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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
Susan16
Not applicable
PLEASE ASSIGN SEATS! I choose to fly Southwest when and if it has the most direct flight, or due to fares. I HATE the unassigned seating, the early boarders almost always choose to sit in the first few rows, and make it nearly impossible to pass while they put away their bags. Back in the old days before computer seat assignment it made sense.....it no longer does. Give it a try!
Tory
Not applicable
Here's a hybrid solution that might make everybody happy: allow assigned seating online only 24 hours before the flight (or day before). People who care will login and pick their seat. People who don't, won't. It sounds like last-minute business fliers love that they can get a decent seat, which is difficult on other carriers, where all the discount buyers way in advance have snapped up all the good seats. At the airport, let assigned seaters board before the open seaters. Assigned seaters lose the privledge of their assigned seat if they're not at the gate before open seaters board. Options: -charge a small fee for getting an advance seat assignment -only offer assigned seating through the web site, to avoid both expensive call center calls and protracted seat negotiations at the airport check-in counter. I think this would really differentiate SWA from other airlines in a positive way.
Deb4
Not applicable
NOOOOOO don't go to assigned seats. We LUV Southwest, have done research papers on Southwest, and own your stock. We fly Southwest every time we can. We are VERY disappointed we have to wait for better flights and connections out of Amarillo due to the agreements at LUV field. People that are complaining about standing in line - UGH. When all the A seats are taken, there are still plenty of good seats available. Why do you have to stand in line???? We get up when the line starts to move. There's room for all. What's the big deal??? Check in online early and get your "A" pass! IF you do go to assigned - please be smart and board from the back of the plane forward so all those who have front row seating don't hold up the whole plane. You will loose your great 'on time' record!!! Deb
Robert_McAvoy
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I say no to assigned seating. I really like the fact I can choose my own seat on SW. I never have any problem finding a good seat. Boarding has never been a problem and getting off maybe a little slower but assigned seating is not going to help that. Please do not change.
FriendofBlogBoy
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Gary, In the spirit of the recent efforts between Mayors Miller and Moncrief, let me offer a compromise solution to the open/assigned seating question. Having spent a bit of time traveling around NYC, I see the speed of loading and the efficient use of every single square foot of space to accomodate passengers that is utilized by the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority. They have a transportation system that facilitates rapid entry and egress for its passengers, as well as providing ample opportunities for personal growth through close proximity making of new friends. So, may I suggest that SWA simply remove the seats from all of its planes (a huge weight, and therefore, cost savings), remove the overhead bins (more weight reduction, plus it eliminates the complaints about onboard luggage) and install hanging straps at twelve inch intervals in rows of four on each side where the seats used to be. This will allow you to transport considerably more people per flight, resulting in higher revenues at lower costs. If it works so well for the NYC subways, its bound to work for SWA!! Kim (with tongue firmly in cheek) 🙂
Mark_Turner1
Not applicable
Assigned seating is an idea on par with New Coke. You're treading on dangerous ground here. We LUV things the way they are! Mark Turner Raleigh, NC (RR member & SWA fanatic)
Midwestmom
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I do hope you will start assigned seating soon. I am an infrequent passenger with SWA because of this policy which keeps me from traveling with my kids and family. Too stressful to stand in line and hustle for these seats together!! I bet there are many other non SWA folks out there, with similar problems. They just don't show up on this blog.
Sharla_Davenpor
Not applicable
Hello, I too, want to express my initial disapproval of assigned seating. I often travel on a companion pass as my husband travels at least once a week. We have 2 small children (and one on the way) and even though we get to pre-board, it is so much easier and relaxing to just pick a seat! It is RARE that we travel on an airline that isn't Southwest but when we do, it is miserable. When you assign seats, people's brains go out the window and people can't read numbers! Thanks for making my flights so pleasant.
