The Guide to Southwest Business Select, The Airline’s ‘First’ Class

Southwest's version of first class isn't like other full-service carriers' premium cabins.
Updated
Profile photo of Sally French
Written by Sally French
Lead Writer/Spokesperson
Profile photo of Meg Lee
Edited by Meg Lee
Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
Profile photo of Meg Lee
Co-written by Meg Lee
Assigning Editor
Profile photo of Elina Geller
Co-written by Elina Geller
Lead Writer

Many, or all, of the products featured on this page are from our advertising partners who compensate us when you take certain actions on our website or click to take an action on their website. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Business Select might be considered by some as a sort of Southwest first class, but you can hardly call it that. There’s no first-class lounge to wait in before takeoff, and you’re still stuck with the same 17-inch-wide seat as everyone else.

But upgrading to a Business Select fare has its benefits, especially if you like being the first to board, you want more Rapid Rewards points or you value ease and flexibility when it comes to getting refunds or making same-day changes.

Here's how to determine if Southwest’s version of “first” class, Business Select, is the right fare for you.

What is Business Select on Southwest Airlines?

Business Select is Southwest Airlines’ most premium ticket. Rather than offering flyers traditional first class perks like extra seat room or additional privacy, this ticket class gives flyers access to benefits like being first on the plane (and first in the overhead bins), as well as increased Rapid Rewards points earning rates.

Fans of first class amenities might be disappointed in Southwest’s version, but for individuals who are based near Southwest hubs or generally enjoy the airline, upgrading to Business Select can be compelling.

Get up to 80,000 bonus points with our favorite Southwest cards
Check out our nerdy picks for the best Southwest credit cards and find the right card for you.

What else you need to know about Southwest Business Select

While there’s no such thing as Southwest first class in the traditional sense, the airline’s Business Select fares offer some important perks that might be worth the extra cost.

  • You are guaranteed to board in positions A1-A15.

  • If you’re a Rapid Rewards member, you’ll earn 12 points per dollar spent on the Business Select fare, rather than 10x, 8x or 6x for mid- and low-level fares.

  • You’re eligible for full cash refunds instead of a travel credit for future Southwest purchases, as is the case with Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus fares.

  • You have Fly By priority lane access, which can get you to the front of the ticket counter faster.

  • You also have access to the Fly By security lane, which allows access to designated (and presumably faster) security checkpoints at some airports (see which airports offer Fly By security lane access here).

  • If you often make last-minute changes, you’ll enjoy the fact that Business Select fares are eligible for same-day change and same-day standby tickets, as long as there’s an open seat on a different flight on the same date as your original flight and it’s between the same cities.

  • Business Select tickets receive one complimentary premium drink, which includes beverages like margaritas, gin and tonics, mimosas and seasonal beers.

  • Standard Southwest perks are still applicable with a Business Select fare. This includes two free checked bags (weight and size limits apply), no change fees and the option to use 100% of your ticket as reusable funds that can be applied to future travel after canceling.

Southwest seat size

Are Southwest Business Select seats bigger? Unfortunately, no. Whether you’re flying on a Business Select, Anytime, Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus fare, there is no difference in seat size.

However, to get an idea of the seat measurements, you’ll want to pay attention to the airplane that you’ll be flying on. Southwest flies three types of Boeing planes: the 737-700, 737-800 and 737 MAX 8.

If you’re curious about Southwest’s seat size on its planes, take a look at this table:

Boeing 737-700

Boeing 737-800 and 737 MAX 8

Average pitch

31”.

32”.

Narrowest seat width

15.5”.

15.5”.

Widest seat width

17”.

17.8”.

Although the difference isn’t much, you’ll have a chance of a slightly roomier seat when flying on the Boeing 737-800 or 737 MAX 8.

How to book Southwest Airlines Business Select

Unlike other airlines, Southwest does not allow travel websites like Orbitz and Kayak to publish its fares. You have to book on southwest.com or by calling a Southwest travel agent.

Search for a flight on southwest.com

You can book one-way or round-trip flights on southwest.com for up to eight passengers. Simply visit the air booking page and input your travel preferences. Click Search to see your options, which are displayed from earliest to latest in the day.

You can filter by nonstop flight options and by your preferred travel time, as well as toggle between different days to cross-check prices. If your dates are flexible, you can check out the Low Fare Calendar, too.

When you see all the flights that fit your search, you can sort them to find the perfect flight for you.

Choose the Southwest Business Select fare

Bypass the Anytime and Wanna Get Away fare types if you’re interested in the unique perks that a Business Select ticket offers. Input all of your data, then click that bright yellow purchase button.

All major credit cards, unused prior travel funds, Southwest LUV vouchers, Southwest gift cards and PayPal are eligible methods for purchasing your flight online. If you're purchasing your flight at a ticket counter, cash is also accepted.


Cards that earn Southwest miles and perks
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
NerdWallet Rating
New! Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card"
Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee
$149
$99
$199
$99
Earning rates

• 3 points per $1 on Southwest purchases.

• 2 points per $1 on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, on local transit and commuting (including rideshare) and on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming.

• 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.

• 3 points per $1 on Southwest purchases.

• 2 points per $1 on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, on local transit and commuting (including rideshare, and on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming.

• 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.

• 4 points per $1 on Southwest purchases.

• 3 points per $1 on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.

• 2 points per $1 on local transit and commuting (including rideshare), internet, cable and phone services and on social media and search engine advertising.

• 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.

• 3 points per $1 on Southwest purchases.

• 2 points per $1 on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases and on local transit and commuting (including rideshare).

• 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.

Other benefits

• Reimbursement for 4 upgraded boardings, when available, each anniversary year.

• $75 Southwest travel credit each year.

• 7,500-point anniversary bonus each year.

