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Southwest Airlines offers a service called Early Bird Check-In. For a fee ($15–35/person depending on flight) you can ensure that you will be among the first to board and therefore first to choose your seat. (It's an open seating policy.)

While booking an itinerary on southwest.com, there is no way to only purchase Early Bird for certain passengers or certain legs. Selecting Early Bird will purchase it for each passenger and each leg, which can quickly add up.

Lately, when booking flights for 4 people on Southwest, I have split my booking in two, selecting Early Bird for two of them and not purchasing it for the other two. Obviously, I get two different boarding positions when checking in, but the two people with Early Bird save a seat for those who don't have it.

Whenever I do this, it feels unsettling, probably from all the stories on this site about itineraries booked separately. Is there any way this could reasonably backfire?

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    There's the obvious, of course: if you have A35 and your companion has C19, the person with B20 might want to sit in the seat you're saving for your companion, and you'll have to let them. – Nate Eldredge Jun 10 at 2:51
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    I mean other than being pressed about the practice of seat-saving :) – OldBunny2800 Jun 10 at 2:57
  • I sometimes travel with a couple of friends on Southwest. I have always been able to get the same flight, but I reserve immediately after they make their reservation. We all get Early Bird so we are often together in the line, or only separated by one or two passengers, avoiding the seat saving problem. – Patricia Shanahan Jun 10 at 3:03
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    @PatriciaShanahan but that would require paying for it :) – Harper Jul 7 at 12:27
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Well, it's theft of service. You are trying to collect 4 seats of early bird service, but you only paid for two. Southwest has every right and incentive to not support this in the most sincere way they can. All that to say, it's all on you to make sure this stays under the radar, and no quarrel develops that might attract staff attention. That means if another passenger objects, let the Wookiee win.

I would expect the consequence of staff attention to be that all four of you board last. Unless you double down on indiscretion, in which case all four of you board Delta.

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    If you really insist then you might even commit a federal offense. – chx Jul 7 at 12:46

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