Derril_Reeves
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I left American Airlines a little over three years ago after 30 years and more than 4 million miles flown. I switched to Southwest for a few reasons: The majors had a broken business model; Southwest had a ground up better model that worked. Southwest provided soultions to my flying problems; cost,on time departures and arrivals,warm and welcoming customer service, familiar equipment, highly efficient processes, and upbeat culture and a successville attitude. I have now read of two proposed changes regarding limiting of rapid rewards seats and most recently assigned seating. My first reaction was that it sounded like what I had just left for something better. Please don't attempt to borrow processes from broken models. As to assigned seating, with the advent of on line check in, it works better than anything on any airlines. I read that some of the Pa. passengers were having trouble becoming acustomed to it; so did I at first but i am a firm convert and would not like to see southwest go backward. Look to your success not to some part of the country's passengers having trouble adapting to change.Compromise will erode your long built and fully paid for culture. With respect to limited allocations of Rapid Reward seats; I left that also. I really like to take my wife as offten as possible and many of my trips are planned days ahead at best; I have never had a problem on S/ W but on A/A and Delta it would be impossible. I have lost trust and confidence in the integrity of the other airlines allocation processes, depreciation of award milage balances as the airlines "monkey' around with the milage requirements per catagory and varying allocation percentages. They have under cut the value loyal flyers like me paid to put in the bank years ago. They have lost trust. If S/ W goes there you will have difficulty maintaining your integrity also as the next generation of new hires begin to figure out how to lower your cost exposure or squeeze a litle more revenue per seat mile. Be careful; you have well deserved respect, loyalty and trust of your current customers; but as can be seen it can be eroded. I used to fly to Phoenix on A/A thru DFW , changing planes; out of loyalty at the same time you were flying non stop from Nashville. You came into Nashville after A/A pulled out saying they could not make money in the market. They has 30 plus years in the market and many loyal customers. Slowly they lost many of them to the same experiences I had. Best to you and thanks for listening( something the others don't bother to do either) Derril Reeves
Dan_Ferraro
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I love the A-B-C system and I love logging in on-line 24 hours in advance and getting my A boarding pass.... If you want to make things better, don't eliminate a good thing, make it better. Consider this.... When you arrive at a Southwest gate (which I do, twice a week), you'll see at the front of the line 3 well marked locations for the start of 3 distinct lines - A, B and C. As these lines branch out into 3 directions, or maybe 2 sometimes, you really have to study it sometimes to determine where your line ends. Most people do a pretty good job of finding the start of their's and following it back to line up exactly behind the last person. Even if this means lining up straight out into the corridor and blocking the hallways. Why not put up some ropes or something so that the lines can turn where they need to and put a sign up where you enter the line so you know which line you're actually in. Most people are pretty good with the whole queuing theory but it never ceases to amaze me to see those crowding ahead, those who finally get up to the front and are embarrassed to find out that theyÃ
Michelle20
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I prefer the open seating because it gives the passengers some type of control where you don't feel like you are placed in seat based on frequent flier status. Also, if you see a cute "someone" you want to talk to, it makes the flight seem a little shorter. As the saying goes "time flies whey you're having fun".
Rudy_Savio
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Hi... Its been said already, but I'll say it again. The beauty of unassigned seating is that it allows those who buy their tickets last (the most expensive tickets!!!) have just as good a chance to get a good seat as anyone else. IF (an I hope you don't) switch to assigned seats I think it would be necessary to instate some sort of "Elite" system within RapdRewards to ensure that certain 'desireable' seats are set aside for your most loyal and biggest $pending cu$tomer$. Keep it up Southwest. YOU ROCK!!
nsx1
New Arrival
Tory's proposal (posted June 27, 2006 at 8:13 am) is the best one I've seen so far. I would only add: The assigned seats would be aft of the exit row, perhaps including the exit row seats (might as well charge for them). The charge for an assigned seat might vary according to the length of the flight, and would be $0 for a middle seat. When checking in online or at a kiosk or at the airport, if you decline the assigned seating option, you would get an A, B, or C just as you do now. With the use of assigned seats, the size of the A/B/C groups could be reduced to 30 each. Requiring online check-in within 24 hours of flight and payment of a fee would indeed limit the use of assigned seats to those who place the highest value on assigned seating. Limiting the number of these passengers and forbidding changes at the gate (if you want a different seat, just board with me and the rest of the open seating hoi polloi) should minimize the increase in turn times. This certainly looks like a win-win to me. Yes, it would reduce my current success probability, cutting the number of aisle seats available ot group A in half, but I can live with that if it helps keep fares low.
Rebecca_Parker
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NO-NO-NO-NO-NO............PLEASE!!!! I fly non-stop (thanks) San Diego/San Antonio often and other places too. I also have a SW VISA card collecting miles. I love SW because I choose a seat far away from babies and children by printing a boarding pass 24hrs in advance. Changing the times to allow a boarding pass to be printed sooner was a GREAT thing.......assigned seating will be a VERY BAD THING!
