How Bad Is Boarding Group C On Southwest Airlines?

Flying Southwest Airlines and worried about getting a C boarding group? Many travelers dread seeing that dreaded C on their boarding pass, imagining the worst-case scenarios of getting stuck with a bad seat or having their bags not make it onboard.

But just how bad is boarding in the C group on Southwest, really? If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: While boarding group C on Southwest Airlines does come with some disadvantages like potentially less desirable seat selections and a lack of overhead bin space, it does not necessarily mean you’ll have a terrible flight experience overall.

With some planning and strategy, you can still board smoothly and enjoy your Southwest flight even with a C boarding group.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about Southwest’s boarding process, what boarding group C really means, tips for making the most of boarding in the C group, and whether buying EarlyBird Check-In is worth it to boost your boarding position.

How Southwest’s Boarding Process and Groups Work

Southwest Airlines has a unique boarding process that sets it apart from other airlines. Instead of assigning specific seats to passengers, Southwest uses a boarding group system. Passengers are divided into three groups: A, B, and C, with each group further divided into numbered positions.

Understanding how this process works can help you navigate the boarding experience more smoothly.

Overview of boarding positions A1-C60

The boarding process begins with the A group, which consists of positions A1 to A60. Passengers in this group have priority boarding and can choose any available seat on the plane. The B group follows, with positions ranging from B1 to B60.

Finally, the C group, positions C1 to C60, is called to board. Passengers in this group have the last opportunity to select their seats, as the majority of seats may already be occupied.

How boarding positions are assigned

Boarding positions are assigned based on the time of check-in. The earlier you check in for your flight, the better your boarding position will be. Southwest allows passengers to check in online up to 24 hours before their flight departure time.

It’s important to check in as early as possible to secure a better position, especially if you have specific seating preferences or carry-on luggage requirements.

Passengers who have purchased Southwest’s EarlyBird Check-In service will be automatically checked in 36 hours before their flight, giving them a better chance at securing a favorable boarding position.

However, it’s worth noting that EarlyBird Check-In does not guarantee a position in the A group, as it is subject to availability and the number of passengers who have also purchased the service.

Why boarding C can be seen negatively

Being assigned to boarding group C can be seen negatively by some passengers. By the time the C group is called to board, many of the desirable seats, such as window or aisle seats, may already be taken.

Passengers in this group may be left with limited seating options, potentially ending up in middle seats or scattered throughout the plane.

However, it’s important to remember that Southwest Airlines operates on an open seating policy, allowing passengers to choose any available seat. This means that even if you are assigned to boarding group C, you still have the opportunity to find a seat that suits your preferences.

Additionally, the boarding process on Southwest is generally efficient, and the airline prides itself on quick turnaround times, so finding a seat shouldn’t be a major concern.

What to Expect When Boarding in Group C

Limited overhead bin space

When you are in Boarding Group C on Southwest Airlines, one of the main challenges you may encounter is limited overhead bin space. By the time Group C is called, many passengers from earlier boarding groups have likely already claimed the majority of the overhead compartments for their carry-on luggage.

This means that finding a spot for your bag might require some creativity and flexibility. It’s advisable to pack light and consider using a smaller bag that can easily fit under the seat in front of you.

This will help ensure that you have a stress-free boarding experience and won’t have to worry about finding a place to stow your belongings.

Less ideal seat selections

Another aspect to keep in mind when boarding in Group C is that there may be limited options when it comes to seat selection. Passengers in earlier boarding groups have the advantage of choosing from a wider range of available seats, including those with extra legroom or closer to the front of the aircraft.

However, as a Group C passenger, you may find yourself with fewer choices and may have to settle for a seat that is not as desirable. It’s important to keep in mind that every seat on the plane has its own benefits, so try to make the best of the situation and focus on the positive aspects of your flight.

Slower overall boarding process

Due to the sequential nature of Southwest Airlines’ boarding process, boarding Group C typically means a slower overall boarding process. Since you will be boarding after Groups A and B, the plane may already be partially filled when you board.

