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Your traveling experience can vary greatly depending on the airline you fly with and the ticket class you purchase. There are many factors to consider when preparing for your next trip. If you plan to fly with Southwest Airlines soon, you may be wondering if it’s worth it to upgrade a Southwest flight to get a better boarding position, earn more Southwest Rapid Rewards points or simply have more flexibility in case you need to change your flight.
Here’s what you need to know to upgrade a Southwest flight.
How to upgrade your boarding position on a Southwest flight
Upgrading your Southwest Airlines ticket is easy because the airline provides an online ticket upgrade tool. Visit southwest.com/air/upgrade and enter the details of your flight, including your first and last name and flight confirmation number. Southwest will walk you through the upgrade process if an upgrade is available.
If a better boarding position is all you're after, you might want to consider some of the alternatives to upgrading below or check if your credit card might come with priority boarding perks.
What is an upgrade on Southwest Airlines?
Southwest has four fare types:
Wanna Get Away.
Wanna Get Away Plus.
An important thing to remember when considering an upgrade with Southwest is that the airline doesn't offer a genuine business or first class ticket like other airlines. With an upgrade you will get added perks, but you won’t get a more comfortable seat. That’s because all passengers fly in the same kind of seat, regardless of fare.
You should also know that Southwest doesn’t assign seats. Instead, you’ll be assigned a boarding position (A, B or C) and a number (1 through 60) at check-in, and your position will determine how quickly you can board the plane to choose your seat.
» Learn more: How to hack Southwest's boarding groups
While Southwest handles seating and boarding differently than other airlines, a Southwest ticket upgrade does offer some special benefits. Southwest’s highest ticket class is called Business Select. When available, you can upgrade your Wanna Get Away fare or Anytime fare ticket to Business Select and get the perks that come with it.
With a Business Select ticket:
You’ll earn 12 Rapid Rewards points per dollar.
Your ticket is fully refundable if you cancel at least 10 minutes before the scheduled departure.
When available, you’ll be eligible for same-day change and same-day standby benefits.
You’ll be eligible for priority check-in and priority security lanes when available.
You’ll get priority boarding (A1 through A15).
You’ll get a complimentary premium beverage (currently unavailable during the pandemic — you’ll receive a drink coupon valid for a future flight).
» Learn more: Your guide to booking award flights on Southwest
Is a Southwest Airlines upgrade worth it?
Whether a Southwest Airlines upgrade is worthwhile depends on what is important to you. If the benefits that come with a Business Select ticket are attractive to you, it may make sense to pay to upgrade your ticket.
Who should do it? A ticket upgrade may make sense if any of the following are true:
You like the idea of boarding the plane quickly so you can choose your preferred seat and are guaranteed an A1 through A15 boarding position.
You want to maximize the Rapid Rewards points that you earn. You’ll earn 12 points per dollar with a Business Select ticket compared to 10 points per dollar for Anytime tickets or 6 points per dollar for Wanna Get Away tickets.
When available, you want to be eligible for same-day change and same-day standby benefits. Business Select fare tickets qualify for these perks.
You want to be eligible for priority check-in and priority security lane perks when available.
You want your ticket to be truly refundable. Wanna Get Away fare tickets are eligible only for travel credit, which expires one year from the original ticket purchase date. Business Select tickets qualify for a refund if you cancel at least 10 minutes before departure.
Ask yourself what type of travel experience you want to have and if you’re willing to pay a higher price for your next Southwest Airlines ticket. If so, you may want to consider an upgrade.
How much does a Southwest flight upgrade cost?
The cost to upgrade to a Southwest Business Select fare varies. You’ll be shown the price to upgrade before completing the upgrade process.
Since Wanna Get Away is Southwest’s most affordable fare, you can expect to pay significantly more than the original cost of a Wanna Get Away ticket. If you originally purchased an Anytime fare ticket, you’ll be paying more than that as well.
If you previously purchased a Wanna Get Away fare or Anytime fare ticket and choose to upgrade to a Business Select ticket, you won’t pay change fees. You will simply pay the difference in fare.
Alternatives to a Southwest flight upgrade
If you don’t care about earning additional Southwest Rapid Rewards points or the other perks that come with the Business Select fare, there are alternative types of upgrades available:
You can pay extra for Southwest’s Upgraded Boarding service. If available, this service will give you an A1 to A15 boarding position, which allows you to get on the plane much sooner. Pricing for this service varies but generally costs $30 to $80 per person, each way. You can either purchase an upgraded boarding position at the departure gate or ticket counter the day of your flight, or within 24 hours of departure via Southwest's website.
You can purchase EarlyBird Check-In. Pricing varies, but you can expect to pay $15 to $25 per person, each way. You won’t have to worry about rushing to check in for your flight when you do this. Instead, Southwest will automatically check you in within 36 hours of your flight’s departure. You won’t be guaranteed an A boarding position, but it will improve your seat selection options and help you board the plane sooner than the general public. You can purchase EarlyBird Check-In on Southwest's website.
Remember all Southwest Airlines fare types include two free checked bags as a perk.
What credit cards include Southwest upgrades?
If you have a Southwest Airlines credit card or plan to apply for one soon, you should know that these cards come with extra benefits to improve your flying experience. Wondering which credit cards include upgrades? While no Southwest credit card offers free ticket upgrades, they do offer other helpful perks that may help you board the plane sooner.
The following Southwest credit cards include upgraded boardings:
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Reimbursement for up to four Upgraded Boardings available at each card anniversary.
Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card: Reimbursement for up to four Upgraded Boardings available at each card anniversary.
The following Southwest credit cards offer EarlyBird Check-In perks:
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: Reimbursement for up to two EarlyBird Check-In services available at each card anniversary.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: Reimbursement for up to two EarlyBird Check-In services available at each card anniversary.
Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card: Reimbursement for up to two EarlyBird Check-In services available at each card anniversary.
» Learn more: Which Southwest Airlines credit card should I get?
A Southwest flight upgrade will get you on board faster
Now you know how to upgrade a Southwest flight. If you want to upgrade your flight experience with Southwest, you may want to spend more on a Southwest Airlines upgrade ticket. If you don’t want to pay extra for a ticket upgrade, other services like Upgraded Boarding and EarlyBird Check-In are available for purchase, which may improve your boarding experience.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card