• Bonus offer: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

• Reimbursement for 2 EarlyBird check-ins each anniversary year.

• 6,000-point anniversary bonus each year.

• Bonus offer: Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

• Reimbursement for 4 upgraded boardings, when available, each anniversary year.

• 9,000-point anniversary bonus each year.

• Statement credit of up to $100 every four years toward Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS application fee.

• $8 per day in in-flight Wi-Fi credit (up to 365 times a year).

• Bonus offer: Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening and an additional 40,000 points when you spend $15,000 in 9 months.

• Reimbursement for 2 EarlyBird check-ins each anniversary year.

• 6,000-point anniversary bonus each year.

• Bonus offer: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening and an additional 60,000 points when you spend $15,000 in 9 months.

Horizontal scroll

Is Business Select worth it on Southwest?

Southwest has four fare classes, each with various benefits — and drastically different costs.

The value of Southwest Business Select vs. Wanna Get Away fares

The two most expensive fare classes — Southwest Business Select and Anytime fares — both have benefits that the folks in Wanna Get Away won’t get:

  1. Fully refundable tickets (rather than receiving credit for returned tickets as Southwest Travel Funds, which are basically a credit for a future flight)

  2. Same-day changes.

  3. Same-day standby.

If you value that level of flexibility, then consider booking either Business Select or Anytime. But it’s going to cost you, as Business Select Fares can often be multiple times more expensive than Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus fares.

That said, you will rack up double the Rapid Rewards points for choosing Business Select over Southwest’s lowest fare classes. But the point value is far from enough to make up the difference.

Consider the cost of a nonstop one-way flight from Fort Lauderdale to Nashville in September 2024. Here’s how many Rapid Rewards points you would earn per fare class if you buy your ticket in cash (note that if you choose the Cash + Points option at checkout, you will not earn any Rapid Rewards points).

Below, you’ll also find the value of those points, based on NerdWallet’s valuation of Southwest points at 1.5 cents:

Fare class

Cash price

Rapid Rewards points earned

Approximate value of Rapid Rewards points earned

Wanna Get Away

$100.

474.

$7.

Anytime

$180.

1,534.

$23.

Business Select

$230.

2,399.

$36.

In this case, you’re paying $130 more for a Business Select ticket compared to Wanna Get Away, but you’re also getting $29 more in value from the Rapid Rewards points earned. Accounting for that, you’ll be out an extra $101 for choosing the premium ticket.

This math isn’t unique to this booking example — it can be applied across all Southwest routes and fares.

At this point, you’ll have to decide if that upcharge is worth it to you for access to priority boarding (groups A1 - A15), a welcome drink, the ability to get a full refund rather than a credit, priority security, and easy cancellations or last-minute flight changes.

The value of Southwest Business Select vs. Anytime fares

As far as the difference between Southwest Business Select and Anytime fares, we found Southwest Business Select costs about 11.5% more, on average, than Anytime fares.

With Business Select, you'll get priority boarding, Fly By access and a complimentary premium drink. If you like being the first to choose your seat and not messing with checking in to your flight the day before, relish in the glory of speeding through a special lane at check-in and security, and delight in having a drink airborne, then the increase in Business Select vs. Anytime fares is likely worth it.

In addition, the increased Rapid Rewards points might justify the price increase (plus all the increased benefits).

If those Rapid Rewards points are something you’ll use in the future anyway, then upgrading from Anytime to Business Select is practically a no-brainer.

If you want to fly Southwest business class

Business Select can offer travelers a more streamlined Southwest experience, including easy flight changes or cancellations, the perk of being among the first to board and a complimentary drink. If you’re wrestling between Southwest Business Select versus Anytime fares and you don’t mind banking more Southwest Rapid Rewards points, then it’s usually worth it to pay a bit more for the full Southwest Business Select experience and booking the top fare.

But if you’re seeking a true first-class experience with a full airport lounge, a plush seat and a dedicated flight attendant, it might be a good idea to save your money to fly first class elsewhere, and just book a Wanna Get Away fare when traveling on Southwest.

Frequently asked questions

Business Select is not synonymous with first class, but when flying Southwest, it’s the closest thing to it. Business Select is the highest of Southwest’s fare classes, offering benefits including a guaranteed A1-A15 boarding position and access to priority check-in and security lanes, where available.

Southwest Business Select is worth it if you’d otherwise pay for upgrades like a guaranteed A1-A15 position. It’s also worthwhile if there’s a good chance you want to change or cancel your flight and would prefer a cash refund (Wanna Get Away fares can be canceled, but you receive the cost of your ticket back as an account credit called Southwest Travel Funds).

Since you earn 12x points per dollar on Southwest Business Select fares versus 10x on Anytime fares, Southwest Business Select is typically a better deal.

Among the best benefits of Southwest Business Select are an accelerated earnings rate (12 Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent on your airfare), priority boarding, check-in and security lanes (where available), and refundable fares.

Wanna Get Away is Southwest’s lowest fare class. While you’ll earn 6 Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent on Wanna Get Away fares, you’ll earn twice that when you book Business Select fares. Plus, Business Select throws in tons of extra perks including a guaranteed A1-A15 position, as well as access to priority check-in and security lanes, where available.

Southwest Business Select is similar to your conventional airline first class in some ways, but there’s one huge difference: Southwest Business Select doesn’t have designated seats.

Except for a few standard differences — like more legroom in the exit row — Southwest seats are all the same size.

While Southwest uses an open seating arrangement, you’ll have a guaranteed A1-A15 boarding position when you book a Southwest Business Select fare. That means you’ll be among those travelers getting the first choice of seats, so go ahead and plunk yourself down in that front row window seat.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Travel Cards from our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-5%

Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

Up to $300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
See more Travel cards
Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.