Southwest Airlines sells first boarding for $40, reaches settlement over 'free drinks' lawsuit

DALLAS (AP) -- Want to board first on a Southwest Airlines flight? Now you can pay $40 for the privilege.

Southwest Airlines will let people pay to be part of their first boarding group, group "A." The airline does not have assigned seating and lets passengers board in three groups, A, B and C.

Currently, passengers can ensure they board first by buying a special business class ticket or joining a loyalty program. Now, everyone will have that option if spots are available. Passengers will be able to pay at the gate starting 45 minutes before a flight leaves.

Facing higher fuel and other costs, airlines have sought to boost revenue in a variety of ways including charging extra to check a bag or sit next to a loved one.

Southwest Airlines has also reached a tentative settlement over a voucher for a free alcoholic beverage.

The five dollar vouchers were given to business select passengers and had no expiration date.

However the airline changed its policy on August 1, 2010 and canceled unused vouchers.

A class-action lawsuit was filed in 2011.

Under the settlement, Southwest Airlines will redeem up to 5.8 million vouchers worth about $29 million.

The airline must also pay legal fees up to $7 million.

If you think Southwest owes you a drink, you can get details online at You must file before September 2, 2013.