Would You Pay More To Board a Plane Early?

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People might not love the act of flying, but they have no problem paying a little more to board the plane early. Do you pay more for priority boarding?

I was up late the other night looking for flights to New Orleans.  My wife and I are going to FinCon, a financial blogger conference in September.  I will be at the conference and she will be enjoying the city.  That is just how we roll!  Either way, I was looking at different airlines to see where I could get the best deal.  Unfortunately, no matter how I searched and when I flew out, it is going to be an expensive trip. Glad I paid for most of it with airline miles.  WooHoo!

With each site and different airlines, I noticed a few places which offer you to pay more for “priority” boarding.  This was both with Southwest and quite a few other airlines.  Most people think just Southwest offers this. Not true.  For a small to medium sized fee, you can have the privilege of boarding that lovely metal tube before others.  Actually, you get to board behind business class passengers if that is applicable.  This nice little charge got me thinking.  Would you pay more to board the plane early?  Here is my take on it.

Is Boarding the Plane a Competition?

I get the priority boarding more with airlines like Southwest. When they herd you in there like cattle, you want a good seat. You want your aisle or window seat so you can better enjoy your flight.

Is it worth the added cost to have such a seat on airlines that don’t board like Southwest?  You get there the same time as everyone else does.  The seats are all small, so why not keep your hard earned cash and do something else with it?

Has the boarding process become a competition?  Maybe a show of wealth.  As you pay for priority boarding and then get to walk in front of everyone, does that give some joy?  I just am not sure why it is so important to get on the plane first. You now have to wait for everyone else to board and that just adds to the time you will be in that little freaking seat.

No thanks!

You do get to post on twitter that you got on the plane first.  Just a simple tweet like “@southwest first!”  That gets my social media motor running too.

Priority Boarding is Becoming Big Business

We all know airlines will do whatever they can to boost profits.  As our legroom shrunk, we noticed airlines were making more money.  Then crazy bag fees came around and have stayed. Now, you can pay more for priority boarding, an extra inch of legroom, and other minor amenities.  You may notice when one airline adds a service that becomes successful, others follow suit.

This is the case with priority boarding.  Airlines are noticing people want to pay for such a service and charge accordingly. From what I found, most are charging from $9 to $25 each way for this little luxury.  I am almost certain this will become a mainstay on the airline ticket search.

Any new way to make a little extra money is how a service like this comes to fruition.  I am wondering who was the first person to request this. Was it a passenger or the airline execs?  What do you think?

People might not love the act of flying, but they have no problem paying a little more to board the plane early. Do you pay more for priority boarding?

No Thanks! I Will Keep My Money

As I was checking out and was given the option to choose priority boarding, I decided to choose “No Thanks.”  I will stay with the other regular people who just don’t see the point.  While it is only $9 here and there, that adds up.  Since I don’t get there any faster than anyone else, then why pay for the luxury of sitting in the small seat longer?  I would rather just stick that little bit of money into my Roth IRA or other investment account and move on.  It would be a better feeling to see that money make more money (albeit small) than to see it line the pockets of the airline companies.

So, as you can see, I am not a fan of fees such as this. While they are optional, I just don’t get them.  Why do people pay more to board a plane early?  Can someone explain the real advantages of this service, so I can understand the thought process behind it? I understand why the airline is offering it, but I don’t get why people fork out money to do it.


Would you pay more to board a plane early, even when your seat number and row is already reserved? What fees (airline or otherwise) drive you crazy?

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Grayson is the owner of Debt Roundup and Empowered Shopper. He also co-owns Sprout Wealth and Eyes on the Dollar. After going to battle and winning against consumer debt, he decided it was time to learn how to use credit wisely and grow his wealth. He discusses all things personal finance and is not afraid of being controversial. He also is a freelance writer and blog manager.

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  • Even if I wasn’t an A-list member on Southwest, I probably still wouldn’t splurge (pay $10) for a business class spot. It doesn’t make that much of a difference.

  • Derek at MoneyAhoy says:

    Haha, timely article for me as I rarely fly, but I am scheduled to board a plane tomorrow.

