your smartphone and tablet. Rapid Rewards points, earned based on the cost of your flight, have no blackout dates or restrictions. 

Unlike the elite status hoops you need to jump through on other airlines, Southwest is pretty simple — either earn 35,000 flying points or fly 20 one-way segments in a calendar year and you’re in. For A-List Preferred, it’s 70,000 points or 40 one-way segments. If you’re ambitious, go for the Companion Pass, which allows you to choose one person to fly with you for free for a year — minus taxes and fees — after flying 100 one-way flights or earning 135,000 Rapid Rewards points.

A-List perks include priority boarding, a 25% points bonus, free same-day standby and same-day flight changes with no charges for fare differences, access to priority and express lanes and a dedicated A-List member phone number. 

Passengers can choose any seat — with a twist. Southwest uses boarding numbers to determine where you are in the seat-choosing pecking order. If you don’t have A-List status, you must check in exactly 24 hours before your flight departs to improve your odds of getting that coveted A 1-60 boarding pass for more seat choices and better overhead bin access.

However, A-List/A-List Preferred members are automatically checked in with a guaranteed A boarding pass.

You can also pay for Early Bird check-in (the price is based on the distance flown), which gets you a boarding pass up to 36 hours before departure time. But there’s a caveat: sometimes you may get a B or even the dreaded C boarding pass, so booking Early Bird sooner rather than later is best. Use your smartphone or a kiosk to pay for a same-day A 1-15 boarding pass upgrade (again, based on the distance flown) when available.

Southwest allows preboarding for those with disabilities. Families with children age six and under, active military members and A-List members can board before the B group. This access can be a lifesaver when I change a flight, helping me to avoid the C boarding group that usually means a middle seat and zero overhead bin space.

Rows of seats onboard a Southwest 737 with passengers using their devicesA-List status gives me a much better chance of choosing my preferred aisle seat toward the front of the plane. When sitting near the front of the plane on an almost full flight, I’m more likely to have an empty middle seat because overhead bins fill quickly. I’m betting those passengers don’t want to sit far away from their carry-on bags. If you’re on a direct flight (a stop with no plane change), once passengers have deboarded, you’re free to move to your seat of choice.

Southwest offers free streaming movies, TV shows, music and live television that you can enjoy on your smartphone, tablet or laptop. I download my own movies or television shows as a backup.


Sign up for free text messaging to keep conversations going and don’t sleep on Southwest’s great Wi-Fi, a true bargain at $8 a day. 

The airline is slowly beginning to install USB and USB-C power ports on its planes. But until the rollout is complete, I recommend bringing at least two portable chargers to keep devices powered up. Note: you cannot carry power banks in checked luggage; they must to be placed in carry-on baggage only.

These hacks come from my experience flying on Southwest Airlines since 1998. It’s not for everyone, but once you get used to its quirks and charms, you might get hooked — like me.

Related Articles:

Featured image credited to Mary Kirby