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  1. #1
    Senior Community Member TnT's Mom's Avatar
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    Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    I have never flown Southwest before and it may be our only option for our trip to Florida (Gulf Coast) in a couple months. Are they a pain to deal with when using a carseat on the plane as far as their boarding process goes?

    We generally book our seats 2 in front of 2...so window and middle and then window and middle behind that set of seats. This way younger DS only bumps older DS's seat with his feet. Will we have trouble getting 4 seats in this configuration the way that Southwest boards their planes? I am wavering on whether or not DS#2 will ride in his Nautilus on the plane this trip or if we will bring a HBB for the car rental instead. We would either have the Nautilus and one Compass HBB (which we have carried on all our other flights for DS #1) or two Compass HBB's if we don't take the Nautilus. Will we be able to find overhead compartment room for the boosters, especially if we are in the back of the line to get on?

    If we don't take his Nautilus then the seating configuration isn't as big a deal as long as we can at least get 2 and 2 together or even 3 together and DH can sit alone. I am nervous about not taking the Nautilus for DS#2 though because though we don't do alot of driving while we are in Florida, we do venture to Busch Gardens one day and that road (Intertate 4, I think) makes me nervous so part of me still wants DS#2 harnessed. Also, we have to drive to and from the airport as well.

    DH travels so much for business that when we fly, we generally fly one of the airlines that he has a zilllion miles on and boarding is never an issue because we get to get on right at the beginning of the boarding process and their is always overhead space available and not that many people on as I lug the Nautilus down the aisle.
    DS#1 12yrs., 85lbs., 58"tall, 5-stepping in my car!
    DS#2 9yrs., 65lbs., 49" tall, Jane Indy, Compass Pathway B570

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  3. #2
    CPS Technician
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    I fly SouthWest with my 3.5 year old all the time. It's fine. They only thing that sucks about them is they took away their family pre-boarding two years ago. Well they still have it but you have to wait until after all the As board then you go before the Bs. If you just get your boarding 24 hours in advance then you'll be an A and it won't be an issue. You pick where ever you want to sit and even if you were last on the plane I'm sure the flight attendants would shuffle people around so each of your kids had a parent to sit next to. Aside from one terrible SW employee everyone I encounter is super nice and helpful.
    DS - 11 Riding in an Incognito
    DD - Two Riding in a Graco Extend2Fit and Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible


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  5. #3
    CPST and ketchup snob ketchupqueen's Avatar
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    Yep, we flew SW and had no problems. We needed 2 empty rows, so we could get 3 and 2, and were able to find it on every flight. If you came on the last leg of a full flight, they would move people so you could get the seats you needed (since they require car seats to be on the window seat, unless there are 2 kids in seats next to each other, when they can be window and middle.) We had no issues, though, like I said. Lots of seats most times. If you are on a longer flight you are probably closer to the beginning of their route, and there will be space. All their planes are 737s, with 2 rows of 3 seats on either side of the aisle. And if you have a child under 5 with you, you get to go right after A group and before B group, like PP said. You shouldn't have issues, and I've always found that there's plenty of overhead storage room even at the end on most of their flights-- though a few times we've had to move away from our seats a little to put something up, it was never too far. We like SW and fly them a lot, because they are so nice and cheap a lot of the time, and they have good baggage policies etc.
    CPST and Mom to Emma, 15, Bridget, 13, Maggie, 11, Katie Sue, 6, Jimmy, born May 2019,
    and Becky, waiting for us as part of our eternal family.
    Our '02 Odyssey, car seats, and seatbelts saved our lives. Now riding in a '13 Odyssey!

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  7. #4
    Senior Community Member TnT's Mom's Avatar
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    Thank you for the info! It is good to know that in general we shouldn't have a problem. As far as checking in 24 hours in advance, when I was perusing the Southwest website I thought it said we wouldn't be able to check in in advance...something about verification for youth fares? But I didn't see anything about youth fares when I was pricing our tickets anyway so maybe that isn't an issue? It did say something about calling them directly for youth fares?

