For a small fee, Southwest Airlines' Early Bird Check-In allows passengers to check-in to a flight automatically up to 36 hours prior to the flight's scheduled departure time. This feature includes an early assigned boarding position, the opportunity to select a preferred seat and early access to overhead bin storage for carry-on bags.
While not guaranteed, most Early Bird Check-In passengers obtain an "A" boarding pass, which allows them to board the plane earlier than most passengers. Boarding passes with this feature are ranked as a first come, first served basis, so signing up for the Early Bird Check-In as soon as possible ensures top spots in the boarding procedures. Early Bird Check-In passengers board after Business Select and A-List Customers.
There are several ways to purchase the early check-in, including online, over the phone through a reservation agent or through the Southwest mobile app. The Southwest website stresses that the check-in cannot be purchased at any airport ticket counter. A confirmation is sent to the email address listed on the itinerary when the check-in is purchased.
Purchases of the Early Bird Check-In are not refundable, and passengers who cancel their reservation must forfeit the option for that particular flight. In the rare event that Southwest cancels a flight, a refund will be issued within one or two billing cycles.