Jim_D
Not applicable
One of my most frequent routes is MDW-DTW. Although I like SWA's seat pitch and on-time reliability, I started to fly Northwest Airlines on this route several years ago after I got in the habit of bringing my laptop computer with me on business trips several years ago. With preassigned seating, I can gain productivity on my laptop in the departure area right up until last call for boarding; with SWA's system, I have to stand in line and read a book or magazine (I consider lengthy (and at time, proprietary) cell phone calls when in close proximity to other passengers standing in line rather rude). WIth today's avalanche of e-mail and Blackberry messages, I cannot afford to wait in line for SWA. Some might suggest that I log-in at midnight to secure an "A" boarding position; while sometimes feasible, often it is not, and trying to schedule such just adds another complications to a tightly scheduled business trip. If SWA introduces pre-reserved seating, I will happily start flying SWA again.
Colin_Tuttle
Not applicable
Although I'm willing to look at how Southwest adopts assigned seating, and that might change my mind, my initial feeling is NO to assigned seating. As a very frequent Southwest flyer over the past 30 years, and I have 7 zeros before the numbers on my Company Club/Rapid Rewards Card, I appreciate the current system. On the legacy carriers you have assigned seats, but many times only if you hold elite status, otherwise you get your seating assignments at the gate. On the other carriers boarding takes forever. You have people blocking the aisles as they get into "their" seat. You have people stopping in mid cabin trying to figure out where the aisle numbers are located. You have people sitting in the "C" seat when they should be on the other side on the "D" seat.. Then you have the people who are in the wrong seat and then other people to accomodate them sit in another person's assigned seat which creates more problems until someone gets the bright idea to get the flight attendant over to mediate the situation. You also now have the risk of people NOT lining up because they have an assigned seat, and will board at the last minute. Now with assigned seats there is the possibility is the last person to board is going to be sitting in row 30, window. The plane might not be full, but since we now have assigned seats, he or she has to walk to the back of the plane and possibly get two people to get up from the aisle and center of his row to let him in. Without assigned seats, he probably would just grab the closest open seat he could find. With assigned seats, you have to sit next to: (pick out the one you like) screaming child/obnoxious businessman/person with a nasty cold because that is your assigned seat. With open boarding: you can pick out who you want to sit next to, plus if you don't like the person who choses to sit next to you, you can move to another seat. Only upside I can see to assigned seats is for families traveling together, and with open seating if you check in early you will be in the first group, and you will definately be able to secure an entire aisle if you are a family of 3, and two aisles if you are a family of 6. If it doesn't work out you can try the social process of explaining the situation to someone who is sitting in a row by him/herself, and I'll bet if you are polite and locae another aisle or window seat for them they will move. Now with assigned seats there might not be three seats together, as this is a frequent occurance on the carriers with assigned seats, there have been times I couldn't even get two together. I'll be interested in the outcome of the assigned seats test. Possibly Southwest can figure out a better system than what is available on the other carriers. Southwest has been able to continually make a profit over its career, something no other carrier can boast. Perhaps they can figure out a better way, or perhaps they will find that the system they have now is better. I'm glad to see they have an open mind to this and haven't decided to follow the pack and jump into assigned seating, but to see if it will work for Southwest. Time will tell, and looking forward to watching this test as much as I enjoyed watching the over water evacuation demonstrations on my flights from OKC to STL.
Dick_Schellhard
Not applicable
I am in the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" crowd. When I elect to fly someplace all I want is to get from point A to point B in the most efficient and least costly manor. And Southwest delivers in spades. A change to assigned seating will only create a more complex, and hence more costly, reservation system and cannot help but slow down the boarding process. Southwest's no frills, no nonsense approach is what makes it a great airline. Let those who want reserved seats and other perks fly other airlines. It is apparent that Southwest has no lack of customers. Every flight I have been on recently has been fully loaded. Will a proposal to change to the hub and spoke system be next?
Joe14
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Please keep the open seating. I fly weekly between Seattle and Oakland. One of the things I love about Southwest is rarely having to wait on hold on if I have to call customer service to make a last minute flight change. I have to believe that having customer service agents dealing with assigned seating issues over the phone would decrease that excellent service level. My flights are totally full 99% of the time. Why mess with success? Just keep it simple and fast. I actually enjoy spending my money to support such a cool company . Whatever happens, keep up your great service.
