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A MESSAGE FROM OUR CEO - OPEN SEASON ON ASSIGNED SEATING

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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
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I would like Southwest either way. It is a friendly airline as described in the other posts, and it has a remarkably easy and homey website. But whether I get an "A" or a "B" or a "C" on my ticket, I have never been crazy about standing in lines for up to an hour to grab my preferred aisle seat. Also, what is and will be your primary competition in Florida for years to come -- JetBlue -- has assigned seats. Assigned seating doesn't seem to be a problem for JetBlue and certainly not for their passengers (which sometimes includes me!). I vote for assigned seating.
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Please don't go to reserved seating. Open seating is what I like best about Southwest. I try to board at the last of the "A" group. That way I can avoid sitting next the screaming kids because they are already seated and I can sit somewhere else. I like to choose who I set next to-- not have it assigned without knowing who is in the seat next to me.
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Please, please, please do not change to assigned seating. After reading an article about this blog in the Baltimore Sun I felt I had to respond. I've been a loyal Southwest customer for many years. One of my favorite things about the company is its relaxed attitude. I like that the airline doesn't have a first class and that everyone knows if you want the best seats show up early. And mind you, I'm not always there early but if I don't get the great seat I know whose fault it is - mine. I have heard the argument that assigned seating would let people avoid sitting next to a screaming child but it's not true. With assigned seating you never know who you're going to get But with open seating you could chose to walk right past the kid and his/her tired parents (or anyone one else you'd prefer to avoid) and sit as far away as possible. Ignore the elitsts who prefer assigned seating or first class seating. They need to accept that its their responsibility to get to the airport early enough to get the good seats. They shouldn't blame the airline for their laziness! Keep on doing what you're doing - it's great!
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As a frequent business flier, I have had nothing but good experiences with the current arrangement. Please keep the open seating policy. Thanks!
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I don't care much one way or the other EXCEPT for the fact that with open seating, to get a good choice of seats, I have to get to front of the A/B/C line and then either stand there for an hour or sit on the floor. That wasn't so bad when I was younger, but now I find it ANNOYING. Either provide seating that is organized into the A/B/C lines where I can sit and wait to board, or give me a reservation so I can wait in a seat in the airport. The choice of a bad seat on the plane or sit on the floor is a very poor choice.
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I fly an average of one round-trip per week on Southwest. Assigned seats on Southwest??? Omigod, Herb Kelleher must be spinning in his grave. Oh, wait; Herb's not dead. It's still a dumb idea.
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PLEASE...NO OPEN SEATING! My family & I have been flying Southwest Airline for over 10 years! We have averaged 2+ trips per month and have had the companion pass! We even chose S W when another airline is cheaper or more convenient. There have been occasions when I did have to fly another airline and the whole time I would compare them to SW. I would wonder WHY they insist on staying in their ruts! WHY donÃ
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Thank You Southwest, for getting with the times, and looking into assigned seating. I have been flying SWA every since you start- ed in Nashville. I use SWA for Business and Pleasure trips, and Yes, I have stood in the lines for a lot of hours waiting for the boarding calls. I am now retireing and don't want to stand in line to board a airplane, I want to have a seat assigned and look for- ward to flights without the preflight hassles and queues. I look forward to my trips on SWA and the very fine employees that give excellent service and flying abilities.
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Dont change the open seating. I am a tall person and like to stretch my legs out. On Southwest I can get an exit row if I get in line early. Other airlines I can never get an exit row. Assigned seats will be like toll roads in florida. They slow the traffic down & cause accidents. Southwest has the best system-the airline operates efficiently & fares stay low. Keep up the good work.
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Pul-LEEZE do not change your open seating policy! As a business and recreation traveler (and Southwest Frequent Flyer) who flys on several different airlines, I see the impact of assigned seating. Basically, it causes passengers to "fart around" and take too much time getting into their seats. Whereas, with Southwest, everyone knows the early bird gets the best seat! Cheers to Southwest for becoming a pioneer in this area!
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You don't need it! I don't want it! Don't do it!!!
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The thing that sets Southwest apart from other carriers is the unbeatable ability to land a plane and get it back in the air with minimal turn around time. No matter how efficient a seating system is, there is no way that it could be as quick as "just grab a seat". No only does it keep passengers from having to find their seat, but it also encourages passengers to arrive at the gate in plenty of time to board the plane so they are able to get a better selection for their seat. In my mind, changing to assigned seats would decrease the value I see in flying with Southwest.
