Southwest Business Select Worth it? (Wanna Get Away vs Anytime) [2022]

Southwest Business Select is confusing to many outsiders because it sounds like you’re purchasing a traditional business class/first class ticket with more spacious seating, better class of service, etc.

However, Business Select on Southwest is more like an Economy Plus flying experience with special additional perks.

While it’s not a true business class experience, it can still be worth it and better than Wanna Get Away and Anytime fares (depending on your situation).

Here’s everything you need to know about Southwest Business Select to determine if it’s worth it. 

What is Southwest Business Select?

Southwest Business Select fares are the most expensive type of Southwest Airlines ticket sold and they offer the most amount of benefits including:

  • Guaranteed A1-A15 boarding
  • Fly By lane access
  • Free premium drink
  • 12 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent
  • Fully refundable fare
  • Free same day changes and standby

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Southwest plane window view

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

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

Guaranteed A1-A15 boarding

Business Select tickets offer guaranteed A1-A15 boarding, which means that you’ll be one of the first passengers to board.

On Southwest this is a big deal since seats are not assigned and you can sit wherever you want on the plane.

Having a high boarding pass could result in you getting stuck in a middle seat or even with no overhead storage for your carry-on.

But having a Business Select A1-A15 low boarding position could mean snagging emergency exit row seats with extra leg room (more on those below).

I should mention that for non-Business Select passengers, if you check-in right at the 24 hour mark, you should be able to get a window or aisle seat and find overhead bin space.

So if you just want a window or aisle seat, you don’t need to purchase Business Select to secure that.

If you’re really worried about not getting a good seat then consider signing up for Southwest EarlyBird, which will automatically check you in before your flight and increase your odds of getting an A boarding pass.

EarlyBird is not always worth it for everyone but you can read more about it here.

southwest boarding area

Fly By (expedited check-in and security lines)

This will get you through the expedited check-in and security lines. This is also a benefit given to A-List and A-List Preferred Members. You can read more about it and find airports with these express lanes here.

I’ve seen some long lines to check in/check bags for Southwest before so having this perk can be pretty valuable especially if you’re traveling on business and in a time crunch.

As far as expedited security goes, I’m more interested in using TSA Pre-Check and CLEAR to get through quickly.

Free premium drink

Whenever you check in you should be given your free Southwest Business Select drink coupon.

Make sure that they give it to you since some times they don’t even mention to you that you have the drink coupon along with your boarding pass.

Keep in mind flights traveling 175 miles or less only serve water. If you are traveling over 175 miles you may be able to choose from the following drinks:

  • Grapefruit Vodka and Cran Apple
  • Bourbon and Ginger
  • Margarita
  • Rum-rita
  • Bloody Mary
  • Tequila and OJ
  • Vodka and Cran Apple
  • Mimosa
  • Jack and Coke®
  • Gin and Tonic
  • Bourbon and 7UP®
  • Cruset and Cran Apple

Beer and wine will also be available.

You can click here to view the old drink menu. 

If you are really nice to a flight attendant they may hook you up with a second free drink for free. Otherwise, alcoholic beverages will cost you about $6 to $7 each.

Related: Can You Bring Alcohol (Mini-Liquor Bottles) on Planes & Through Airports?

12 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent

With Business Select, you’ll be earning 12 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent.

For sake of comparison, here are the earn rates for the different Southwest fares:

  • Business Select: 12
  • Anytime: 10
  • Wanna Get Away Plus:
  • Wanna Get Away: 6
southwest rapid rewards rates

The extra value received in the form of Rapid Rewards is a major consideration that should be factored in when deciding between Business Select and Anytime fares (discussed more below).

The price difference between Business Select and Wanna Get Away fares is usually so drastic that this perk usually isn’t relevant when choosing between those.

The higher price of Business Select is often a turn off to many people looking for budget flights but business travelers are big on these fares. Since their companies are typically covering their travel, they’re able to quickly accumulate Rapid Rewards by booking these fares.

If you have status with Southwest (A-List or A-List Preferred) you can earn additional bonus Rapid Rewards.

Here are the elite status requirements and bonus rates:

LevelFlightsTier Qualifying PointsBonus
A-List 2535,00025%
A-List Preferred5070,000100%

This means that if you’re A-List Preferred you’ll earn a 100% bonus on each flight meaning you’d be earning 24 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent with Business Select!

Related: Southwest devalues Rapid Rewards points by 6%

southwest seats

Refundable fares

Business Select fares are fully refundable so you can get a monetary refund to your original form of payment or a flight credit.

The key thing to remember is that in order to get a full refund you will need to act at least 10 minutes prior to scheduled departure.

If you wait longer than that your Business Select fare will be converted to a travel credit that you can use for yourself or transfer to someone else.

This refund flexibility is the biggest reason you’d want to pay extra for Business Select.