    So if I just booked four regular tickets online I would be ale to check us in 24 hours in advance?
    DS#1 12yrs., 85lbs., 58"tall, 5-stepping in my car!
    DS#2 9yrs., 65lbs., 49" tall, Jane Indy, Compass Pathway B570

  8. #5
    CPST Instructor Carrie_R's Avatar
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    Youth fares are a special fare bracket that they have, I believe it's a discount off of a full price fare, so it's likely you'll be able to do much better with a "Wanna Get Away" fare, web only or Ding.

    As long as you've booked a "regular" fare, then you can check in 24hours in advance and as long as you're reasonably on top of the 24 hour mark, you should have no problem getting an "A." As are the first 45-60 people to board the plane.

    They've also added a $10 option for early bird checkin... I might consider that for the return if you don't expect to have internet at your vacation destionation. I believe they automatically check early birds in ahead of the 24hr mark.

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  10. #6
    CPS Technician Mae's Avatar
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    I flew SW with my GN and had no problems. We just pre-boarded when they called for family. We went ahead and installed, no questions asked!
    "Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't." - Bill Nye

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  12. #7
    CPS Technician leighi123's Avatar
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    If you tell them you are going to have to install your carseat, they will usually let you on in the A line, its always worked for me!
    Mama to my awesome environmentalist kid Levi! (google him if you'd like!)
    7-13-07, 55", 62lbs
    Rearfaced to 8yrs, 9months (is now 10) Still boostered!
    CPST as of 6/19/08!

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  14. #8
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    i love SW and haven't had any car seat worries. they did change family boarding to after the A's as others said, but it isn't a big deal. the A's are the first 60 people or so to sign in for their boarding pass, however, what they don't tel you is that #'s 1-20 are for thier frequent flyers even if they have none on that flight....so being #60 means being about the 40th person on the plane. not a big deal. we have tried very had to be A's and did manage it, but both times were the last of the A's so it was no difference then being a B or C. we needed 5 seats, 3 adults 2 car seats, and didn't have any problem getting rows together. i, like you, didn't want my DS kicking anyone but my neice on her seat.
    also, i think that SW will let you gate check your HBB's if you want to. i called them and had a long chat 2 years ago before my first baby experience and at that time a stroller or car seat could be gate checked for free. then you don't need to try to fit them into the over head bin unless you want to. you just leave them at the door and they get put on the plane. they are sitting at the exit when yo get off. i have never gate checked a car seat but have done strollers every time.

    i love SW because of their rates and their luggage rules. they make flying with children easy and cheeper then other airlines.

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  16. #9
    CPST and ketchup snob ketchupqueen's Avatar
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    They will still let you gate check 2 baby items (car seat, stroller) per child for free. It doesn't count toward your free bag allowance, and bringing a car seat on does not count toward your carryon allowance.
    CPST and Mom to Emma, 15, Bridget, 13, Maggie, 11, Katie Sue, 6, Jimmy, born May 2019,
    and Becky, waiting for us as part of our eternal family.
    Our '02 Odyssey, car seats, and seatbelts saved our lives. Now riding in a '13 Odyssey!

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  18. #10
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    Love this thread. My wife and I are planning trip from NC to CA via SW in June. We'll have our 3yo and 6yo. So here's our plan...please comment with suggestions - if any!

    Due to purchasing 'some' of the tix with credit card miles, we've actually got two reservations of two tix each. We took the bait and purchased $10 priority boarding for two of them. When we traveled years ago with just the oldest (at 2yo) one parent boarded early (with all the 'stuff') while the other parent entertained the child in the boarding area until the last possible moment to board. Then, on we went, just before closing the door. It actually worked pretty well - so we're thinking the same thing this time around; though the 6 year old might like going on early to 'help'. We're planning on mp3 players full of music, a netbook for movies, and other activities.

    Question - any suggestions for seat config? We were thinking of trying to get a 3 row and 1 aisle, but I saw someone else did a Window/Middle and Window/Middle. I guess we were thinking the kids should be together. Thoughts?

    Thanks for the good post...hits the spot.

  19. #11
    Carseat Crazy
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    Just for your information, Southwest Airlines is "WN". "SW" is Air Namibia in Africa... I'm just grateful none of you called my home state "Cali", a city in Colombia!

    Definitely go on line 24 hours before and check-in on line to get in the "A" group. First of all, on line check-in is your friend, on any airline. With kids, it's a g-dsend! I did it last time and we were out of there quickly, even with checked bags.

