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A MESSAGE FROM OUR CEO - OPEN SEASON ON ASSIGNED SEATING

gkelly1
Not applicable

I’m new to this whole blogosphere thing but I have really enjoyed reading all of the comments and am humbled that so many people are as enthusiastic and nuts about Southwest as we are.

I wanted to address some of the recent comments about Southwest’s seating policy. There’s been quite a bit of buzz both in the media and on this blog about our current open seating policy and my recent comments (at Shareholder’s Day on May 17) about our consideration of changing to assigned seating in the future. So, as the saying goes, here’s the scoop “straight from the horse’s mouth.”

At Southwest, quick, efficient operations and our desire to give the Customer what they want have been the keys to our 35 years of success. Everything we do at Southwest takes into account maintaining the delicate balance between operational efficiency and providing the Positively Outrageous Service that our Customers have come to expect from Southwest. One of the most common requests for change from our Customers is to add assigned seating. Obviously, many of our current Customers enjoy the open seating, so it’s not a unanimous request. However, we do listen intently to our Customers and do our best to give them what they want so it only makes sense to extensively research and evaluate this possibility.

Open seating has allowed us to build a highly efficient operation by keeping the time our aircraft are sitting at our gate to a minimum. Aircraft on the ground don’t make money! But it’s no secret that all airlines – even Southwest – are facing extensive cost pressures due to the rising price of fuel and we have to find ways to generate additional revenue.

Our Customer Service technology has evolved to the point that assigning seats may prove to be an efficient way for Southwest to board the aircraft. Our computer reservation system is undergoing an upgrade and, while we are in the “remodeling” effort, we are adding the technical capability to assign seats. This does not mean we will; rather, it means we will be prepared to assign seats, if we so choose.

We are currently conducting extensive research and if our research and testing (which some of you may be involved with) proves that we can bring in more Customers (without alienating our existing Customers) and increase overall Customer satisfaction, but at the same time not increase our boarding times or our costs, then I don’t see a reason not to do it. I haven’t given any time frame – just that it won’t happen next year.

I know that several of you have commented that you don’t want the current seating policy to go away because you see it as a part of what makes Southwest “Southwest,” but I’ll remind you that many people felt the same way when we transitioned from plastic boarding cards to electronic boarding cards. Things change and we can’t ignore that fact. One thing that will never change, however, is our dedication to you – our Customer – and we will always make decisions with your best interests in mind.

So, stay tuned…we promise to keep you informed of this and all of the changes at Southwest. And keep telling us what you want, we LUV hearing from you and we appreciate your business!

655 Comments
moucon
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For business travelers, open seating sucks - simple as that. It might be fine for the fly once-in-a-while retirees, but it's a terrible inconvenience for business travelers. Today's technology should make it easy for SWA to transition. How 'bout this idea....assigned seats pay a higher (the highest) fare, and board first. Everyone else can muddle on as-is and fill in the holes. Moo
Dave_L
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Hey, SWA...I luv you just like you are....no assigned seating wanted or needed...don't increase your costs....we need your low fares and great staff attitude. Keep up the good work and I'll keep flying IND to LAS and back as often as I can...I can get my SWA first class (the 'A') boarding pass whenever I want, and the "gourmet meals" in the little boxes are great....just keept it up.....more of the SWA way would improve a lot of carriers.
Victor_Young
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Hello? I know this is a silly question, but who assigns the seating? Does Southwest give the assignment just before we board? Do we choose our seat location when we make our reservation? I got a phone message from a Southwest employee who was unintelligible. They said something about my flight being selected for "something, something" seat "blah, blah" Pronounciation is a wonderful thing in any language. Nice of you to inform me AFTER I made my reservation. Great way to make your CLIENTS feel like part of the herd. Maybe your brilliant CEO can actually explain what "assigned seating" means. Is that asking too much?? Something tells me your CEO's major was business, NOT communicatons. Please Do let me know, once YOU figure it out. Thanks Previous Customer
JT_COLSON
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Darrell Royal...who needs a Longhorn Coach for advice? GOOD GRIEF! Listen to Mark Twain..."IF IT AIN'T BROKE DON'T FIX IT!" I am a FREQUENT business and pleasure traveler, who lives VERY close to O'Hare ("United Land" where I WAS a 1K flyer) and now prefers to go accross town to MIDWAY and fly SOUTHWEST, where one of the main features (and TRUE rewards) is the boarding procedure. I get everywhere on time, including the gates and am REWARDED by letting all those "mommies and daddies with screaming kids" get on first..THEN I CAN PICK MY OWN SEAT AS FAR AWAY FROM THEM AS POSSIBLE, AND NOT GET "ASSIGNED" NEAR TO THEM!!! There was nothing more frustrating than (as a UA 1K) getting into my "assigined premium seat" and having some screaming kid "assigned" right behind or next to me! Just listen to Bill Cosby's routine about "Jeffery" and you'll know my frustration! I raised my children and didn't "inflict them" on others but some folks just are not as considerate, so the current SOUTHWEST boarding procedure mitigates that problem...DO NOT CHANGE THE OPEN BOARDING! DON'T CHANGE A WINNER! (and to heck with Darrell Royal and Longhorn football...GO U NORTHWESTERN!) jtc
carroll4
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I FIND IT MIND-BLOGGING THAT SO MANY CUSTOMERS WILL STAND IN LINE WHEN THEY HAVE AN A OR B CARD AND KNOW THE FLIGHT IS HALF FULL. PERHAPS THAT IS WHY WE CALL IT AIRLINE WE ALL STAND IN LINE TO GET IN THE AIR. HUMAN NATURE IS WHAT HUMAN NATURE IS WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY WHERE WE ALL WANT TO BE FIRST. THERE SHOULD BE SOME SHAME IN THE ME FIRST MENTALITY BUT MOST TIMES AT AN AIRPORT THERE IS NOT. DURING KATRINA AND RITA LAST YEAR WE ALL SAW A TON OF ME FIRST GOING ON IT WAS SHAMEFUL. SWA HAS ELIMINATED MOST LINE TIME THRU TECHNOLOGY BUT STILL FOLKS WILL STAND IN LINE. ASSIGNED SEATS WONT CHANGE THE LINE TIME THEY WILL WANT TO BE SURE EVERYBODY GETS ONLY THE SEAT THEY WERE ASSIGNED. OPEN SEATING IS WAY TO FLY.
