Southwest Family Boarding

Southwest Family Boarding: Complete Guide and FAQs

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If you’ve flown Southwest Airlines before you know the boarding process is a little different, and it can be stressful to make sure you check in exactly 24 hours before your flight. It can be easy to forget, and even when you check in right on time, you may not get a great boarding position. That can be especially stressful if you’re traveling with young children since you can’t risk being separated from them on a flight.

The good news is that Southwest Airlines is a very family-friendly airline. In addition to great policies like free checked bags and no-fee flight changes, Southwest also helps parents out by offering family boarding. In this post, I’ll explain how Southwest Airlines family boarding works and answer some frequently asked questions about the process.

Table of Contents

    How Southwest Airlines Boarding Works

    Before we get into the details about how family boarding works on Southwest Airlines, let’s take a quick look at how general boarding works in case you aren’t familiar with the process.

    Southwest Airlines does not assign seats. Rather they assign passengers a boarding number based on a number of factors. Your boarding number will have either an A, B, or C letter designation and a number from 1-60.

    You’ll be assigned your boarding number based on the time you check in, your elite status, and whether or not you purchased Early Bird Check-In.

    If you want upgraded boarding, you can earn A-List status, purchase a Business Select Fare, or utilize 1 of 2 Southwest Airlines credit cards that come with free upgraded boarding passes, like the Southwest Priority Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card.

    Southwest Priority Card
    • $149 annual fee
    • $75 annual statement credit for Southwest purchases
    • 4 upgraded boardings per year
    • 7500 points per year on your card member anniversary
    • 3x earning on Southwest flights; 2x on local transit, internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming
    • 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 spent
    • Check your Companion Pass strategy before applying

    Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card
    Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card – 80,000 point bonus
    • $199 annual fee
    • TSA Precheck/Global Entry statement credit
    • 4 upgraded boardings per year
    • Free in-flight wifi
    • 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 spent
    • 4x earning on Southwest flights; 2x on local transit, internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming
    • 9000 points per year on your card member anniversary

    When is Family Boarding on Southwest?

    The boarding process is the same on every single Southwest flight, so once you know it you’ll be traveling like a pro. Family boarding happens after the A group, even if you have a B or C boarding position. If you happen to have an A boarding position, go ahead and board with the A group since that’s even better than utilizing family boarding.

    Here is the boarding order on every Southwest flight:

    • Pre-boarders (passengers with disabilities, passengers who need assistance boarding, and passengers who need extra time)
    • A 1-60 (in numerical order)
    • Family boarding, A-List members who didn’t get an A boarding position, and active duty military in uniform
    • B 1-60 (in numerical order)
    • C 1-60 (in numerical order)

    How Family Boarding Works

    Family boarding on Southwest Airlines occurs after the A group boards. Up to 2 adults traveling with a child who is 6 years old or younger may board after the A group, regardless of their assigned boarding position. This ensures you’ll be able to find seats together and won’t get separated.

    Southwest Family Boarding

    You don’t need to do anything ahead of time to take advantage of family boarding but you do still need to check in for your flight as you normally would. If you get an A boarding position, go ahead and board the plane with the A group since that occurs before family boarding. If you get a B or C boarding position, wait over to the side of the boarding area near the gate entrance (you’ll usually see families waiting in this area). Then when it comes time to board, the gate agent will call for family boarding after the A group has boarded. Regardless of your assigned boarding position, you’ll be allowed on the plane as long as you’re traveling with a young child (ages 6 and under).

    Southwest Family Boarding
    Southwest family boarders can wait to the side of the main boarding lines while they are waiting to be called. Image Credit: Katie Seeman

    Southwest Family Boarding FAQs

    Q: What is the Southwest Family boarding age limit?

    A: In order to take advantage of Southwest family boarding, you’ll need to be traveling with a child who is 6 years old or younger.

    Q: Do families get to pre-board on Southwest Airlines?

    A: No. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, families do not get to pre-board on Southwest Airlines. Families traveling with small kids can board after the A group.

    Q: How many adults can accompany a child during family boarding?

    A: Up to 2 adults can accompany a child who is 6 years old or younger during family boarding. Any other adults traveling with the child will need to board in their assigned position.

    Q: Can I use family boarding if I am traveling with a 7-year-old?

    A: No, technically, you won’t be eligible for family boarding if your child is 7. However, it definitely happens and you probably won’t be turned down at the gate. Be aware that if the gate agent does want to verify your child’s age, you will not be allowed on the plane during family boarding and you’ll need to board in your assigned position.

    Q: Can I use Southwest Family Boarding if I’m traveling with an autistic child?

    Southwest Family Boarding

    A: While you’re welcome to use family boarding if you’re traveling with an autistic child who is 6 years old or younger, there’s an even better option. If your child could benefit from some extra time on the plane, you can get a pre-boarding designation which will allow you to board first. This applies to autistic children who are over the age of 6 as well.

    Q: What about A-List boarding with family?

    A: If you’ve got A-List status you’ll most likely get an A boarding position, which is better than family boarding so you should board with the A group. If you have A-List status and get a B or C boarding position, you can board after the A group when they call for family boarding and any A-Listers who didn’t get an A boarding position.

    Editorial Disclosure – The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

    Katie Seemann has been playing the points and miles game since 2015 and uses the hobby to make luxury travel more affordable for her family. She started her own blog, Zen Life and Travel in 2016 and began freelance writing in 2017. She is currently a writer at Upgraded Points and has also written for Million Mile Secrets.
    When she’s not traveling, you can find Katie at home in Ohio with her husband and daughter, most likely planning another trip. You can keep up with her adventures around the world on Instagram (@zenlifeandtravel).

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