J__Thompson
Not applicable
You're great the way you are -- forget about assigned seating. I like to sit wherever I want or any seat I'm able to get. With assigned seating you're stuck. It certainly isn't any more comfortable on the other airlines (as I remember because I always fly Southwest).Your loyal fans don't want you imitating other airlines.
mysharonna
Not applicable
I, too, hope that you stay the course with SWA's current A-B-C seating style. If you homogenize seating you become one with the other airlines. You'll have successfully blended into the nrom - no longer the maverick daring to be different. But, maybe SWA is becoming a bit long-in-the-tooth and comfortable and it's time to retire into medocrity. If you've decided that saves you that much money to assign seats then I'm sure that you've done the cost analysis that tells you so, right? I do want to throw in my $2558 worth (the average about what I spend a year flying SWA). So here goes w/ my quick thoughts on SWA. First I fly SWA b/c you've dared to be different and that alone makes SWA worth supoporting. I fly ONLY SWA; if SWA doens't fly there I don't go. Kinda silly, maybe, but if you do change to assinged seating I guess you'll no longer give me any good reason to stay 100% loyal. Second, I understadn that you treat your employees, on average, better that other airlines treat their Ee's.I tend to frequent businesses that consider their Ee's their shareholder's b/c they really do make a business who thety are - not the CEO. Third, your ABC seating system is just plain fabulous - t really gives a customer a sense of freedom and has excitement of gambling (like buying a lottery ticket) thrown in with it. I am mystified that someone believes that assigned seating will allow him/her to sit away from screaming kids. Wow. Since screaming kids load up first in pre-board, ya board after them, folks - just sit AWAY FROM them. And lastly, if people want assigned seats they can fly any other airline. SWA is the only ailine that permits ABC type boarding. Please, preserve that feature. It's worth it in customer loyality points if nothing else - just note the feddback you're getting on this issue. And as far as the new CEO that I saw on the cover of Spirit magazine - you're soft-shoe double-speak on the issue if assigned seating is very transparent. Don't infantilize & patronize us, sir. If you're going to start assigning seat just be honest. "We're assigning seats folks, get over it." You really don't sound as if you really give a damn about what loyal customers think. B/c we're new to you. But I remind you, we're not new to SWA.
Michelle4
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Southwest needs to keep the first come first serve seating. I do not like sitting by stinky people, or screaming kids. I have flown many airlines and SW has the best flight attendants. They are friendly and always willing to help. IThe rudest airlines have to be America West, and there is less room in the seats. It's just gross. I feel like I'm being squished on their planes. Please keep the open seating!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mary7
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Please don't do away with open seating. I almost always fly alone. Being able to choose my seat, I've never been "stuck" next to a stranger I perceived as someone I didn't want to be rubbing elbows with for a few hours. The only Ã
D__S__Cowan
Not applicable
I echo the VAST MAJORITY of the comments that support continuing open seating. As someone who has access to a Delta hub and can get anywhere at anytime; I choose to fly Southwest for three main reasons. I ike the open seating, I travel weekly and my flights are short notice. If you restrict my ability to choose my seat due to these short notice flight I will start flying Delta again because at the lowest medallion level I can still get the aisle seat I want. The second reason I fly you is the competetive though not always lowest airfares. Finally I love your frequent flyer program. I think the tiered programs at the other airlines are a throwback to a time when we made class distinctions against people. I hate them. If you chnge from your open seating policy, I will probably change form you. Please, don't screw it up.
Fran_Wallaker
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Judy6
Not applicable
From a loyal Southwest traveler, Please, Please, Please donÃ
Fran_Wallaker
Not applicable
P.S. - Have you ever seen the way people race to be first once the announcement is made for boarding at other airlines? I'd rather be "corraled cattle" than stampeded!