Howard_Siegel
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I just want to add my 2 cents that the current open seating policy is the way to go. Please do not change it and become like the other (inferior) Airlines.
Jane1
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No! No! No! to assigned seating. I am a VERY frequent SW flier. I've just checked my Rapid Rewards Credit Summary and I earned 219.5 credits in the past twelve months. I luv SW and am a big fan of its easy, one-fits-all, great leveling, open seating. Today I received an email asking me to fill out the Assigned Seating Poll. The Poll is basic and doesn't answer some bothersome questions. For example, it asks if you woud like assigned seating if you could choose your seat at the time of ticket purchase. Well, does that mean that I can choose from ANY seat on the plane? Or, if I buy way out (and pay the low internet fare), will I have a 'select' group of seats from which to choose (i.e., middle seats in the rear)? Will the front and aisle seats be 'saved' for the last-minute purchasers (who pay the highest fare)? If this happens, are we on a 'slippery slope' towards the legend airlines model of the front cabin passengers enjoying cocktails and munchies while we 'steerage class' passengers walk through their gauntlet? I absolutely HATE that model; that's why I choose SW. In the course of my flights on SW, I've sat next to lots of interesting people--SW executives, kids going to basketball games, soldiers returning from Iraq, owners of auto and truck dealerships, architects, CEOs, etc. This has really enriched my flying experience. I truly enjoy meeting all the different types of passengers the open seating model has afforded me. It is one of the GREAT things about open seating. Look, guys, for me flying is just about getting from point A to point B, as quickly as possible with the least hassle, pomp and circumstance, and rigid procedures. It is not a religious experience; it's just a flight (a bus in the air, basically). Let's not make it complicated or elitist. Please do not become an American Airlines!! Keep the Southwest Spirit...the FREEDOM to fly! (and sit where you want!) loveya, Jane Browinski
Virginia1
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As the saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!". I have been flying Southwest for over 25 years. First when living in San Antonio , TX and many years and moves later, continue to do so in Orlando, FL. Southwest has always been tops and their customer service is a model for the entire business industry. Assigned seating...well, my vote is no. It takes away from one of the things that has always been unique about Southwest. For those that don't like it, well, folks, you have the freedom of choice to fly another airline. I am not an expert, but from years of observation, having assigned seats will only encourage those folks who like to get to the airport at the last minute to continue to do so, thus making everyone who is settled in, accomodate their tardiness. Also, assigned seating will not make boarding faster because of all the folks who insist on bringing their luggage on the plane. It takes so long to board and to deplane waiting for passengers to get their luggage crammed overhead. It's scary at time, having had a few narrow misses of suitcases coming down on top of me. My husband and I have always checked our bags and have never had a problem. Whew! Didn't mean to get so long winded on this. Just letting you know how we feel about the proposed seat assignments. Thank you all for a great airline and best wishes for 35 more years of wonderful flying and service!!! Sincerely, Nuts about Southwest Virginia in Florida
Terri
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When I was in college - I DETESTED flying Southwest! But - dad paid for the tickets - so shut up and deal. Now I fly weekly (or more often) and I LUV Southwest!!! You converted me! You've made a few changes lately (the whole Rapid Rewards seat limitations really got me IRKED - still am....but that's not why I am here) - but I LUV open seating - and the improvements you've made to get boarding passes. I LUV the mobile device checkin - in fact I just taught 3 coworkers how to use their blackberrys to check in... thank you for that one! NOW - -about this open seating thing - PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE - LEAVE IT THE WAY IT IS. There -I've said it. Because I check in on my blackberry - getting an A pass is not an issue - and I really don't mind standing/sitting (usually) in line - on that note - can you guys add some more padding to the carpet? Remove the numb bumb issue?? Sorry - got off track. If I don't feel like sitting in line - I get on the end of the A line - and I still get a good seat - usually an aisle w/o an issue. I fly to and from south and west Florida all the time for work (we joke we should rent a plane from you and put the agency logo on the tail, right next to yours - you are the agency plane!) I find the people who whine about open seating belong to a couple of categories - 1) The ENTITLED. I am gold-diamond whatever on my usual airline and I want to board first. I usually fly first class - but could not get a seat on my usual airline. 2) The HARDLYs - they hardly fly. maybe once a year for vacation that is too far to drive. And they have kids and they did not read information (btw - you have SO much info on your website - unlike other airlines) about how and when to check in. They also did not read about how long it would take to get through security - so they have C boarding passes and they are the last ones to the gate... The rest of us - your loyal base - LUV you for the way you are - please quit messing with what makes SW - Southwest and keep open seating (and can we PLEASE go back in time and change that whole Rapid Rewards use limitations thing????) Thanks! Terri in Jacksonville
Melissa14
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Please do not go to an assigned seating format. The open seating is the main reason I fly solely with SWA. I don't have the luxury of being able to fly a lot, so I am very choosey about what airlines I will use. SWA is always my first choice because of the open seating. I'm begging you not to become like the other airlines!
