PhotoAlthough profits have never been more lucrative for airline companies, that doesn’t mean that consumers have seen the last of price hikes.

The Arizona Republic reports that Southwest Airlines has increased the fee that consumers pay in order to board flights early. Previously, the company charged consumers $12.50 to board early, but the price has now been raised to $15, a 20% increase.

Being able to board early is especially important to Southwest passengers because the company does not have assigned seating; in other words, being able to get on the plane sooner directly affects the quality of the seat you’ll get and the amount of room you’ll have to work with in the overhead luggage compartments.

Boarding groups

Currently, Southwest has three boarding groups that travelers are put into when they check in for their flight – simply named Group A, Group B, and Group C. Passengers who are on the ball and check in early have the greatest chance of being put into Groups A or B, which allow them to board earlier.

However, those who pay the extra fee for the EarlyBird Check-In option don’t have to worry about their check-in time; they are automatically put into a boarding group 36 hours before the flight – 12 hours before other passengers can even attempt to check in.

Although opting for EarlyBird Check-In doesn’t automatically guarantee that a passenger will be in Group A, it does give them a significant advantage over other passengers. Its popularity with travelers has brought in millions of dollars for Southwest over the years; it earned the company an additional $280 million in 2015 and $230 million the year before. Now, with the price hike, it may be poised to make even more. 

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