Frank_Niprikas
Not applicable
Gary... As a very frequent flyer of Southwest for many years and a business consultant I look at this issue from both a customer's and Business person's perspective. There's no question that the current open seating policy is at times a 'drag'. Overall, to me, it's always been simply a policy that I've become accustomed to and even embrace. I've studied the Southwest corporate history extensively and understand the reasons behind open seating and have experienced the efficiency countless times and I see it as one vital element of the success of Southwest Airlines. All business people I know that frequently fly on Southwest has made the process part of their travel own efficiencies and check-in online 24 hours in advance and remain diligent in getting to the airport as early as possible to get as good of a position possible in "line". I notice a distinct difference with assigned seating (even with myself) in a certain complacency where my own personal efficiency slips to some degree and am not as prudent in getting to the gate as I know that seat I have (good or bad) is the seat I have and it will be there, "Whenever I get there". The open seating process doesn't allow room for complacency. There's a certain aire of urgency to do whatever is necessary to stay out of that center seat. If you haven't already studied this psychological aspect, do so, you'll find it to b part of the overall equation. As for procedure, stand outside the bubble and look back in. Southwest has reinvented air travel. Some say for the worse, some say for the better. The way I see it, there are markets out there that are leaning hard for reserved seating but just as all the loyalists will adapt to reserved seating, those that are "leaning hard" for reserved seating will adapt to open seating, they always have as it's part of the "Process" that is Southwest Airlines. I think if market share ever suffers, it won't suffer for long. In Business school, you'll remember they taught us, "You can't really reinvent the wheel". How many carriers have come and gone trying to "reinvent" the success of Southwest? A lot. Each time they add frills and gadgets that detract from the basic business principal and each time they fail. Jetblue is coming the closest and again, they're learning the hard way in this current market. People LUV Southwest because of the culture, the convenience, efficiency and winning spirit of the product. Some of this product was accidently invented at a time there was no other choice, but it produced a winning gem that has become the envy of every Corporation in America and a favorite for customers. The "Southwest Effect" is the result of all this hard work and ongoing diligence in a difficult marketplace with razor-sharp margin between red and black ink. Open seating has always been an integral part of this process and I know I would be terribly afraid that this change could turn out to be the "first domino" to hell. Remember the "wheel' analogy. However, as I mentioned before, I will adjust to whatever decision is made and remain a Southwest Customer, I just think it's a risky undertaking to change the most successful business model in airline history, even just a little. Respectfully, Frank Niprikas Atlanta, GA
Lou__SWA_BWI_Fi
Not applicable
I have worked here just over a year and I have always thought assigned seating was the way to go. I have worked for other carriers who have assigned seating and it just seemed the "correct" way to run the operation. Since then I have realized many of our passengers like the way we do it now. My dentist just said, "If you go the way of assigned seating you will be just like everyone else and I might as well fly on someone else." Made me worry that we will push away our regular flyers. He rides on us once a month. Maybe we will alienate some of our regular customers. I don't know. What I do know is we have the best executives in the world dissecting the situation and will make the best decision. Who knows, maybe we do assigned seating for a year and not like it. We can always revert back to the way we board now.
R__Gratz
Not applicable
I luv the open seating that Southwest offers and do not want it changed to assigned seating. I feel everyone is equal and should bebe be treated as such. Its simple: if you want your choice of seats check in early and relax like the rest of us.
Joanne_Scott
Not applicable
My husband and I flew on Southwest for the first time recently when we went to California for a funeral. WE LOVED IT! The open seating was great. We were told how to get in Group A by a relative and it worked like a charm. Since we are moving to Arizona from Michigan we are enrolled in the Rapid Rewards program and have your credit card. As former Northwest Frequent Flyers, we can't wait to become regular Southwest passengers. Keep Open Seating, please.
jlawrence01
Not applicable
Over the past 15 years, I have logged over 1 million miles on various airlines. In the past two years, over 90% of my travel has been on Southwest Airlines. There are two major reasons that I prefer to fly on Southwest - 1) Southwest allows you to cancel a flight without penalty as long as the credit is used within a year. 2) Southwest treats ***ALL*** of its customers equally. With OPEN seating, all passengers have an equal shot at getting a decent seat. No seat is reserved for frequent flyers, gold club, super platinum members or for the cute blonde that the gate agent has taken a liking to. With OPEN seating, passengers are motivated to get into a seat and the planes actually take off ON TIME. With OPEN seating, passengers are forced to arrive ON TIME as opposed to showing up at the gate two minutes before take-off. Six months ago, I flew United for the first time in years. There were SEVEN groups seated prior to general boarding . After waiting 20 minutes, I shouted out, "When does the steerage class fnally get to board."
Todd_B
Not applicable
One of the key features of SWA's service that has set them worlds apart from the U.S. legacy airlines and their herd menatality is that SWA promises only what can realistically be delivered and then consistently delivers what is promised. Go to assigned seating and this all-important point of differentiation from other U.S. airlines is seriously compromised. Count on levels of Customer discontent never before experienced at SWA when Customers quickly discover that assigned seating by no means equals their pipedream assumption that "I can pre-reserve a good seat of my choice" and/or "at least we can be sure we will be sitting together" only to learn that assigned seating all too often means "which middle seat do you prefer?" or "how close can our party of two or more pax be seated to one another in scattered single seats and in an arrangement that best facilitates arranging seat trades (hopefully) with other pax after we board?" Another consideration is that, with assigned seating, you will attract a breed of clientele you have been quite successful without for more than 30 years, thank you, and don't need to attract now. At a very successful small business I worked at in managment in the recent past, the owner of the business and yours truly often discussed the reasons for our success. Among our shared conclusions was our that one of the keys to our success was in our choices concerning which potential customers NOT to do business with. SWA does not need the type of high-maintenance, high-cost customers who "must have" assigned seating; let them continue to be the other airlines' high-cost liabilities. Truth be told, passengers who "must have" a pre-assigned seat are very often types who are full of themselves who will take away from the enjoyment and fun of flying that is unique to SWA. Whenever I fly with SWA, I actually find myself looking forward to flying with you again; precisely the opposite of how feel after flying with any of the U.S. legacy airlines. SWA is the only airline I count as my airline of choice; with any of the others my choice comes down to who is the least worst. The type of clientele likely to be drawn to SWA in greater numbers if assigned seating is implemented will ultimately transform the SWA experience from a breath of fresh air to just another flight to be endured.