Elise_M_
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When I first flew Southwest out of MacArthur, not only was it for the great fares but for the overwhelming desire to never go to JFK again!! I hate JFK (and LGA for that matter) with a burning passion. JFK is filthy and the baggage claim is a joke. I once came home from MCO and there were 2 other flights of luggage plus ours all coming in on the same carousel while another carousel stood motionless. One flight was a huge flight from LA. Needless to say, one of my bags didn't make it back until 10 pm the next night. That was my last flight on JetBlue and my last flight out of JFK! Ever if I can help it. The only thing I was apprehensive about was the SWA seating. I tell you it kept me up at night! Once I experienced it, I had no problems with the seating itself. I do have a problem with people abusing the pre-board policy. My major problem is that is allowed by the SWA staff. More than once, the pre-board line was longer than the A line. The whole concept of no assigned seating is to cut down on time and (my) money. If you want your family of 25 to all sit together then that is why we have OTHER airlines. The staff should really enforce the pre-board rules and only allow the child's immediate family to board with them. I have flown on many flights with assigned seats where passengers with infants were NOT allowed to pre-board. I flew alone with a toddler & an infant plus diaper bag, car seat and stroller & lived to tell the tale. It really isn't fair to the rest of the passengers to allow people to abuse the boarding policies. If assigning seats will raise fares then please keep it the way it is. And please enforce the rules that you have set in place in fairness to all passengers. Thanks!
Rex_Warren
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Don't go to assigned seating, Gary. You will kill the bird that laid the golden egg. I am a frequent traveler, and will fly Southwest when ever possible precisely because I need to change my flights often, and when I do, I have an even shot at getting a seat I want. With ANY OTHER airline, I am guaranteed a center seat, and also am paying hundreds more for the privelege. With the loads these days, I am virtually guaranteed a center seat on any flight I book less than 7 days out. Again, for the pleasure of paying a full Y fare. It's absurd. The boarding pyschology is such that you are using the "herd mentality" to your advantage. You've often said that the faster turn times are what separates your airline from others and allows you to generate profits when others cannot. I expect that the difference between profit and loss translates into just a few minutes. Messing with the boarding times would seem to me to be very dangerous. Why on earth would you want to emmulate what others are doing as they go broke? The general equality of the system sets up a very interesting interpersonal dynamic. Passengers are just generally much friendlier on Southwest flights, and that is not an accident. Part of that is, of course, the friendliness of the flight crew, but the equality of the boarding process contributes significantly. Your marketing team needs to really dig deep into which customers are requesting assigned seating. Are they loyalists, or simply echoing what they think they want because it is what had on the one other flight they took somewhere. Remember too, Coke thought it was a brilliant idea to change their formula a few years back, and look what happened.
Brent3
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For many years I was a Delta fan. I got my million miler club card and the rest of the bit...then I discovered Southwest. Ah....what a breath of fresh air. Yes, I was glad when the "cards" went away but overall, for this business traveler, there is no better way than the Southwest way. I know that I will be traveling every week but I don't often know where until a few days before departure. Forget about a good seat on another airline! I find your flight folks friendly, your gate folks helpful, and your arrival/departures "mostly" on time. But the biggest bonus for me as a Southwest customer is your seating policy. Please don't change your seating policy. (and keep it up with those wonderful employees! I wish we could hire such great folks!)
Chris_B_
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ONE MORE VOTE FOR OPEN SEATING! I said it on the survey you emailed me, and I'll say it here once again. If you switch to assigned seating, it will (in my book) put you on the same level as every other airline out there, and I'll just start going with the cheapest fare available. Right now, I choose Southwest over other airlines whenever possible. This is because of the open seating policy, as well as because of the flexiblity to cancel my flight whenever I want and re-use the funds without penalty. As has been mentioned several times above, if it ain't broken, please don't try to fix it! Chris in Las Vegas
Pat6
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I am a Rapid Rewards Member and I fly Southwest (almost exclusively) about 4 times a month. The only exception is when SWA does not service the city where I am going. Keep the open seating! It works just fine! I have not spoken with a single SWA passenger who wants assigned seating. Because the children board first, I can easily avoid sitting near them. I like kids (I have 10 grandchildren), but I don't like them near me when they are screaming, kicking, crying, whining, and squirming during a airplane trip. With assigned seats, I wouldn't know until I board just how close to the kids I'd be. With your open seating, I have a good chance of getting a decent seat even if I buy the ticket at the last minute and pay a higher price. It ain't broke.... SWA is the leader for a reason! Pat in Fountain Hills, AZ
Patti_Morehouse
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Dear Mr. Kelly - I am frequent traveler and I fly your airline wherever possible. I absolutley dread it when I have to fly another airline. Your recipe for customer satisfaction, professional employees, and making a profit is perfect. Please, please, please do not change it. Please do not listen to the nay-sayers who don't like your open seating policy. If they don't like it then they can fly another airline. That's what makes this country so great -- we get to choose. No one is forcing travelers to fly Southwest -- there are plenty of other options. Southwest is the very best airline out there because you do things the SW way -- not the way that all of the other failing airlines do things. If I want stressful, maddening travel I can choose to fly Northwest or USAir, etc. I fly SW because it's consistent, friendly, professional, fast, courteous, because your web site is easy to navigate, your rapid rewards are easy to redeem, and because you have real live human beings who pick up the phone and help when needed. It's amazing stuff -- please stick with it. I'm a HUGE fan of all SW does -- please build on your basics and do not try to make SW like the other dinosaur airlines. Thank you so much for all you do -- I don't know what I'd do without SW! Best regards - Patti Morehouse
fred_sac
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HEY SWA : wanna seat people quicker? START HERE: ( 3 NO COST, NO-BRAINERS) 1. KEEP OPEN SEATING FOR NOW, HOWEVER....revamp the pre-board thing COMPLETELY. please. Can someone say "amen"? It's simple: preboard group #1 is only families or kids traveing solo. They get to sit in any seats behind the emergancy rows: "The Family Section." Families could set up for travel without being pressed. They are closer to the rear restrooms where Mom or Dad can now wait with their little kids for an available lav., without violating that "gathering" law in the forward galley area. Forward seating might become a bit quiter. Hello? At deplaning, as forward rows de-plane first and fast, families would have a chance to organize and regroup before exiting. Get out your timers...check it out, SWA. Zero cost and little risk to try it. Ever watch these poor parents struggle in the asiles with bags and toys and diapers trying to get out quickly? Or not? Come on , SWA ...Give em a break !. Sitting in the "Family Section" would help them. Betcha a bag of peanuts de-planing is faster with the family section pre-board as described. 2. PREBOARD #2 (handicap, elderly, military, etc) follows immediately and essentially settles in CONCURRENTLY with preboard #1. Now, about pre-board abuse: bring a cane or limp and you're golden. It's unfair to all, and an insult to those with legitimae disabilities. SWA : Consider new pre-board criteria for what constitutes "HANDICAP." I submit that some of what now qualifies for pre-board privelges, should not. 3. IT'S SIMPLE PHYSICS: many suitcases have NO business being wheeled aboard. We have all watched the true believer jam and shove and push that wheeled carry-on into the overhead space, certain the laws of physics and space will be momentarily suspended. In passenger & big luggage vs. limited overhead space, it can be one ugly wrestling match. I feel most sorry for the poor guy underneath just waitng to get gonged while the struggle ensues. And the boarding line, once again, comes to a complete stop while each match takes place. to wit, SWA: people MUST STOP bringing these wheeled monsters aboard. Again, it is not really fair for those who have decided to comply, correct luggage within guidelines. It is not fair to those who have checked in luggage. And it is really not fair to the poor SWA flight attendants who often do manage to pull off a miracle and get the luggage cramed overhead bins. God blesss 'em. Can I get an amen? Fred Sac
