Southwest is dialing back on their service that lets passengers pay to board sooner, making it available to fewer passengers.
On Wednesday, Southwest Airlines announced that while they have not dropped their “EarlyBird” service from any flights, they are going to be The airline said Wednesday that it has not dropped “EarlyBird” entirely from any flights, but it is “limiting the number of spots available for purchase on certain flights, routes, or days, as we work on product enhancements.” As a result, the airline said in a statement, the service “is unavailable for some customers looking to purchase it.”
The way EarlyBid works is that for $15 (or more, in more crowded flights), travelers could purchase priority boarding before the boarding process begins. It has big advantages for people who want specific seats, since Southwest does not assign seats, or to ensure that they have space in the overhead bins for their bags. Southwest has reported that the service made over $100 million – as many as 6 million users, in just the second quarter of 2023.
Along with the new limits, prices for EarlyBird will be going up, but by just how much has still not been announced. A spokeswoman for Southwest has said that information, along with just how strict the reduced numbers will be, is still “privileged” information.
EarlyBird is a product with absolutely no overhead cost for Southwest, charging passengers for, essentially, cutting in line. They likely hope that limiting it will push a certain kind of traveler into other options for moving up in the boarding line, such as buying more expensive seats. Southwest’s highest fare, for instance, “Business Select,” includes a top-15 spot in the boarding line, always just ahead of the EarlyBird service.
Even though it isn’t a service that gets anyone extra privileges, a better seat, or an extra minute at their destination, the new limited EarlyBird is expected to sell out almost constantly.