What Are the Best Seats on Southwest? (And How to Get Them) [2021]

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Southwest Airlines has a boarding policy that is very different from most other US airlines like United Airlines and Delta. Instead of selecting your seat before hand, you simply find the best available seats when you are boarding. This means that you want to have a plan before you step into a Southwest plane. 

So to help you find the best seat on a Southwest plane, I’ve put together this article with detailed information about how the boarding policy works and exactly which seats to go after. I also have a couple of specific pointers to help you snag the best seats and avoid the worst seats. 

What are the best seats on Southwest Airlines?

The best seat on Southwest Airlines depends on which type of aircraft that you’re flying on and your personal preferences. I’ll break down the different types of aircraft below and give you some insight into what you will want to consider when trying to decide on your personal preferences.

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Best Southwest credit cards

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card comes with the following benefits:

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 6,000 anniversary points (learn more)
  • Earn 1,500 Tier-Qualifying Points for every $10,000 in purchases, up to 15,000 Tier-Qualifying Points each calendar year
  • $99 Annual fee
  • Learn how to apply here

Southwest Airlines Priority Card

The Southwest Airlines Priority Card comes with all of the benefits offered below:

  • Bonus spending:
    • 2X Rapid Rewards on Southwest purchases
    • 2X Rapid Rewards on hotel and car rental partner purchases.
    • 1X Rapid Rewards on all other purchases
  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit (learn more)
  • 7,500 anniversary points each year
  • Four Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • 20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn tier qualifying points towards A-list Status
  • $149 annual fee applied to your first billing statement
  • Learn how to apply here

The best seat on a Southwest 737-700 

The best seat for extra legroom on a 737-700 is the coveted seat 12A, as it allows you to extend your legs more than any other seat on the aircraft. The reason you have so much room is that there is no passenger seat in front of you.

Southwest 737-700 seat map showing 12A
Seat 12A provides an insane amount of legroom! Image via Seaturu.

This is great for more legroom but you have to remember that you won’t have a place to put your carry-on underneath the seat in the row in front of you (row 11). (Many times, you can simply ask a passenger to help push your bag underneath seat 10A.)

There are other seats with additional legroom in the emergency exit rows. Any seats in rows 11 and 12 will have additional legroom. Personally, I love seats 11B and 11C because they allow Brad and I to sit as a couple without having to brush elbows with other passengers — these are perfect for the Companion Pass

But there are a couple of drawbacks. For one, you might not be able to recline. And also, note that these seats can be colder sometimes so think twice about wearing shorts.  

The seats up front, known as the bulkhead seats, also have more legroom but don’t have any seats to slide your carry-on under. With these seats, you will be the first to get off the plane which can help you avoid long immigration lines if you are flying on an international route.

Be careful about row 10 because you may not be able to recline the seats in that row. Also, the row in the very back of the plane will have limited recline not to mention the fact that it is right next to the lavatory. The back of the plane can be colder as well. 

Some seats on the 737-700 will have misaligned windows. So if you really enjoy those sweet window views when up in the clouds, you want to avoid seats 7A and 8F. Row 10 also has misaligned windows. 

Southwest AirlinesExtra room in the emergency exit rows. Photo by Kevin Dooley.

The best seat on a Southwest 737-800 

The larger 737–800 has a slightly different seat map than the 700. On this plane, seat 16A and 16F will be the seats with the most amount of legroom. And what I love most about the 800 is that there are two rows with the couple seats: 15B + 15C and 15D + 15E.

That is significant because many times it can make it worth upgrading to Business Select on an 800 because it’s easier to get one of the best seats. (I’ll talk about upgrading more below.) 

More legroom can also be found in bulkhead seats 2A, 2B, and 2C. But keep in mind that the tray tables will be inside the armrests making the seats a little less wide.

Misaligned window seats on the 800 include 9A and 10F. 

Seatmap of the 737-800 showing legroom
Seat 16A and 16F provides an insane amount of legroom! Image via Seaturu.

The best seat on a Southwest 737 MAX 8

The newest aircraft is the 737 MAX 8. This aircraft has been problematic to say the least so it might be a little bit until these become a common aircraft to fly on. 

But if and when they roll out they will be another aircraft with two special seats with lots of extra legroom. Try to go for seats 16A and 16F. There are two sections perfect for couples in row 15 but be aware there might be limited recline in rows 13, 14, and 15.

Luckily, it doesn’t look like there are misaligned windows on this aircraft.

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Seat map of a Boeing 737 max 8
Seat 16A and 16F provide extra legroom on the MAX 8. Image via Seaturu.