Ethel
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Please don't take away the open seating. I've flown with SW for years, mainly because it's fast and fun. I think if you take away open seating you'll have people dragging along to get boarded because they know the seat they want will be waiting for them. I for one enjoyed the fun of setting in the "lounge" area, which is now gone away. In my opinion, you take away open seating, you take away a big part of what makes Southwest, Southwest. Flying with Southwest makes you feel equally important as the next passenger and rarely have I had to sit next to a stuffy, grumpy passenger. (They all fly on airlines where they can choose their seat.) You're a breath of fresh air...please don't "fix" it.
Ewan_Spence
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I'm an infrequent visitor to the US, but when I come over it's usually for a three week stretch, never staying more than two days in any one city. I've used Southwest for the majority of my internal flights (just wish you have a trans-atlantic into the UK so I could do SWA100%). On my reading, you need to find a way to get more money to your shareholders (fidicuray responsibility and all that), and not alienate your customers. I would suggeest this. Increase the number of boarding groups from 3 to 6. People who wish to check in for group "A" are charged an additional $20. People who wish to check in for group "B" are charged an additional $15. C, D, E and F would work as normal - the only difference is that group C and beyond would be held at the gate to give A and B time to actually choose seats and settle. Then it becomes the standard open seating. You get the extra cash, people who want to run will give you extra cash, and the people who like the status quo still have it for 70% of the cabin. And if no-one buys A and B passes, then you just have group boarding as normal.
Craig
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I am against any change to assigned seating. In many cases I've found on a practical level that it doesn't work that well. People who want to sit together or want different seats have often taken mine, and ask if it's OK to switch. That's an uncomfortable situation, and occured too often. But most importantly, I see assigned seating as a step towards what I hate the most on most airlines: a society of different classes. On almost every airline there are significant controls placed on seat requests ... held open for frequent business flyers, etc. I do not want to see assigned seating leading to special line, first boarding privileges and other upgrades reserved for "higher" class travelers. Southwest to me has always represented the common travelers, all equal. Assigned seating also has further disadvantage to travelers in that the later you book, the more likely you are to get undesirable seats. At least with the "cattle call" you still have an good opportunity to sit where you want, even if you weren't the first to call in.
Geoff_Walton
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Dear Gary - Your focus and simplicity makes your organization the best airline flying in the US, bare none in my opinion. Key to this success in my opinion is open seating. I know that the current system saves time and money and rewards your most loyal customers. Why not shout these facts from the roof tops? For fans like me, open seating is one of your best features. It rewards loyalty. As long as I get an A, I know I will get a seat to my liking. On other airlines, it does not matter how long in advance I make my reservations, I almost never get the seat I want. I still have to get to the airport at the same time. The boarding process sucks and the planes are, in my experience, much more frequently late. My family has frequently told me that if I change careers, I will have to go to work for Southwest! Count me as one of your biggest fans, I generally earn over 100 credits a year and am a passionate advocate. Your customer service always has met and frequently exceeds expectations. Your pricing and dependability were crucial to my ability to start my company from Phoenix, while my partners and many of my customers were on the East Coast. When it comes to competition at Sky Harbor, I am sure you know that you leave that other airline, whatever its name is today, in the DUST. In fact, I will fly to another city close to my destination in order to avoid their consistently horrible service. BTW - when are you guys going to get to ATL? Birmingham is a long drive at the end of the day! Sorry for the long post, but there are few brands to which I feel more loyal. Thank you for your service! Best regards, Geoff
Scott_Geddis
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Please do not move to assigned seating. I fly only SWA if at all possible. Will even fly to near by airports and drive if that is the only way to fly SWA. I do so for two main reasons. Frequent flyer program and open seating. Your service is great and rates are always good. I love your no fee cancellation, Ã
Anonymous880
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Gary, as an Operations agent in Indianapolis, I would just like to say that I am for open seating. I am not caught up on the progress and test results that are taking place in San Diego, but I have so many people tell me when I work a flight, how much they love Southwest. It can be inconvenient from time to time if there is a family with a small child boarding late and to ask for volunteers to move to another seat to accomodate the family, but I have never had to split a parent and a small child up because somewhere in the plane, someone is willing to move, even if I have to pleed over the P.A., "If this was your child, wouldn't you want someone to do it for you?" This announcement has worked 100% of the time when I had to take this drastic measure. I have read the blogs that criticize open seating, and I often am approached by discourage passengers who are in the C boarding group. Sometimes they are angry, other times just frustrated, but all it takes it for me to point out is that on other airlines, they don't have a choice of where they are sitting or who they are sitting next to. I just plainly tell them that being in the C boarding group, gives them the opportunity to choose who they sit next to, and not who sits next to them. If someone in the C group boards and sees a family or larger person, all they have to do is pass up the open seat and find a different one. If by chance WE do go assigned seating I just ask one request, and that is not to offer Platinum, Elite, Gold, Diamond and Preferred status to our passengers. By doing this, the other airlines give the impression "Oh, you are not good enough or rich enough to have a good seat or to get to board early" to their passengers. Middle to Low income singles and families make up a lot of our revenue and profit, and we wouldn't be where we are today without them. Some people have labeled us "The Wal-Mart" of the airline industry, but is that such a bad title? We let everyday people have fun, see loved ones, and give them an experience they would not be able to have or afford on the Legacy Carriers. I enjoy the business travelers as well, but it is often the ordinary people that have so much to offer and have touched my life in ways I couldn't even begin to tell. Their stories and life experiences make me realize that there are worse things in life than ending up in a middle seat on an airplane.
