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Southwest Business Select is it worth the extra cost

Southwest Business Select – worth the extra cost?

by Jeremy B

Southwest Business Select tickets offer travelers a unique set of perks targeted towards business travelers. Is Southwest Business worth it, though? We examine this question in great detail and answer many of the frequently asked questions travelers have about business select fares on Southwest.

Specifically we cover the following questions:

  • What is Southwest Business Select?
  • Does Southwest have a business class?
  • What are the features of business select on Southwest?
  • Do you have to be a business traveler to purchase Southwest Business Select?
  • Does Southwest Business Select automatically check you in?
  • How much is Southwest Airlines Business Select?
  • Does Business Select get priority security?
  • What is the difference between business select and wanna get away?
  • Is Business Select on Southwest worth it?
  • And much much more…

We’ve got you covered in this Guide to Southwest Business Select. Happy Traveling!

Southwest Business Select - worth the extra cost

What is Southwest Business Select?

Southwest Business Select is a fare-type travelers can purchase when flying Southwest Airlines. This higher-priced fare entitles travelers to additional perks like priority boarding passes, Fly By Security lane access and more Rapid Rewards points to name a few.

Does Southwest Have a Business Class?

No, Southwest Airlines does not have a traditional business class section of the plane like other airlines such as United or Delta. Travelers are often confused by the Business Select fare option which may give travelers the impression Southwest has a business or first class section. They do not.

Southwest Airlines has an open seating policy and with the exception of exit row seating and bulkhead seats the seats are completely identical.

Does Southwest Have a Business Class

Southwest Business Select fares, although perhaps confusing, do not entitle passengers to a better class of seating on the plane. Instead, the offer additional perks to travelers like the opportunity to board sooner than most other passengers, additional Rapid Rewards Miles and the like.

The Southwest Boarding Process explained

Travelers who purchase a Business Select fare on Southwest will board the plane earlier and will therefore have a better chance of selecting their preferred seating (ideally an exit row).

Learn how to pick the best seat on Southwest Airlines here

What are the features of business select on Southwest?

The key features and benefits of buying a Business Select fare with Southwest include:

  • Guaranteed A1-15 boarding pass
  • Use of the Southwest Fly By Security Line
  • Free drink coupon on each flight
  • Earn additional Rapid Rewards bonus points (12 points per dollar spent)
  • Fully Refundable Fare
  • Standby privileges (with no change fees)

Business Select fares are usually substantively higher priced than Wanna Get Away fares (although closer to Anytime fares). An example of this with a common business travel schedule (out on Monday and back on Friday) from SAN to ORD is depicted below. As you can see a business class fare is significantly higher than other fares (note: at time the search was ran it was still a month away from departure time).

Southwest Business Select Fare Example Pricing

Is Business Select on Southwest worth it?

The short answer is probably not, but it depends on what you value. Let’s examine this first from the perspective of Southwest’s target demographic for this fare: business travelers.

A frequent business traveler likely doesn’t find much value from the key benefits offered by the fare. Let’s examine each benefit individually:

  • Guaranteed A1-A15 boarding pass. This might seem like a nice benefit (and it is, don’t misunderstand) but a frequent business traveler who travels on Southwest regularly like is already an A-List member which means they are already getting at least an A Boarding pass which results in them getting a pretty decent seat anyway.
  • Use of the Fly By Security Line. This too is nice perk because it means you get to jump the line. However, with the advent of TSA PreCheck and Clear it’s likely that the frequent business traveler will already be jumping the line. And, if the traveler has TSA PreCheck they are likely to NOT use the Fly By Line because they’d still have to take their shoes off and laptops out of their bag. TSA PreCheck is a better option here.
  • Free drink coupon on each flight. Largely a useless benefit. While I am always surprised at who drinks on flights and WHEN (I mean who’s pounding a Coors for a 6 am flight??? Surprisingly, more than you’d expect), many business travelers will not drink on an outgoing flight (although perhaps on the flight home). Secondly, frequent business travelers on Southwest already get free drink coupons mailed to them periodically.
  • Earn additional Rapid Reward bonus points on each flight. This is is really the most meaningful benefit. The ability to significantly up-size your rewards points means you can use them to take free flights more often. A nice perk and one that a business traveler would love. If you are really on top of the points and miles game AND a frequent traveler with A-List Preferred you can explode your miles here. Book a business select fare (get the 12x points), use a Southwest credit card, get 100% bonus with A-List Preferred, and bam. Free flights for everyone….lol.
  • Fully Refundable Fare. This benefit will have some value to business travelers, although it’s more so to the company’s they work for than the business traveler. Business select fares are fully refundable. Because business travelers schedules change frequently this could save the company some money. That said, if a business traveler needs to cancel a flight the fee for that canceled flight simply goes into your Southwest account as a credit. If you are a frequent business traveler you will use this credit up pretty quickly make this benefit less interesting.
  • Standby privileges (with no change fee). This is also a useful benefit to some travelers. Particularly those who travel to/from destinations that have frequent flights in/out to the same location. Maybe your meeting in Sacramento ended early so you want to catch the 3:55 flight instead of the 5:10 flight. No change fees if you are on a business class and you can standby on the earlier flight. That said, frequent business travelers that have earned A-List status get this benefit anyway.

In my view (as a Frequent Business Traveler myself, often on Southwest) I simply don’t see the value that the likely significant cost would bring here. As someone who’s held A-List on Southwest for many many years the number of times I’ve purchase a business select fare can be counted on part of one hand. The extra cost really isn’t justified.