    The families go on after the A group, in order of the child's age. So those with small babies were on first. My youngest was 3 and although we had a car seat, we had no priority.

    We had no problem with the Radian, installing it. Both flights were full and we were split up on the way back but not too badly. The older two were directly behind me and the youngest (in her car seat). A couple sat on the two aisles. With four of us, I prefer to have us all in a row, unless you have a real "kicker" and want to put a fellow family member in front of him.

    I saw another parent gate-checking a Marathon with a lap baby. Again, it wasn't a problem. Can you believe she had no carrier for either the seat or the baby?!? I digress...
    Former Flight Attendant, 13 years, 2 companies in 5 countries
    3 trilingual, international travelers with two nationalities
    http://flyingwithchildren1.blogspot.com

  20. #12
    CPST Instructor Carrie_R's Avatar
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    Just for your information, Southwest Airlines is "WN". "SW" is Air Namibia in Africa... I'm just grateful none of you called my home state "Cali", a city in Colombia!

    LOL. I can't speak for anyone else, but although I'm aware that the proper abbreviation is WN, it didn't seem an issue to refer to the airline in a commonly assumed abbrevation in the context of this thread. (Especially given as Southwest is known to refer to themselves as "SWA" in advertising and such.) I wouldn't have talked about flying CMH to PDX, either, here, as those who aren't travel nerds would have been quite baffled at what the heck those letters meant... OTOH I'd never call WN SW on a travel site!

    Since no one mentioned it, to the poster who discussed gate checking their carseat -- it's usually not recommended. The baggage handlers throw the seats around like nobody's business, and show them treatment that would often have us recommending replacement on here! The recommendation is usually to take the seat on the plane and use it, or in the case of a booster, carry on the base and pack the back in (well-padded) luggage.

    Unreg -- sounds like you've got it all under control I would think you'd want to do 2 & 2 so everyone has a companion, plus each girl gets some parental one-on-one, but if an adult in your party would prefer to sit by themselves, then that's a viable option too! You may not want to wait *too* long for the second parent to board, since I don't know how seat-saving will go over, especially on a full flight, though.
    Down to just a spare Radian, folded in the hall closet for my Godbaby.

    Check out this thread for a Pilot overview!

  21. #13
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    We would either have the Nautilus and one Compass HBB (which we have carried on all our other flights for DS #1) or two Compass HBB's if we don't take the Nautilus. Will we be able to find overhead compartment room for the boosters, especially if we are in the back of the line to get on?



    I was wondering... Have you been able to fit your Compass HBB's in the overhead bins in the past? We'll be flying on AA in a few weeks and I'm looking to purchase a Compass HBB for my son, but it exceeds the carry on dimensions when folded. Allowable: 22"x 14"x 9". I measured the Compass at Target: 24"x 19"x 12". I believe it's exempt from being counted as a carry on, even though it's not approved for use on the plane, but not sure if they'll make me check it or not. REALLY don't want to check it! Thanks!

  22. #14
    Senior Community Member TnT's Mom's Avatar
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    Quote Originally Posted by melrn View Post


    I was wondering... Have you been able to fit your Compass HBB's in the overhead bins in the past? We'll be flying on AA in a few weeks and I'm looking to purchase a Compass HBB for my son, but it exceeds the carry on dimensions when folded. Allowable: 22"x 14"x 9". I measured the Compass at Target: 24"x 19"x 12". I believe it's exempt from being counted as a carry on, even though it's not approved for use on the plane, but not sure if they'll make me check it or not. REALLY don't want to check it! Thanks!
    Sorry I didn't respond sooner! I just saw this had gotten bumped up.
    We have been able to fit the Compass in the overhead on most planes. The exception is when we have had connections on the smaller planes (the ones with only 2 seats on each side of the aisle and the ones with 1 seat on one side of the aisle and 2 on the other (these are generally the ones where you actually walk down steps onto the tarmac and then back up steps to the plane because the jetway is too big/high for the plane). Those type of flights generally require all carry ons to be tagged and placed under the plane. Then you pick it up as you get off the plane at your destination or next connection airport. Not an ideal situation to have to gate check it but on the tiny planes they just don't fit and sometimes those are the only flights you can get.