Tim30
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Please don't change to assigned seating. Everytime I hear someone saying SW is a cattle call, my family hears a big groan. Do you not go to theaters, spoting events, or anywhere else there's a crowd that is waiting for an event? Are you not in line there?... and what about other airlines? Just because you have an assigned seat on another carrier doesn't mean you don't have to make the long walk down the jetway (in a line no less) I just flew on a different airline. Yes, I had an assigned seat and still boarding started almost an hour before takeoff. What's the difference? Please don't change to assigned seating. I agree it might help for families to have a family section starting just behind the emergency rows. It just might help them. and oh yes...did i already say ...Please don't change to assigned seating. It's not broken.
H__Williamson
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I know I'm swimming upstream, but PLEASE consider modifying your seating system. Surely some accomodation can be made to appease those who think it is fun to arrive 2 hours early to find all 3 lines? jammed with campers/picnikers sitting, lying, slouched on the floor all over the area, usually in groups of 3 or more in a circle, with their food & drink (the empty wrappers/cups usually left for someone else to pick up), looking for all the world like a refugee camp. Whenever possible I check in online, but not always getting an A pass, and unable to sit with, or even close to my wife, that being somewhat of an inconvenience since we try to limit ourselves to 1 carry-on for both of us, and besides, we sort of like each other's company on a long flight. Return flights are another matter. On a recent trip, we had debarked a ship in Vancouver, transferred to Seattle by bus to catch our Southwest flight to Austin. Not having access to a computer, we had to endure the manual check in process. We nonetheless arrived at the gate an hour early, only to find a literal horde of folks amassed there. No semblance of lines (see above). We had been anxious about the new security procedures creating long lines at check-in and security. Those concerns proved to be groundless. The unpleasantness awaited us at the gate where the flight was late. With no assigned seats, one doesn't dare leave the gate area to have a meal, shop etc. Must stay at the gate to preserve one's place among the still gathering hordes, the numbers of which convinced me that the flight would surely be over-booked (it wasn't). In closing, we got a seat (not together) and arrived home ok. But the experience, commonplace today, has given us cause to question whether the pluses of flying SWA are worth the aggravation. I have flown with you since the early seventies, twenty of those years for business and pleasure, the last sixteen for pleasure only. So I know what FUN flying is about. Champagne flights, your own hostesses in hotpants, seats wide enough to fit all but the most enormous butts; those days are gone, economics and efficiency control now. SWA is a great business model. I accept that reality, but is the "cattle car" the only alternative? I hope not. So, unless and until you can find some way to accomodate folks like us who are willing to pay extra for an assigned seat ( I don't care whether it is front/back, window/aisle/middle/emergency, first/last group, wherever), we will be looking at other airlines in future. H.D.
E__Bulakites
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I am a very frequent Southwest flyer. I am on a Southwest flight at least 4 times a month. If it were not for the flexibility of Southwest ticketing and their low fares for last minute tickets the open seating policy we keep me off their planes. The open seating boarding process is slow and agonizing as you watch the deer -in-the- headlights stares as people try to find seats or haggle over seats. I have been on 747's that boarded faster with every seat sold. Please, make a reliable airline even better, implement assigned seating ASAP.
Norm_Wakeen_Jr_
Not applicable
I am all for assigned seating. I am a frequent flyer of Southwesr and I love the Airline except for the "cattle call seating". (Don't blame me I did not make up this name.)..Even with a "A" Boarding Pass you are still forced to stand in the A line for an hour( and sometimes more) if you wish to secure an exit row or similiar seating because the A group starts standing in line early hoping for the same kind of seat. The open seating creates so much animosity among the pasengers that I have witnessed several older passengers having to stand in line when someone jumps up to get in line early. I have seen arguments with passengers that place their luggage in the front of the line and then proceed to sit down several yards away thinking that will secure their place in the line only to cause fights or anger amongst fellow passengers. Get rid of carryon luggage that should be checked at the gate and that will help a great deal with boarding. The passengers that run to the front of the line hoping to get a front row seat in order to get off first end up saying hello to me while we are both waiting for our luggage at the baggage terminal. Thanks for allowing the open comment. Norm Wakeen Jr. Phoenix
shawn_lake
Not applicable
I've flown pretty much exclusively with Southwest for all of my personal travel in the last 15 years. I love the service and appreciate the great attitude of your work force. The only thing I'd change is to use the numbering designation on the boarding cards in addition to keeping the A, B, C designation. Therefore, say you check in online the night before and get an A boarding pass with the number 1. You get to board the plane first, followed by A2, A3, A4, etc. These numbers already exist on your passes, so why not put them to good use? It still keeps open seating alive and well, eliminates the need for folks to jockey for a position in line before a flight, and still would maintain a quick boarding process. And as for those "precocious" business travelers above that say they'd switch to Southwest for travel if they could get a preferred seat, let them stay on the other carriers!!! Who needs their attitude!! You've built a great business by successfully catering to masses. Don't let your business be swayed by the opinions of a few elitists. Thanks!
