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Questions on early bird boarding on Southwest

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Since we go carryon only and need to be on board soon enough to have room for said carryon' I started thinking that on our return trip we wouldn't be near a computer to get an A boarding pass, so I purchased the early bird option.

Do I still need to go on line to get a boarding pass that says early bird?

Can I bypass the counter and go to the gate? If so what do I show to TSA at the inspection area? Or do I put my credit card into the scanner near the counter and get a pass?

Will everyone be getting early bird passes so it is an exercise in futility and a money maker for sw?

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