Is Business Select on Southwest worth it - most likely not

The only time, IMO, that a business traveler might get some benefit out of this program would be a frequent business traveler who INFREQUENTLY travels on Southwest. Maybe they are a dyed-in-the-wool United flier but have to snag a Southwest flight for schedule reasons. Perhaps it would make sense.

Another option that might make sense for a business traveler to purchase a business select fare would be the infrequent business traveler. Not only do they not fly Southwest often they really don’t travel for work all that often. Perhaps, in that case, it would make sense.

If we consider leisure travelers, it’s possible it might make sense to spend the extra money to ensure you get a decent seat (really it’d just be the exit row that you’d be after). However, I’d still be surprised if leisure travelers use the business select fare heavily. I suspect not.

So, is Business Select on Southwest worth it? Survey says…no. Most likely not.

As an aside, I’d be very curious to hear how much revenue Southwest generates from these fares. I often see much of the A1-A15 spots empty as we prepare to board a plane (as I stand with my A21 boarding pass…).

How could Southwest Improve Business Select Benefits?

I doubt very much that Southwest will ever read this article, but as a longtime Southwestie and loyal customer (who loves most of what they do) I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer a few suggestions that WOULD make this more palatable to business travelers:

  1. Guaranteed exit row or bulkhead seats. This would be complicated for Southwest who doesn’t assign seats, but I suspect they could pull this off.
  2. Free Wi-Fi for business select fares. I have no idea why this isn’t a benefit already.
  3. You get a coupon or credit to pay for a portion of TSA PreCheck (and they do away with the Fly By Line altogether). This would be interesting. I know, there’s some issues here. Maybe a partnership with CLEAR or something based on x dollars spent per year on business select fares. Yeah, I know, I am reaching here…
  4. You get to fly the plane for 10 minutes. Ok, joking here, but it’s hard to find truly valuable benefits that would make business select truly attractive given how Southwest operates the rest of its programs AND how good most of the other benefits and rules are for most travelers.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Southwest Business Select fare

In this section we share several common frequently asked questions about the Southwest Business Select program.

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Southwest Business Select - what you need to know

Can you upgrade to Business Select after you purchase your ticket?

Yes, sort of. Southwest Airlines offers a feature known as Upgraded Boarding which allows travelers to upgrade their boarding position to an A1-A15 boarding position (assuming they are still available). You can purchase this via the website or mobile app or at the gate. Prices range from $30, $40 or $50 per flight. This technically isn’t upgrading your fare to a Business Select fare, but you do get to board sooner.

I suspect this feature is a response to the likely fact that many flights don’t have a huge take rate on Business Select Fares. Upgrading your boarding position IS actually a decent perk if you find yourself without a decent boarding position (like C35 or something). There are lots of other ways to avoid that though without spending the extra coin.

Are there any credit cards that offer Southwest Business Select benefits?

Yes, the Southwest Priority Card from Chase gives cardholders 4 free “upgrades” to priority boarding A1-A15 per year. This technically isn’t a business select upgrade, but it more or less is.

Do you have to be a business traveler to purchase Southwest Business Select?

No, business select fares are open to any type of traveler, although they tend to be purchased more by travelers on business.

Does Southwest Business Select automatically check you in?

Does Southwest Business Select automatically check you in

Yes. Travelers who purchase business select fares are automatically checked in to their flights and are guaranteed to receive a boarding pass between A1 – A15.

How much is Southwest Airlines Business Select?

A lot. Southwest Business Select fares are typically much more expensive than Wanna Get Away fares (which are the cheapest fares Southwest offers). They are usually bit closer in most cases to the price of Anytime fares. Here’s one example using a common business traveler route (LAX to DAL) Monday to Friday and a month in advance:

Southwest Business Select Fare Example Pricing LAX to DAL
Notice the wild disparity in pricing between Wanna Get Away and Biz Select Fares. OUCH

Does Business Select get priority security?

Yes. Travelers who’ve purchased Business Select fares get access to the Fly By Line which is an expedited security checkpoint at participating airports. Think of this line like a First Class or Business Class line on other airlines. It is not, however, TSA PreCheck or CLEAR, and those options may make more sense if you have them.

What is the difference between Business Select and Wanna Get Away?

Price is typically the largest different between Business Select and Wanna Get Aware fares, but there are other factors as well. Business Select fares are fully refundable. Wanna Get Aware fares are not. Business Select fares earn a 12x points bonus. Wanna Get Aware fares earn no bonus.

Do you need a Rapid Rewards Account to book a Southwest Business Select Fare?

No, travelers do not need a Rapid Rewards Account to book a Southwest Business Select fare, although doing so without a Southwest Frequent Flyer account negates a key benefit of the fare because travelers would lose out on the huge Rapid Rewards bonus of 12 points per dollar. Ouch. Why not create an account. It’s free!.

Should I book a business select fare using Southwest Rewards?

God no. This is probably a pretty dumb thing to do in most cases. It’s going to cost you a ton more points, and since you are using points to BOOK the flight you aren’t earning points thus negating the one truly valuable part of the business select program. Refundable fares aren’t an issue either because Southwest Airlines will refund your points with no fee if you need to cancel a rewards ticket (some limitations apply).

Other great Southwest Airlines Content

We truly are big fans of Southwest Airlines here at the CBoardingGroup and while we don’t like every aspect of the airline, we do like a lot of it. Here’s a few other important and useful pieces of Southwest Airlines content:

Stay tuned as we continue to build our out Southwest Airlines travel tips, tricks and advice.

Thanks for visit

We do little to hide our love for Southwest Airlines here at the CBoardingGroup, but we just don’t see the value in the Business Select program. Hopefully, this guide helped you make a more informed decision.

As always, we appreciate your visits each and every day. Thanks!

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Is Southwest Business Select worth the extra cost

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