    I would absolutely NOT pay to board a plane early. Why would anyone pay extra to then sit down in a crammed seat? The only reason I can see is if they have a carry-on that is borderline checkable and they want to take space from others.

    I’m with you – no thanks!

  • If seating is reserved I see little to no benefit of boarding early. The only risk is that you have to check your bag if there is no room for it in the overhead bins, which isn’t a terrible thing imo but not necessarily preferable.

  • I always find it hilarious when I’m checking in at the kiosk and it asks me if I want to pay an extra $20 bucks to board in group 2. I just think, seriously? The only issue is not getting a space for my carry on luggage, but then they can always check it.

  • Will says:

    No. The less time I have to sit in a non-moving airplane, the better. Plus, I’m far to cheap for that nonsense. 🙂

  • Boarding the plane early doesn’t mean you are going to be able to leave early! That’s what I never understand when trying to board planes. I just stay in my seat until the line to board has 5 people in it or fewer. Then I don’t have to be stuck on the plane for longer than I need to be!

  • Kim says:

    I did actually pony up for early boarding on Southwest last Christmas on the way back home because we almost did not find two seats that were together with our daughter. We ended up on the very last row of the plane and weren’t even in the last boarding group. If it was just me or me with adults only, I could care less, but I will pay the fee not to have my kid sit by strangers. It sucks that it’s come to that.

  • I have yet to pay to board early, but I will admit to being tempted a few times. Here are some reasons why:
    1) You are slated to board last and have a large carry-on that isn’t going to fit just anywhere, and you don’t want to check your bag. Overhead bin space can run out if you’re the last to board.
    2) Travelling with a child or infant gets you boarding after A, but that still means that you may not be able to sit with the other parent (on Southwest), because maybe all the window seats are taken and there aren’t three seats together available.
    3) You have a long flight ahead of you, you’re pregnant, and need an aisle seat. Insert the pregnancy-hormones-induced-anxiety factor.
    That said, those reasons have never been enough for me. I’m super stingy. But I can see how they could convince others.

    • Grayson Bell says:

      Thank you for the detailed explanation Rebecca. I think you have made some good points, but I can’t relate the the pregnant one. That would be hard for me to achieve.

  • I don’ t think so, but when it comes to Southwest, believe you me when I say that 24 hours prior I’m at home hitting the refresh button so I can at least get a good spot in the herd of cattle. 🙂

  • Michelle says:

    I don’t see the point in paying to board early if you already have a reserved seat placement. However, for Southwest, if I am flying with a big group and we all want to sit together, sometimes we will pay for it just so that we are not scattered all over the plane.

  • E.M. says:

    Nope, I wouldn’t pay for that. I don’t really see the point, either. I fly Spirit back home, which is bad enough with all their extra fees, so I hate paying more than I already have to for the flight! I don’t reserve my seats with Spirit since you pay extra for that, and as a result, I usually sit at the back of the plane. Oh well – as you said, we all arrive at the same time. Some people will do anything to “look wealthy” though.

  • Awesome post Grayson. Personally, I’d pay to board later…that way I can spend more time in the airport’s bar getting “prepared” for the flight. I used to love flying, but after the skydiving incident, I’m deathly afraid of heights…so, it takes a bit of liquid courage.

    • Dave LaLonde says:

      I like your way of thinking! I hate waiting around a line to board a plane and then sit around to wait for other people to board. I don’t think I could ever find it in me to splurge extra for a better seat. Same place, same time? —-not a big deal.

    • Grayson Bell says:

      Getting “prepared” is a good way to do it. I think you have a great point there Josh.

  • I would never pay more to board a plane early, but I also typically only fly on flights that I have purchased or used through airline cards that give me boarding preference. That being said, as long as I know I have a seat, I am fine getting on the plane whenever and I would much rather use that money saved for having fun in my destination city.

  • Mostly people pay to get overhead bin space for their carry-on. I have not paid this fee either. I fly mostly United and have their Chase Mileage Plus card so I get priority boarding but I would not pay for this if I didn’t have the card. I don’t mind checking my bag. Flying has become such a racket.