Bill_Bauman
Not applicable
A big thumbs down to reserved seating. I like having more control of where I sit than having it controlled by some computer. By making the effort to check in early, I can be assured of an aisle seat, even if my reservation was made just days before the flight. With reserved seating, I'd likely be stuck with a middle seat. With a little extra effort, I can still get an aisle seat (my preference) even if the reservation is made only a few days before the flight. For those who don't take the extra effort to check in early and show up at the last minute, well, they get what they deserve - middle seats on crowded flights. Nobody said that life was easy.
Scott_LaClair
Not applicable
As a SWA FA I am on the front line of the open seating policy. This blog is representative of the overall view of our customers. They are overwhelmingly against open seating. I understand that we are testing this right now and that is prudent. My concern is that even if this proves to be operationally effecient, it is important to truly understand the wants and needs of our customers. I certainly hope that we have learned from this blog, which is a new and unique avenue of communication with our customers, that this feedback must be explored further. In addition to the current operational testing, I urge you to conduct widescale polling and surveying of our customers to determine the real impact of such a decision. Though it is hard to quantify the negative impact on customer perception versus the hard numbers of operational efficiency, it is our duty to FULLY understand it and make the RIGHT decision. Thank you, lets keep the LUV true!
Tom_Marek
Not applicable
I like the "don't fix it if it aint broke" theme of a lot ot the responders. I've been on a southwest plane just about every week for the past 18 years. I've earned a companion pass for the past five years and only this year failed to qualify due to my territory changes. Southwest boarding process is the most stress free of any airline I've flown. The ability to pick my seat or the person I sit next to (or more importantly, the person I don't sit next to) has a lot of value to me. I've been able to sit with friends noticed during boarding or grab a window seat and snooze. Other airlines purport the "zone" system is better but, unless you have status, you are stuck in a later boarding zone and have to gate check because there is no overhead space. By the way if our beloved Southwest institutes assigned seats, they will probably have to introduce a class system for their elite frequent fliers because "status snobs" (and yes I can be one of them at times) will want priority boarding and overhead space. Then instead of waiting in neat orderly lines, we will all be bunched up at the boarding gate waiting for our group to be called while others push through the crowd to board at their appointed time. The current system is efficient and gives passengers flexibility to choose. For those families traveling together, if you cant sit with your kids, ask a flight attendant for help. I can't remember the number of times they have made an announcement to ask if someone would be willing to switch seats and successfully found a volunteer. Tom
Brigid_Oman
Not applicable
For three years I worked in Dallas and flew home to San Antonio on the weekends. This was made possible by the greatest airline, Southwest. I was already a Southwest fan, having lived in several other Southwest cities but I became a Southwest advocate woking in a city so controlled by another major airline whose service is nonexistant. Part of my devotion to Southwest is the lack of assigned seating and quick boarding at the gates. It takes very little effort to check in early (especially now that you can do it 24 hours before your flight) and even less effort to arrive at the airport in time to get your favorite seat, no matter when your ticket is purchsed. I have repeatedly purchased tickets on Southwest even though the price was hirer because I feel that you vote with your wallet. The thougth of Southwest going to assigned seating makes me feel that there will be no difference between Southwest and all of the other airlines out there. Currently, I will pay the SWA price no matter how much more the the ticket costs just to have the SWA experience. If you change to assigned seating you will force people like me to choose the lowest price because SWA will become just like the rest of the other carriers. Please keep Southwest unique and leave assigned seating to the rest of the airlines.