The other benefits can make Business Select a better pick than Anytime fares but Wanna Get Away fares are going to make sense most of the time if you don’t need a fully refundable ticket. 

Note that if you modify a Business Select booking you’ll lose the ability to get a refund.

As the terms state:

“Modifying a fully refundable fare will result in the fare becoming NON-refundable. Non-refundable fares may be applied toward future travel on Southwest Airlines for the originally ticketed passenger only.”

Same day changes and standby travel

If your plans change on the day of travel, you can change to a different flight on your day of travel without additional charges. The good thing about being a Business Select passenger is that you can do this online.

If you can’t find a seat, you can always get put on the same-day standby list for a different flight by talking with a Southwest Gate Agent (in person).

Standby travel between the same city pairs and on the original date of travel is permitted with no charge for a change in fare price. But If the fare on your new flight is lower than your original purchase, Southwest will refund the difference.

Note: You may lose the privilege of boarding in the first portion of the “A” group if you choose to standby on a different flight.

No free luggage?

Southwest gives everybody two free bags so that’s why free checked bags are not a Business Select perk. To read more about Southwest luggage policies click here. 

Is there a Southwest first class? 

There is no Southwest first class. Southwest Business Select is essentially Southwest “first class” but I wouldn’t refer to Business Select as first class because that is even more misleading than the term Business Select.

If you are interested in true first class experiences you’ll need to go with other legacy carriers like United, American, Delta, etc. which have a separate cabin and larger seats for first class.  

Are Southwest Business Select seats bigger?

Southwest Business Select is not a traditional business class ticket that’s going to get you spacious first class or business class seating.

Unlike other domestic carriers like United, American, Delta, Alaska, etc., there is not a separate Southwest business class cabin.

On Southwest, you’re all in it together and the entire plane is economy. With that said, you can still get extra comfort with Business Select tickets by finding seats with extra leg room.

Seats with extra leg room

Southwest primarily operates 737-700s and 737-800s. It’s a good idea to get familiar with the seat maps of these two planes.

That’s because several seats have extra legroom and others come in rows of only two seats, which can be great for couples. You can find out more information about the different types of seats in my tips for flying Southwest.

If you purchase Business Select tickets you’ll be among the first to board the plane and you’ll have a lot of options for your seat.

Some Business Select passengers like to snag a seat up front but others seek out more legroom.

Preboarding can’t take the emergency exit row seats with extra legroom, so it’s often pretty easy to get a seat in those rows Business Select passengers (though not guaranteed).

Related: What Are the Best Seats on Southwest? (And How to Get Them)

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

How much does it cost to upgrade to Southwest Business Select?

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

Keep in mind that upgrade availability is limited.

So if you’re flying on a heavy business route you might not be able to upgrade.

But if you’re flying on a leisure route to somewhere like the Caribbean you can almost always count on an upgrade being possible (you might even get the top spot).

On a couple of occasions, I’ve been told there are no upgrades available only to find out at boarding that there’s nobody (or just one or two people) in Business Select!

I still don’t know why this happens but it’s something to be on the lookout for.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

How to upgrade to Business Select

To upgrade, simply choose your upgrade at the time of online check-in or approach the ticket counter or desk at the departure gate and inquire about the upgrade.

Sometimes they make you upgrade at the gate reserved for your flight but other times you can do it at check-in or at another Southwest gate.

Southwest should be able to tell you exactly what boarding number you’d receive before you upgrade so you can see if it’s worth it.

Note: On at least one occasion I was upgraded to a position like A9 and yet there were no passengers who boarded before me so it’s possible that sometimes your boarding position might actually be better than what the agent told you it is at the time of your upgrade.

If you upgrade, you will not receive the additional Rapid Rewards or a free drink coupon.

southwest seats mood lighting

Upgrades with the new Southwest Priority Credit Card

The new Southwest Priority Credit Card now offers up to four upgrades to priority boarding (A1 to A15) based on availability per year.

Among other benefits, it also offers a $75 annual credit, 20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies, and 20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies.

It’s not a bad way to cover those upgrades to Business Select if you only need to cover a few of those a year. 

Southwest Business Select vs Anytime

Southwest Anytime fares are the mid-tier fares which just like Business Select, are fully refundable.

The difference between these fares is that Business Select comes with extra perks.

With Business Select you get the priority boarding, the free premium drink, and get to earn 12 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent versus the 10 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent that you get with Anytime fares.

So if you’re debating between Business Select and Anytime fares you need to think about how much you value priority boarding, a free drink, and those extra points. 

Often the price difference between Business Select and Anytime fares is quite small. In the example below, the price difference is only $22.

Southwest Business Select

So in that case you’d break your Rapid Rewards earnings down as follows:

  • Business Select: $615 X 12 = 7,380 ($111 worth of Rapid Rewards)
  • Anytime: $593 X 10 = 5,930 ($89 worth of Rapid Rewards)

You could then subtract the cash value of those point earnings from the original price to see what your effective cost would be with point earnings considered.

