Where other airlines zig, Southwest zags. When other carriers started charging passengers for checked bags and carry-ons, Southwest held fast to its no-fees commitment: It's the only major American airline that lets all passengers check not just one, but two bags, for free. Southwest also uses an unconventional boarding process because it doesn't assign seats. But while this airline has some quirks, its boarding pass printing options are similar to those offered by its competitors.
Print Southwest boarding passes from your home computer, curbside at some airports, or inside the airport at a kiosk or Southwest ticket counter.
Printing Boarding Passes: Four Options
Southwest offers its customers several ways to print their boarding passes. The first option is to print your pass at home. Online check-in is available starting 24 hours before the flight departs. Southwest may send an email with a link once check-in is available for your flight. Follow the directions and choose the option to print your boarding pass from your printer. (If the boarding pass is misplaced before the trip, print another copy from the Southwest website, or get another copy printed once you reach the airport.)
To print the boarding pass at the airport, look for a Southwest skycap outside the terminal. Not all airports have them, but major ones often do. Skycap podiums are set up to allow passengers to check in and receive their printed boarding passes. Drop off any checked bags here, too. This service is free, but it's customary to tip at least a few dollars for any skycap service.
Inside the airport, print the boarding pass from a Southwest kiosk or ask an airline agent to print it for you at the ticket counter. Travelers who already checked in online may get their boarding passes printed from either a kiosk or a ticket counter.
Choosing the Mobile Option
Although Southwest offers several boarding pass printing options, many travelers skip paper passes and use mobile boarding passes. They're available for all domestic Southwest flights but not for international ones. To get a mobile boarding pass, check in online during the 24-hour period before the flight's departure. Select your preferred delivery method. A mobile boarding pass can be texted or emailed to you or viewed in your browser. If you choose the mobile option, take a screenshot of the pass just in case internet issues don't allow you to load the pass when it's time to board.
Using a Southwest Boarding Pass
The Southwest Airlines check-in process is similar to that of other carriers, but the boarding process takes some travelers by surprise. A Southwest boarding pass has a group number and boarding position rather than a seat number. When a group number is called, everyone from that group lines up to board the plane. Once onboard, passengers can choose any empty seat.
For travelers who feel strongly about seat locations, paying extra for Southwest EarlyBird check-in can be useful. Passengers who opt for EarlyBird are assigned to one of the first boarding groups, which gives them more seat options and early access to overhead storage bins.