Bob_Wood
Not applicable
I enjoy flying Southwest, but open seating makes the experience less than perfect. If I wish to have much choice of seats, it is necessary for me to arrive at the gate 60 or 90 minutes before the flight. It is in that time frame that the first few people will jump up to get in line. They are quickly followed by another 20 or 30 people, myself included, who dutifully stand there for an hour or more until the flight boards. If it is economically feasible, please go to assigned seats. An alternative system could be based on something similar to what the ill-fated ValuJet did. Let the customers continue to print their boarding passes at home, but provide them with 10 or 15 group designations beyond just A, B, and C--perhaps A-J. There is then no reason to jump up and form a line early because you are already in such a small group of 8 or 10 people there is no reason to do so. When I flew ValuJet years ago they would let each group have about 20 or 30 seconds down the jetway, then would immediately call the next group. No cattle call necessary. It worked.
Mary12
Not applicable
Open seating is great, but SW needs to do something about the ABC lines. The last time we flew, on each end of the trip, the A line was parallel to some window seats in the terminal. People in those seats felt that they were in the A line, even though they were sitting, sprawled out over the entire row of seats. It was totally impossible to determine where the end of the line was. I am one of those that likes to get on the plane early, so I can get a front seat and not have to deal with the inconsiderate passengers who carry on entirely too much luggage, and too large luggage at that. The ABC lines need to not parrallel any seating, but remain true "lines" so one can easily see where to place oneself. Someone earlier posted that the "ropes" should be longer between the lines so that one would know where the ABC line was and could get into the correct line. I agree wholeheartedly with that idea! There should be a "rope" on either side of each line, clearly marking the line, even the outside of the lines (in other words, all passengers would be in a line with a "rope" on each side of them, not encompassing any seats). We love SW and fly it exclusively. If something changes to make the boarding less stressful and inconsiderate, then we are all for it!
Dennis_Collins
Not applicable
A recent flight with a Southwest competitor told me all I need to know about assigned seating. It took a full hour to board a 737 sized airplane. People with a guaranteed seat are in no hurry. Southwest passengers are trained early to get in, sit down, shut up, and go flying, because they're hot to get the seat they want. Many folks don't like it that they have to hustle, and they want to have the luxury of assigned seating so they won't have to. But at the same time, they don't want to put up with an hour of fooling around on the ground waiting on other lazy people to sit down so we can get where we're going. Southwest's policies work. Ignore the people who think they want assigned seating. They really don't, but don't know it. Everyone else assigns seats, and is less profitable as a result, so there's no reason to study the matter. The proof is in the bottom line.
Gillian_Durham
Not applicable
Dear SWA -- LUV your airline -- I recently switched from a job which required me to fly almost every week, and even though it sometimes took some driving, I always flew SW if at all possible. I could not have kept that job as long as I did if I had had to fly the "conventional" airlines with their unpleasant employees and their nerve-racking "hub" system (would I make my connection? would my *luggage* make my connection??). Also, due to your reasonable fares, I was able to save my company so much money on my trips that I usually could stay over the weekend -- I got to visit *lots* of fun places that way! And if I was worn out after a week of hard work, and my last meeting ended early, I could usually get on an earlier plane (for no fee!) and sleep in my own bed at home. Now that I'm looking for a place to retire, I'm actually considering the availability of SWA service as one of the (admittedly minor) considerations. One of the wonderful things about SW, IMHO, is the open seating --please keep it! I'm guessing it's one of the reasons you don't have to charge for changes to reservations, because you don't have to scramble around and update seat assignments. Yes, now that SW is not the US airline industry's best-kept secret 🙂 there are problems with rude people cutting in line, etc. And yes, having to stand in line (or sit on the floor) for an hour is a bit of a nuisance. So why not remodel the gate areas so that there are A, B, and C chairs? Number the seats -- as a passenger arrives in the gate area, he/she would go to his/her area (A, B, or C) and sit in the next seat. Or at least mark out the gate area so that the lines are more obvious -- use roping, or different colored carpet on the floor -- and have 3 signs to give to passengers -- "I am the end of the A line" "I am the end of the B line" etc. As the lines fill up, the sign would be passed to the person at the end of each line. It would make it harder for people to pretend they didn't know where the end of the line is ... Hoping to be flying in your (unassigned) seats for many more years to come -- Gillian Durham
Gail21
Not applicable
i fly southwest every month back and forth from buffalo to orlando. the open seating and non stop flights as well as the ability to change your reservation last minute with no fees is why i love southwest. making seats reserved would be the first step in being like the other airlines with so many restrictions and fees ect. not at at all customer friendly. like sitting anywhere not near noisy kids or sick passengers or losing my good seat when i have switch flights last minute. unless southwest doesn't go there i currently fly southwest because of the curent policies most especially seating
Roy
Not applicable
Gillian Durham has a great idea about A-B-C seating at the gate area with more definite lines. SWA could do a much better job of making it clear where the back of the line is located. You also know roughly how many properly sized roller bags will fit on your planes. How about a system of checking in at the gate to get a luggage pass for your ONE carryon bag (after the gate agent sees that it is a proper size) and when you run out you start gate checking (before boarding begins). There is more room under middle seats than aisle or window seats so an exception could be made for a bag that will fit under the middle seat in front of the passengers middle seat. This would give some incentive to sit in a middle seat.