forrest
Not applicable
I always love hearing people call themselves cattle... It's funny how every other airline is trying so hard every day to streamline their boarding process but still keep assigned seating. and yet every day they still find themselves losing money because their planes are sitting in the gates longer than they want. Before they know it another quarter has gone by and another Billion dollars has been lost. And then what happens? They take it out on the passengers by increasing your ticket prices. A succesful airline takes a plane, puts it in the gate for 15 to 20 minutes gets passengers and luggage off and on, gasses up and gets that plane the hell out of there so they can use that gate 10 more times. That is how an airline makes money. Keeping those planes off the ground and in the air. If Passengers (Cattle) knew why an airline like Southwest was so successful, understood how Southwest keeps air travel affordable and looked at the whole picture instead of just themselves(passengers), they might just stop calling themselves Cattle. See Southwest is in business for two reasons; 1. To make Money, and 2. To transport passengers from point A to point B Fast, Safe and Affordable. Bottom line. That's it. Southwest does this 3900 times a day 365 days a year. Boarding planes the way Southwest Airlines has boarded their planes for the last 35 years is still the fastest way to turn a plane around in 20 minutes. Proven fact. Goodnight "Cattle" LUV Forrest
Ray_Sinclair
Not applicable
Hello -- I would appreciate Southwest Airlines continuing with open seating. Please do not assign seats. Thanks.
mrprestonking
Not applicable
I have flown SWA since 1993 out of BWI-Baltimore. I like unassigned seating but I believe SW has to change because of competitive reasons and to keep up with the times. I think once SW makes the change - and believe me, it is going to happen in one form of the other - its most loyal customer base will adjust to it. After all, compared to the post 2001 security measures in place now, having assigned seating or some other alternative to the current status quo, doesn't seem like a big deal to me. We must bear in mind SWA is a much larger carrier than it was when unassigned seating was first implemented many years ago, and is even much larger than what it was 5 years ago. Unassigned seating made more sense when SW was smaller in terms of passengers carried. The characteristics/personalities of most persons who flew SW probably helped to make unassigned seating practical. Now that more people are flying SW to benefit from its cost economies, SW has a more diverse passenger pool. As a collector of SW memorabilla, I remember reading an article which was dated years ago about how SW first decided on unassigned seating. Perhaps I read it in an old LuvLines from the early 1980's, or 1970's even. For those of you who don't know, LUVLines is a monthly newsletter for SW employees. I recall the rationale way back was very compelling and so unassigned seating was instituted. But alas the world has changed. Despite its benefits, there have been some problems with unassigned seating. I think the worse problem I have seen was when boarding passes were numbered and passengers boarded in groups of 30, I believe. Many anxious passengers would literally sit on the floor in front of the aisles, A, B, C. (Was there an aisle D back then?) I found this behavior to be distasteful and what do you think passengers flying other airlines must have thought? What a sight! Many of them thought - "I will never fly that airline", or "I would rather pay more for an assigned seat." One idea mentioned above suggests using a numbering system that not only has your group (A,B,C), but adds a number to it such as A1, A2, A3...B1, B2, B3. I don't quite like that approach because it requires an extra effort to put passengers in precise order. Whose responsibility will that be? The passengers? The gate attendants? What happens if A1 happens to arrive at the gate while the B group is boarding? Does he get to go in front of the rest of the B's, or at least in front of all of the C's? My suggestion is to have open seating but to assign passengers to their boarding group, A, B or C, based on the order flights were booked. If a person ahead of you cancels, you would automatically be re-queued higher up until the time your boarding pass was printed. I haven't thought this out much, but one problem with this method is the "pre-boarders." I am sure there are other problems with it. In all practicality, I think this suggestion is just one step below assigned seating because those who book early will generally request the best seats anyway. But having said all the above, whether seating is assigned or open, I never know which seat is the best to pick anyway. The best I can figure is that I don't want to be in the middle seat, and I don't want to be in the noisiest part of the plane (anyone know where that is?), I don't want a seat that doesn't recline (last row?), I don't want to be in the first row, and last but not least, not near the cute crying baby or in front of the kids with their foot in my back. Will someone please assign me an appropriate seat - window or aisle?
forrest
Not applicable
If you don't like the way Southwest Airlines currently boards their planes, and you really like the way the other airlines board their planes with traditional assigned seating, do us all a favor and stop flying Southwest. Remember, Southwest Airlines does not force people to fly on them. You have a CHOICE... Why, should the most successful and profitable airline in the last 35 years change their business model and culture based on passengers who have never flown Southwest and can't fatham a world with non-traditional seating methods? Thanks, Forrest
Eric9
Not applicable
Moving to assigned seating would be a COLOSSAL mistake for SWA!!! Why would Southwest, the only airline currently turning a profit, want to change one of the major aspects that sets them apart from other airlines? Boarding times will suffer drastically if SWA implements assigned seating. What gives SWA the ability to have industry-leading turnaround times is the fact that people show up early, queue up even before the incoming plane arrives, to be sure to get the seat they want. With assigned seating, you remove that incentive. People will dawdle, get to the gate later, sit in the gate area longer before boarding the plane. Southwest's amazing 20-minute turnaround times will disappear. Again -- why would SWA want to be like the other airlines? The other airlines are lousy!!! One more Rapid Rewards member, and a loyal, exclusively-Southwest customer for six years, saying: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!!!"