The most common type of aircraft

The 737-700 is the most common type of aircraft that Southwest flies so this will be the most popular type of seating chart that you will come across. In case you are wondering about the make up of the Southwest Airlines fleet here it is:

TypeNumberSeats
737-700506143
737-800207175
737 Max 834(a)175

Southwest Airlines boarding process

Now that you know what the best seats are on each aircraft, you need to know how the Southwest boarding process works. 

Unlike other airlines like Delta or United, Southwest Airlines does not allow you to reserve a seat at the time of booking or prior to boarding.

Instead, you will choose your seat as you board the plane.

It’s not quite as disorderly as it might first sound.

That’s because each passenger is given a boarding position when they check in 24 hours prior to departure.  That boarding position dictates where exactly the passenger lines up when it is time for boarding.

There are three separate boarding groups which consist of groups A, B, and C and within each boarding group, you will be assigned a number (one through 60) which is exactly where you will lineup as each boarding group is called.

To get the best seats on the plane, you are going to have to get a group A boarding position and usually a low one. For example, if you want to get one of the coveted seats like 12A, chances are you will need to have a boarding pass like “A6” or even “A1.”

It all depends on the type of people boarding your plane, though. I’ve boarded some planes where most of the high boarding pass passengers are more interested in the seats upfront. Other times, I’ve seen the emergency exit rows fill up very quick.

Luckily, there are a couple of things that you can do to be one of the first people to board the plane and get one of the best seats.

How to get the best seats on Southwest

The first thing you can do is purchase a Business Select ticket. These are the most expensive type of tickets that you can purchase with Southwest Airlines and Business Select comes with a number of benefits including:

  • Guaranteed A1-A15 boarding
  • Fly By lane access
  • Free premium drink
  • 12 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent
  • Fully refundable fare
  • Standby

If you don’t want to shell out all that cash for an expensive Business Select ticket, you can also look into upgrading. Upgrading to Business Select will be much cheaper and it’s something that I have done many times in order to secure one of the best seats on the plane.

The cost to upgrade to Business Select varies from $30 to $50 per segment, depending on the route.

The problem is that on some routes there may not be any availability allowing you to upgrade your tickets. This is especially true when you are flying on routes that are heavy with business travelers.

But, let’s say you are flying to somewhere like the Caribbean or another international destination that Southwest flies to, in many cases you could receive an A1 boarding pass when you upgrade.

You can also purchase Southwest EarlyBird which automatically checks you in 36 hours before departure. This will help you get a window or aisle seat but generally will not get you a boarding pass low enough to secure one of the best seats.

Emergency exit row restrictions

Before deciding to sit in one of the emergency exit rows, be aware that not everybody is eligible to sit in those seats.

There are certain age restrictions with sitting in the emergency exit rows. For example, you have to be at least the age of 15.

Also if you have mobility issues then you are not allowed to sit in the emergency exit rows because you could potentially be called upon to assist with emergency exits. In fact, federal law requires you to have “sufficient mobility, strength, or dexterity in both arms and hands, and both legs.”

You also cannot have visual impairments, or other issues that prevent you from reading or hearing properly.

Before departure, you will be asked by a flight attendant to agree to assist if needed and they will need verbal confirmation before allowing you to sit there. 

Best Seats on Southwest FAQ

What are the best seats on Southwest?

If you’re looking for extra legroom then you might consider rows 10 through 12 on a 737-700 or rows 13 through 16 on a 737-800.

How can I get upgrades for free?

With the Southwest Priority Credit Card you can get reimbursed for up to four Business Select upgrades per year.

How much does it cost to upgrade on Southwest Airlines?

The cost to upgrade to Business Select varies from $30 to $50 per segment, depending on the route.

What seat has extra-long legroom on a 737–700?

Seat 12A has no seat in front of it and thus has extra long legroom.

How can I get the best seats on Southwest Airlines?

You can get the best seats by purchasing or upgrading to Business Select. That’s because you will be among the first people to board the plane and will have first dibs on seats.

How can I get Boarding Group A?

You can get Boarding Group A by purchasing or upgrading to Business Select. With the Southwest Priority Credit Card you can get reimbursed for up to four Business Select upgrades per year.

Southwest EarlyBird can get you Group A but it is not guaranteed.

Do all Southwest Airlines seats have windows?

No, some seats do not have window views. On a 737-700 these include seats 7A and 8F and row 10. Misaligned window seats on the 737-800 include 9A and 10F. 

Can I reserve a seat on Southwest Airlines?

Southwest Airlines does not allow you to reserve a seat at the time of booking or prior to boarding.

Final word

The best seat on a Southwest plane depends on your personal preferences but generally if you’re looking for legroom, the emergency exit rows are great. See my tips for flying Southwest for more! 

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