    We have the Compass carry bags and we make sure the seat is as short as it goes before folding and it has fit through security and DH just carries it right on and stuffs it up in the overhead. When we have the seat we try to put our other carry on bags under the seats so as not to use all the overhead bin space. I have also carried our HB TurboBooster on as well. I used the Compass bag and removed the armrests (I knew I would have access to a screwdriver at my destination to put them back on!) and I was able to fit the back, bottom, and armrests nicely puzzled in the Compass bag and it too fit in the overhead compartment.
    DS#1 12yrs., 85lbs., 58"tall, 5-stepping in my car!
    DS#2 9yrs., 65lbs., 49" tall, Jane Indy, Compass Pathway B570

  23. #15
    Carseat Crazy
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    We did have a problem on one leg of a trip on Southwest. We had a connecting flight on the way there. The connection turned out to be tight by the time our first flight got to the gate. We had A boarding passes, but ended up running to the plane and arriving after the C group had boarded. It was me, my 2 year old in her car seat, my mom, and my aunt. We knew we wouldn't be able to sit together, but we at least wanted me to be able to sit next to the two year old. The flight attendants told us to look in the back and we should be able to find seats together. We walked the whole length of the plane and there were no sets of two seats together. The only open seats were single middle seats. We asked several people to trade and everyone just ignored us. We then had to go all the way back to the front carrying the car seat, moving a 2 year old, and I am pregnant. We got up front and asked the flight attendants for help. They again told us to check in the back. We started trying to ask around again and no one offered to help. Finally the flight attendants stepped in and asked some people to trade seats. They actually offered free drink coupons. When they finally freed up two seats (one being a window for her seat) it took me a few minutes to install the seat. I decided to try forward facing to be less of a hassle, but I had only ever installed it rear facing. Once attendant got me a belt extender and the other one told me not to use it. After about 3 minutes they told me if I couldn't get it installed right now it was going to be gate checked. Ugh. I was frustrated and trying to hurry. There isn't a lot of room to maneuver and being pregnant made it tougher. We got it in and all was well.

    Our other legs that trip on Southwest the car seat was not an issue and there were no problems. I guess I just say beware. Watch out for tight connections. They can really mess you up. Maybe I should have pushed the flight attendants harder for help sooner. I don't know. You probably will be fine but not always!
    daughter - 10 yr, 100 lb, 55”, Seat belt
    daughter - 7yo, 47lbs, 49”, ff in Britain frontier
    Niece - 3 years old, 25 lb, 38 inches in radian at home, rf in radian with me
    niece - 15months old, 18.5llb , 24", rf in a Radian at home and with me

  24. #16
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    Erin -

    I just read your story and I'm so surprised that someone didn't volunteer to move seats or that the flight attendant wasn't more helpful right away. I don't understand why people aren't more accommodating to a parent with a small child, especially if they could see you were pregnant.

    I'd be tempted to ask loudly who wants to volunteer to sit next to my 2 year old during the flight or who would be willing to move? I have a feeling that given those options, someone would quickly give up their seat!

    Melanie

  25. #17
    Carseat Crazy
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jan06twinmom View Post

    I'd be tempted to ask loudly who wants to volunteer to sit next to my 2 year old during the flight or who would be willing to move? I have a feeling that given those options, someone would quickly give up their seat!

    Melanie
    I actually use this all the time. My dh works for the airlines and we go standby. Usually the only seats that are left are middle seats. Just this Sat. it was me, my 6 year old and 2 year old. The 6 year old sat alone, lucky for me the girl in the seat next to her was a nanny. I then asked if anyone would like to trade seats with me or sit next to my 2 year old. I make it kind of funny saying she's really sweet and probably won't be a problem. Luckily too most of the people around where woman. Someone quickly volunteered. I always offer to buy them a drink or something. Of course, I'm a non revenue customer so I can't make a stink about it.

  26. #18
    Carseat Crazy
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    Re: Southwest Airlines and carseats...

    When I flew southwest on one flight i had really awesome flight people at the gate and on the plane and they put us on the plane first, helped me with the stroller and our carry-ons, but all the others i boarded between a & b and I was always able to find a window seat over the wing for her carseat.

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