  • I hate all the little extra fees that airlines now charge. I’ve been flying since the 1960’s when you were well treated on airlines. Now, unless you pay top dollar, you are treated like cattle. No thanks, I’ll save my money and board with the rest of the herd.

  • Money Beagle says:

    I don’t think I would, but if I ever did, the reasons would either be to guarantee seat locations together for our family (in the case of non-assigned seating) or to ensure that we get space in an overhead compartment.

  • If we have assigned seats and the family is together, I wouldn’t pay for to board early. If I was flying Southwest or another airline without assigned seating, then I would. Like Kim, I’m not going to let the girls sit with strangers and I won’t risk not finding 3 seats together.

  • I agree with you, I will put my extra $9 in any investment. After few years it will grow substantially.

    We used to take an annual vacation with my wife and two kids and we choose always to wait our time rather than to go early with extra pay.

  • Lauren says:

    The only reason that I would consider it is to ensure that I can sit with my child. Believe it or not, I have read stories where parents had to sit separately from their children, which I think is ridiculous. I have a young daughter, and there’s no way that she’s not going to be right by my side.

  • Jeffrey Kelly says:

    I have paid for it several times. Before I started paying for prioity I once had to board a plane towards the end of the boarding process. I had one small carry on bag, that would not go under a seat. I had no room in the overhead because of everyone else bringing on too much to avoid the bag fees. I ended up having to check my bag and then paying a bag fee which was more than the cost of the upgrade to priority. Now If i know I am going somewhere I just budget in alittle bit more for priority. I see it more as a convienence also it makes my blood boil to see people putting purses and bagpacks in the over head taking up the room those go under a seat people.

  • Jason B says:

    I wouldn’t pay anything extra to board a plane early. Spirit Airlines is the king of crazy fees.

  • Isabelle says:

    I don’t understand why people want to board early. I’d rather be the last one to board! Why would I want to spend more time in my little seat, being bumped by people and their suitcases? A few months ago, I got a prestige status on an airline and one of the privileges is to board first. I never use that privilege. When I see people rush to get up and queue to board, I always wonder ‘why?’ Are they afraid they will miss the plane?

  • Kassandra says:

    I have yet to pay that kind of fee as we usually stick with the carriers we are members with but if I had my step-son and I wanted to ensure he sat right next to me then I would pay the fee if I had to. It is slightly frustrating when you finally board the plane and there is no room left in the overhead cabins so that’s why I prefer to board earlier if possible. Some people do get out of hand when boarding and want to run over others like a mad bull…

  • I agree I will not pay extra to board a Southwest flight early, esp when I am on vacation. That said, I have traveled weekly for work on Southwest. When you are a business traveler, being the first on the plane is important. Often business travelers have carry on luggage only and want to make sure they bin space on the plane. When you travel every week and you just want to go home after a long week on the road, your seat on the plane is a bigger deal.

  • I have no idea who the people are who have so much money that they can afford to waste some of it on something like being able to board a plane five minutes early! If you are going to waste money on an airplane you should at least get some expensive airplane food out of the deal 🙂

  • Bee @ The Budgets and the Bees says:

    I actually considered it for a brief second when I bought tickets on Southwest a couple of weeks ago. I’ve never flown Southwest before, so I was a little worried about the whole no assigned seats thing. But then I snapped out of it. If I don’t get to sit next to my husband for a 2 hour flight, I’ll at least have an extra $20 bill to keep me company.

  • Southwest does make it fairly complicated when flying with a friend. If you do not “check in” online within the first few hours of availability, you almost definitely will not be able to sit together. This can also be a blessing in disguise though lol.

  • Poor Student says:

    I wouldn’t pay more to board a plane early, especially if I had my seat number reserved — just a waste of money. I think the only benefit is that there will be more space in the overhead luggage space because you’ll be one of the first people there. Even if my seat number isn’t reserved yet I’d just go with the traditional way: come early and make sure to be at the front of the line of people boarding the plane 😀

  • Tre says:

    That fee drives me nuts! I actually want to be the last person on the plane. No one can steal my seat so why do I have to sit there forever? The problem with being last is there is never enough room for your carry-on bag, but the airline will usually just check it for you before you board.

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