Eric9
Not applicable
Mr. Kelly, I truly hope you're reading all of these comments. Can you imagine customers of American, Delta, United, or any carrier other than SWA being so passionate about their airline? Of course not. Because after Southwest, all of the other airlines are the same. There is nothing to differentiate American from Delta, United from Continental. But Southwest is different. I hope you're noticing that the majority of those of us in favor of keeping the open seating policy are loyal Southwest customers. Many of them, myself included, never fly another airline. On the other hand, the majority of the posters requesting assigned seating seem to be people who rarely, or never, fly Southwest. I've seen many comments along the lines of "I'll never fly Southwest while you still have open seating" and "I could never take that cattle call lineup." So, I'll ask you to consider this -- if you do move to assigned seating, are you selling out your current and loyal customers in favor of *potential* new customers, who may or may not fly Southwest? The formula works, and customer loyalty proves it. Can you even imagine another airline having a blog this active, or a hit TV show? Granted, a lot of my loyalty to Southwest revolves around your wonderful employees. I cannot honestly say that I'll stop flying SWA if you move to assigned seating. But I'll be a lot less enthusiastic about it; and I'll fully expect your on-time record to drop significantly, drop towards that of other airlines. I don't see any way you can keep your industry-leading turnaround times with assigned seating. I hope that your "experiment" in San Diego is proving that. I hope the San Diego experiment is a colossal and dismal failure. But above all, I hope you're reading these comments and noting that your most loyal customers are asking, begging, pleading that SWA's seating policy remain exactly as it is. In a time when corporations struggle to maintain customer loyalty, when consumers switch brands without any loyalty at all, Southwest has an amazingly loyal group of fans -- not customers, but fans. Please don't test this loyalty by making SWA like every other crummy airline out there. You've inherited a marvelous company from Herb, Colleen, and the others -- don't run it into the ground.
Jennifer3
Not applicable
I'm voting to keep things the way they are for the reasons stated in many of the above posts. I also think that having no assigned seats and no first-class sections is safer. In this day and age of groups trying to down flights, I think it would be much more difficult to do on SWA. The bad guys can't know where they'll sit before they board, who they might wind up sitting next to, or hide their actions behind a first-class curtain. I'm definitely no expert and I'm sure there are probably holes in my theory, but I really do feel a little safer flying SWA with no assigned seating. I also love your crews - and I think that a flight attendant in khakis, a polo shirt and tennis shoes will be much more helpful to me in the event of an emergency than someone in a skirt, pantyhose and heels! Keep up the good work! Jen
Randy_H
Not applicable
I've flown SWA as my primary airline for so long I don't even remember. At least 15 years, maybe more. For the last 7 years, I've flown enough to get the Companion Pass each year. If you go to assigned seats though, I think I'll change airlines. If I have to put up with assigned seats, I may as well earn some miles and get a free upgrade to first class once in a while. I hate to see you guys even looking at this option. Look at how long the other planes are on the ground loading people who don't have to be on in a hurry. It's a bad decision! Leave it alone!
Jim13
Not applicable
Well, it's been over two months since the assigned seating test started in San Diego. What's the verdict? How did it go?
blusk
Not applicable
Hi Jim Yes it is true that the San Diego tests are over, but keep in mind that the tests weren't a "go/no go" on assisgned seating. The tests were successful in that they generated tons of data and Customer comments from those involved in the test, and that data is being thoroughly "mined." All of our Leaders have read the 580+ comments in this post: read the hundreds of letters we have received; and read reports from the phone calls. Many of those who pleaded to keep open seating also share suggestions on how to improved the boarding process. Once the new security procedures have settled in, we will be testing various ways of open seating boarding. Again thanks to everyone who has shared their thoughts.
Marion_Lane
Not applicable
I've never 'blogged' before BUT I do want my opinion heard. I'm 73 and like the open seating - but as you say we do adapt! Price and safety are really what matter most. Thanx.
Don2
New Arrival
I fly two airlines when I fly. Southwest about 90 percent of the time and USair to Knoxville TN (only because Southwest does not go to Knoxville, you folks REALLY need to take a look at that market!!) So I get to compare open seating with assigned seating. I've flown Southwest since 2001 and I must take a moment here to thank you for curing me of being a "white knuckle" flyer. My first Southwest flight was to Ontario California from Hartford CT. The flight crew that you had that day had me in stitches all the way across the country and cured my "fear of flying" for all time!. I didn't know the boarding system you use at that time, but became a convert to it immediately. Over the years I've learned where to sit to get off the plane faster to make a connection and where to sit if I don't have to make that tight connection. Your system made me a more informed customer, to my benefit. I've seen the problems with families traveling together trying to get seats together and I've changed seats to help if necessary if not sitting in an exit row. Assigned seating? Well with being able to book and pick your seat online? if you have enough of a lead time to do that (and I usually do) then you can get your aisle seat, or window seat pretty much. I know if you fly last minute, thats impossible most times. I do think it takes much longer to fill the plane on assigned seating and you're still waiting in line by the door for your group to be called. ( I fly with a carry-on so if its not one of usairs regional jets where you gate check it, I want to make sure I have room for it and yes it fits the requirements!!) If it isn't broke, don't fix it!! Leave the open seating on Southwest just the way it is! If you want to fix things, listen to the folks here who are talking about people abusing the pre-boarding as well as using bags to hold places in the corrals. I thought that you could not leave a bag unattended in an airport!! I too have seen whole families board under the preboarding rules, there must be a way to poilce that. As for using luggage to hold that center seat, nuts to that. its under your seat, or up in the bin, period! I have noticed over the past five years, that there is less scrutiny of the boarding lines by personnel then there used to be, Again, from a 5 year customer, KEEP IT THE WAY IT IS Don 🙂
Sue_G__
Not applicable
My husband is 6'7" and is not comfortable in any thing but the exit row seats. It is very frustrating to have to arrive at the airport very early just so he can get a exit row seat. Having an 'A' boarding pass is a must for us; although it stills doesn't guarantee an exit row seat. Even after arriving very early at the airport and waiting patiently for boarding to begin, someone just came in and stood at the ropes so they could be first on the plane. VERY, VERY frustrating and RUDE. Assigned seats would make our travel on Southwest more enjoyable. We are willing to pay extra to guarantee an exit row seat and prove our physical capibiities. Please consider changing your policy to assigned seats. Thank you for your consideration. Sue G.