Eric18
Not applicable
I fly WN once a week. I never enjoyed the cattle-call boarding process but I recognize that people will board efficiently to avoid a middle seat. That being said, I feel it is pointless to ask me for my opinion on assigned seating without providing me with options for "elite" seating. I'd like to get in and out of the airplane fast, so I like aisle seats in the first few rows. If, as an "elite" flyer (define that as you may: full-fare, CP holder, whatever), I can't choose better seats, this is a meaningless choice to me. Assigned seating without preferred seating zones has no appeal to me. Also, if saving time is what we are after, WN should deboard preboarders last. That group can hold an entire airplane for minutes for the very reason they got to preboard.
Phil5
Not applicable
The open seating policy defines southwest. It is efficient and fair. Tthe negative publicity you get from this philosophy is a result of your expansion and flyers new to Southwest. You can educate these new flyers and Ã
Jenny_Atkinson
Not applicable
Hello, Gary - I am a happy Rapid Reward flyer and think "all things" Southwest are great. One of my favorites is the freedom to choose my seat and avoid making that decision until the last minute. Sometimes things occur in the gate area that make you wiser about s electing a seat/row-mate. Puh-leez ... don't go chaning!
Don_Murphy
Not applicable
I love SW... I hold a Companion Pass, and have a year's worth of Spirit Mag's on my coffee table, so you know I LUV SW! Please, please please do NOT institute assigned seating... I have traveled on other airlines (only where SW does not fly) with clients and associates and meet in hub cities where we change planesss to continue our trip... Never have we been able to sit together without a hassle... There's an old saying that kinda goes like this, "If your friend was in bankruptcy, and he jumped off a bridge, would you jump too???" Well, SW seems to be doing OK (In spite of a few 'MOOs') and there are a few dozen airlines that one can fly (most in bankruptcy) if you like assigned seating. I and apparently enough people to turn a profit, would prefer to not just be free to move about the country, but about the cabin as well. Thank you, Don Murphy
Paul_Wulkan
Not applicable
I am a tall person who flies every other week in and out of Las Vegas. I make it a point to get to the airport early just so I can get into an exit row. While my time is valuable to me, it is worth the wait so I am not cramped into a small space. Actually, I did not like when you changed the seating configuration from the several pods of facing seats because it gave more leg room options. I do have one suggestion about seating; put a bar up at the gate at about 6Ã
edward_herd
Not applicable
I am a frequent southwest flier (about 30 roundtrips a year) and I do not want you to change your seating policy. Why change something that has worked so well for so many years. I have been forced ( because of flight times) to fly Alaska and as you know they assign seat. It is slower loading and not organized. And you may have to put your carry-ons away from where you are sitting because some people get on the plane first. Please do not Change. Ed Herd
Mark_Gordy
Not applicable
First, I am very loyal to SWA. You run a very efficient airlines and I feel right at home when I fly Southwest. I like the fact that you can get your planes back up in the air so quickly. A very important reason I am so loyal to Southwest. My concern about assigned seating is the time it will take to get everyone onboard. I recently had an occassion where I was forced to fly with another carrier. Their boarding process was a nightmare and took forever. I am also a business traveler who makes last minute flight arrangements and very much appreciate the fact that if I arrive early, I can get a nice aisle seat near the front of the aircraft. Please don't rush into this just because everyone else is doing it. In my opinion, it's a bad idea. Keep up the great work
Donna_Dorsey
Not applicable
I vote against assigned seating. I am a frequent flyer with southwest but do fly many other airlines as well. Assigned seating gives people a sense that they do not need to hurry to the plane slowing the process. For those of us that are sometimes late getting a ticket Southwest gives us equal oppotunity to get an "A" which I like. I also think there is a sense of adventure in flying Southwest. It is always fun to see how early people start to stand in line. I like the ability to get the boarding pass online. That has really improved the process. I hope that Southwest does not decide that assigned seating is the way to go. I like the way it is.