Southwest considering changing its boarding and pick-your-seat processes

FILE - People line up based on boarding group numbers to board a Southwest Airlines flight at Oakland International Airport (OAK) in Oakland, California, January 5, 2020. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Southwest Airlines may be changing the way flyers board and choose their seats. 

The airline says it's studying possible changes as it looks for new sources of revenue. 

Airline officials said this week they won’t have anything to announce until September, and that's leading to lots of speculation about whether Southwest might ditch things like picking your own seat after you board the plane.

Southwest doesn’t have a first-class cabin or assigned seats. Passengers line up in the gate area in an order determined partly by who checked in first and – increasingly – who paid extra to move up in line. 

The lucky or high-paying ones get in the "A" boarding group, followed by the middling "B" crowd and finally the dreaded "C" group, whose unfortunate inhabitants usually wind up in a middle seat, maybe in the back of the plane.

Over the years, Southwest customers learned to check in online exactly 24 hours before departure to get the best shot at grabbing the seat they wanted. 

In 2009, the airline began charging an extra fee — called EarlyBird — to move up in the boarding line. The fee starts at $15 per flight but goes up when planes are full.

RELATED: Biden's new airline rules could get you cash back for canceled flights

CEO Robert Jordan said the airline is studying customer preferences, which might be changing as flights get more full these days. 

"Early indications, both for our customers and for Southwest, look pretty darn interesting," he told analysts and reporters last week.

Jordan said any changes must generate new revenue and can't slow down flights.

One thing Southwest didn’t mention in its possible changes is its free baggage policy. 

Southwest currently allows flyers two free checked bags with the purchase of any ticket, the only U.S. airline to do so. 

Fees for checked bags start at $30 per on other airlines. 

This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.