Ron11
Not applicable
How about using the assigned ABC Ã
Pam
Not applicable
I fly Southwest so I can choose my seat, I am willing to stand in line the extra time if I was a specific seat. This is also great because I can move if I wish when we have a stop. PLEASE LEAVE THE SEATING OPTIONS AS THEY ARE. That is the main reason I fly Southwest. If I wanted to be assigned I would then look at other airlines first. I agree "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".
interstate275fl
New Arrival
Like everyone else says, "if it ain't broke don't fix it!" I agree, open seating is what makes Southwest stand out from the rest. Being a faithful Southwest customer since 2000, I enjoy checking in 24 hours before departure and getting the coveted "A" Group boarding pass. If I get to the airport early (like I always do as Southwest recommends), I take my place in the "A" boarding group line and (hopefully) get a bulkhead seat right by the window. Besides, having a bulkhead seat gives me room to work on my laptop especially on the long haul flights like from TPA to BWI on several occasions and one year a flight from TPA to LAX. Besides, if a bulkhead seat isn't available and the flight is a through flight (meaning not a non-stop flight) I can change seats at the next city. That's what I call flexibility which you cannot find at other airlines.
Seth_Katz
Not applicable
I travel once a year on business (Southwest whenever possible), and several times a year with the family (always Southwest - BWI - FLL). For business I usually get my A group by arriving early or checking in online. So I always get my window. For pleasure we have little ones so we preboard. And since we're five I let my oldest pick the rows and we leave one aisle seat open for a stranger. The person who sits there is either someone who can deal with kids or the poor soul who boarded last, but I've never had anyone complain. One time on another airline (I can't remember why were unfaithful - probably a very last minute trip) we asked about preboarding with the kids and were told they don't do that because it disrupts their boarding order with assigned seats. Hello!!! Putting in those car seats and getting the kids settled takes a few minutes. We need to be on first so your plane takes off on time! Then there was the time I had to take a redeye (ugh!) home on (obviously) another airline, and switch in Atlanta (can you guess the airline?). Their stupid system had me getting off the plane, sitting for two hours in the terminal, and then getting back on the same plane at the same gate (different flight number) to a different seat to get home. I KNOW Southwest would never have such a thing - it would have been one flight and if I wanted a different seat for the second leg it would have been my choice. I wanted to just take a nap on the plane - but no! I was talking to my dental hygienist the other day - she went with her son to Minneapolis - his first flight. Aside from hating the fare (but when can you do when Southwest doesn't fly there and bring down the fares?), she was obsessed with making sure they had seats together. Now, besides the fact that nobody wants to sit next to someone else's kid, and of course people would switch, because of the crazy assigned seating mess she couldn't get two seats together when she booked. Or when she talked to customer service an hour later. She was only able to get it resolved about 24 hours before the flight. If she was on Southwest she would have had NO worries - just show up and preboard. Related to that story, because of fares and rapid rewards I sometimes use two or three or four different reservations for my family (1 full, 1 rr, 2 youth and a baby - that type of thing). I can only imagine the horror of trying to get those five seats together. To sum it up: JUST KEEP OPEN SEATING (and preboarding). IT WORKS BETTER THAN ANY ASSIGNED SYSTEM ON ANY OTHER AIRLINE.
shaz
Not applicable
I HATE not knowing I have a decent seat..Last time I flew was with 2 twelve year old girls & I'm sorry but I was not about to be seperated from them even for the short 3 hr flight...As it turned out we ended up with the last 3 seats together down the back of the plane..no biggie we were on vacation & as far as I'm concerned that means no stressing over anything. I can just imagine though how stressed I would have been if we had all had to sit in different parts of the plane! Nope wouldn't have happened! Sorry...not in this day & age..call me a whining Mom if you want but thats the way it is now.
Jim13
Not applicable
It looks like assigned seating WON'T happen! From The Baltimore Sun: " 'Some boarding methods were a little faster, most were a little slower,' said Southwest's Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly" http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bal-bz.southwest06oct06,0,4320948.story http://blogs.usatoday.com/sky/2006/10/swa.html#comments
nsx_at_flyertal
Not applicable
At those times when many flights are delayed, the open seating system makes it possible to rapidly accommodate passengers on the next available flight until it's full. If seat assignments needed to be negotiated with the passengers changing flights, I doubt that the current staff could accomplish this feat in the available time. More staff would cost more money, increasing fares for all of us. Open seating is a godsend during irregular operations. Also, most proponents of assigned seating appear to believe that they will almost always get their preferred seats that way, even if there are only 4 of those seats on a 137-seat aircraft. This seems like a fantasy scenario to me. I've found that when booking less than a week ahead on other airlines I can't get a good seat unless I have elite status. Even then the better seats are often taken. Open seating gives me much better control of what seat I get when I'm paying full fare, and I can even change my mind at the last minute. Limited assigned seating (say, the first 10 rows) for a modest charge (but no charge for a middle seat) at the time of check-in would be a good compromise. If the number of people using this feature were low enough, the additional headache for irregular operations would be minimal.
carla
Not applicable
Those passengers passionately desiring assigned seating have lots of choices...they can pick virtually ANY OTHER AIRLINE!!!!! I have (only) been flying Southwest since 1973...I also lamented the end of plastic, but I did recover. I am a Companion Pass level flyer, and as of the year 1999 refuse to fly any airline other than Southwest within the continental U.S. of A. I just drive awhile if need be. I live 153 miles from Midland,TX...my closest commercial airport, so I am used to driving! Often times I run into someone I know on a Southwest flight, and open seating gives me the flexibility to join them! When my children were younger, fellow passengers were always accommodating in moving to allow us to sit together, and likewise were able to get AWAY from us if they so desired. So, to the crybabies, go pay more money and get your assignment...and also the CART slowly rolling your beverages out an hour after take-off!!!!!!!
Scott5
Not applicable
I'm glad, if the Baltimore Sun article is correct, that it appears that the results from the San Diego project appears that Southwest performs better under the open seating envirnoment than assigned. I still hope that it stays that way. If low-cost travelers still want their assigned seats, then they can use the New York and Atlanta based low cost carriers. Keep open seating. Also congratulations on Southwest getting exposure on CNBC in the New York Stock Exchange's latest TV ad. Also congratulations to the Betancourt family on their nationally covered new addition to their family.