This can lead to a slower and more crowded boarding experience, as you navigate through the cabin to find your seat. However, it’s worth noting that Southwest has a reputation for efficient boarding, and even with Group C, the process is typically smoother compared to other airlines.

Plus, once you’re settled in your seat, you can relax and enjoy your flight.

Tips for Making the Most of Boarding Group C

Check in right at 24 hours

When it comes to Southwest Airlines, timing is crucial. To maximize your chances of getting a better boarding position in Group C, make sure to check in exactly 24 hours before your flight. This gives you a higher chance of securing a better spot in the boarding order.

Set a reminder on your phone or computer to ensure you don’t miss the check-in window.

Travel light for easy bin access

Boarding Group C might not offer the luxury of first pickings when it comes to overhead bin space, so it’s important to travel light. By packing only the essentials and using a smaller carry-on bag, you’ll be able to easily find space in the overhead bins, even if you’re one of the last to board.

Remember, less is more when it comes to boarding Group C.

Aim for the front of the C group

While it may seem like Boarding Group C is at a disadvantage compared to Groups A and B, there is still a strategy you can employ to improve your boarding experience. Aim to be one of the first few passengers in Group C to board the aircraft.

This way, you can choose a seat closer to the front, ensuring a quicker exit once you reach your destination.

Be ready to gate check if needed

Even with the best efforts, it’s possible that the overhead bins may be full by the time you reach your seat. In this case, don’t panic! Southwest Airlines offers complimentary gate checking for larger carry-on items.

Be prepared to quickly and efficiently gate check your bag if necessary, so you can still have a stress-free boarding experience.

Is EarlyBird Check-In Worth It to Improve Boarding Position?

How EarlyBird Check-In works

EarlyBird Check-In is a service offered by Southwest Airlines that allows passengers to secure a better boarding position without having to manually check-in online at an exact time. When you purchase EarlyBird Check-In, you are automatically checked in 36 hours before your flight’s departure time.

This means that you will have a better chance of getting a coveted boarding position.

Pros of paying for EarlyBird

There are several advantages to paying for EarlyBird Check-In. Firstly, it saves you the hassle of setting an alarm or constantly checking the clock to ensure you check-in exactly 24 hours before your flight. This service takes care of that for you, allowing you to relax and focus on other things.

Secondly, by securing a better boarding position, you increase your chances of finding overhead bin space for your carry-on luggage. This can save you from having to gate-check your bag and waiting for it at baggage claim upon arrival.

Additionally, a better boarding position can also result in a more comfortable seat selection, especially if you prefer sitting near the front of the plane.

Lastly, EarlyBird Check-In provides peace of mind, knowing that you have improved your chances of getting a favorable boarding position. This can alleviate some of the stress associated with flying and allow you to have a more enjoyable travel experience.

Cons to consider

While EarlyBird Check-In offers many benefits, there are a few drawbacks to consider. Firstly, it comes at an additional cost, typically around $15 to $25 per person, each way. This can add up, especially for budget-conscious travelers.

Secondly, it is important to note that EarlyBird Check-In does not guarantee a specific boarding position. While it does increase your chances of getting a better position, there is still a possibility that you may end up in Boarding Group C. This is particularly true during peak travel times when many passengers have purchased the service.

Lastly, some travelers may prefer the excitement and challenge of manually checking in at the exact time to secure a good boarding position. For them, EarlyBird Check-In takes away the thrill of the chase.


At the end of the day, boarding group C on Southwest Airlines comes with some disadvantages but is far from a disastrous boarding group. While you may encounter issues like limited bin space and seat options, having realistic expectations and a game plan can help minimize the downsides.

Checking in right at 24 hours, packing light, and being flexible are key to making the most of boarding group C. And for frequent Southwest flyers, EarlyBird Check-In can be worth the fee to drastically improve your chances of an A boarding group.

While Southwest’s open seating model can make C group stressful, focusing on making smart moves once onboard rather than getting hung up on your position can help ensure a smooth and comfortable flight regardless of your boarding group.

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