The math would look like this:

  • Business Select: $615 – $111= $504
  • Anytime: $593 – $89 = $504

Notice how the effective prices are equal but with Business Select you’d also get the priority boarding and the free drink.

So in some cases, you’ll definitely get more value by paying for Business Select over Anytime awards but you always should do the math to see which is a better bargain.

Read up on how much Southwest points are worth.

Southwest Business Select vs Wanna Get Away

When it comes to Wanna Get Away fares, the two major differences are 1) the refund policy and 2) price.

The refund policy

Wanna Get Away fares are not refundable.

You can get a flight credit if you cancel 10 minutes prior to departure but you just can’t transfer the flight credit like you could with a Business Select fare.

And if you fail to cancel you lose everything unless you can take advantage of the flat tire rule.

Meanwhile, as already stated, Business Select fares are truly refundable since you can get your cash back in your pocket. Even if you never show up, you will still get a credit.

Price

Unlike Anytime fares, Wanna Get Away fares are usually much cheaper than Business Select fares.

So while Business Select fares will earn you more points, it’s often not worth chasing those points because you’re simply not going to net enough extra value to justify the higher cost.

I’ll use the above flight from HOU to LAX to illustrate. Here’s how many Rapid Rewards you would earn.

  • Business Select: $615 X 12 = 7,380
  • Wanna Get Away: $150 X 6 = 900

So you’d be spending $465 more for an extra 6,480 Rapid Rewards worth about $97. That would not even be close to worth it (unless of course you really need the refund flexibility).

If you’re interested in locking down a better seat, you could always go with EarlyBird or even upgrade to Business Select for a fraction of the cost.

And if you wanted a premium drink, remember those only cost around $6 to $7 so you’d be much better off paying for the drink out of pocket.

Companion Pass considerations

The Companion Pass allows someone to fly with you for free (besides fees) every time you purchase or redeem points for a flight. You can do this for up to two calendar years.

To qualify, you need to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.

If you do a lot of flying on Southwest, you might want to factor in how your 12X Business Select earnings will help you obtain the Companion Pass.

In some situations, it could make sense to go for a Business Select fare just to earn the extra points for the Companion Pass, especially if you are close to earning the needed points.

Just remember, only your 12X Business Select earnings will count towards the pass since you don’t get credit for elite bonus points.

Southwest Business Select FAQ

What are the Southwest Business Select benefits?

Guaranteed A1-A15 boarding
Fly By lane access
Free premium drink
12 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent
Fully refundable fare
Free same day changes and standby

What type of boarding position do you get with Southwest Business Select?

Business Select tickets offer guaranteed A1-A15 boarding.

Do you get a free drink with Southwest Business Select?

Yes, you will be offered a free premium (alcoholic) beverage via a drink coupon.

How many points do I earn when I fly with Southwest Business Select?

With Business Select, you’ll be earning 12 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent.

Are Southwest Business Select tickets refundable?

Business Select fares are fully refundable but you must cancel 10 minutes prior to departure to receive a refund back to your original form of payment.

Can you upgrade to Business Select?

The cost to upgrade to Business Select varies from $30 to $50 per segment, depending on the route. Keep in mind that the Southwest Priority Credit Card now offers up to four upgrades to priority boarding (A1 to A15) per year.

What is the difference between Southwest Business Select and Anytime fares?

The difference between these fares is that Business Select comes with extra perks. With Business Select you get the priority boarding, the free premium drink, and get to earn 12 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent versus the 10 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent that you get with Anytime fares.

How much more expensive is Southwest Business Select than Wanna Get Away?

Wanna Get Away fares can be significantly cheaper than Business Select. Many times you can save hundreds of dollars by booking a Wanna Get Away.

Final word

Ultimately, I think Business Select is only needed if you need to buy a truly refundable ticket, your company is footing the bill, or if pursuing the extra points makes economic sense.

Otherwise, I’d rather save the money and go with a Wanna Get Away and maybe upgrade to Business Select if I really wanted to board first or consider EarlyBird to guarantee better seating.

Cover photo by Tomás Del Coro via Flickr.

5 comments

  1. Business select boards after wheel chair passengers and all their companions are boarded.No first boarded no liquor on board for business selection Total rip off.Flew business select October 21st from Orlando to NY Islip. Southwest still hawking Business Select for this route.

  2. I usually just purchase the Getaway fare (sometimes with Early Bird) but our next trip had no Getaway fares available and since Business Select was less that $30 more than Anytime – I sprang for Business for my husband and myself.

    It’ll be a vacation and there will be no worrying about wifi/cellular connectivity to check-in at that prime 24 hour mark. And, after reading a person’s trip report about having to wait two hours in line to check-in their luggage at the Cancun airport to return home on SWA – it made it easy for me to decide to pay a bit more for a shorter check-in lane at the airport.

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