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You're present policy of being able to log on 24 hrs prior to flight works well but its not the best of both worlds. I have to tell you that when I book a flight the first thing I do is look at the seating availabilty. Because of the open seating & A- B -C boarding, I only use Southwest as a last resort. The other thing is that the first come, first boarder doesn't work either. Appreciate the opportunity to send this message.
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I HATE YOUR OPEN SEATING!!!!!! IT IS A NIGHTMARE... I have been a loyal Southwest flyer for over 6 years... checking your website first and rarely if ever looking for a lower priced or more convenient flight to my destination, additionally my SW Visa is my primary credit card for the points (primarily your reliability, employee spirit, value and love of Wild Turkey)... The security check point is even less of an excruciating experience than your cattle call-herd packing style of loading a plane. Because I refuse to push, shove, hover, idle and body block other individuals I typically board in the C boarding. As a result when flying alone I am cursed with the dreaded center seat and have to lower my head while people already seated pray I don't take that center seat. And god forbid if I am flying with a companion. Way to start off an enjoyable weekend or business trip when you are seperated from your companion for the entire flight. ASSIGN ME PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You have held a death grip on this utterly ridiculous oddity for way too long!!!!! Providing input only because I read an article in the Baltimore Sun that people actually liked this disgusting manner of boarding a plane.
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My oh My!!! The responses continue. Come on folks we must think outside the box. If assigned seating saves the company some money and attracts more customers, that means yeah.. you guessed it lower fares and even more flights. It would be nice to keep open seating, but we all must be open minded. Lets do what is best for Southwest. I will be flying from San Diego to ABQ in July, hopefully i can be apart of the fun....
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Please don't do it! Southwest is the only airline that lets me choose not to sit next to screaming babies, overly affectionate young couples who can't keep their hands off one another, and the guy who brings the nasty-smelling day-old McDonalds burger on the plane. I am a companion pass member on SWA, and I cherish the ability to choose where I would sit. Please don't change that. If you want a constructive suggestion: No one under 6 feet tall in the emergency exit row. THAT would be a great help!
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We like everything about SouthWest except no assigned seating. We do not fly SW because of this one reason and I suspect thousands of business people like me are also not flying SW for the same reason. I predict that if SW goes to assigned seats, their share of the market will change dramatically. GOOD MOVE!
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KEEP the OPEN SEATING. It is easy and rewards the people who use the web based check-in processes or who arrive at the airport early, both actions which are encouraged by Southwest. It has proven to be a fast method of boarding, so why mess with success.
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Jim, your setseatingfree website gave several of us a chuckle in Customer Relations--Thank You! As an Employee of 18 years at the Greatest Airline in the World, reading everyone's supporting comments (both for and against open seating) makes my heart swell with pride. And while I, too, am a fan of open seating and of our remaining a little different than everyone else, I trust in the Leadership of my Company to fairly evaluate open seating and our boarding process and make the right decision for you - our Customers - and for Southwest. Keep posting--I promise you, we're reading!
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As a business traveler who uses Southwest up to 4 times a week every month, please, please, please DO NOT make the move to assigned seating. I would like to know that I will have the ability to work on the plane in peace without having to be stuck next to a shrieking baby or in front of a child kicking the back of my chair during an entire plane ride.
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Further, having read some of the comments in favor of assigned seats, I submit this. First, not having open seating will not reduce your current customer base because it is not open seating that is the main attraction. It is who you are, how passengers are treated, how you run your business, and your prices. Those will all stay. Second, it is a brutal waste of my limited time to have to get to the airport early enough, then stand around for an hour in line, to have any hope of getting a good seat. It is uncomfortable and too time costly. Again, I am certain that once SW goes to assigned seating, they will pick up significant additional shares of the market. Hardly anyone I know flys SW and no assigned seating is the only reason. All said they would if SW would change.
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Please don't change. I love open seating. I go out of my way to fly SWA because of your spirit and the way you do things. I love the way you make use of the internet practical and affordable. I trust you. I believe that when I log on at SWA and compare prices vs. available days and flights that I get the most reasoable deal. I believe that if I log on 24 hours before flight time, I have my fair chance of grabbing an "A" pass. I believe that if I show up in a timely manner, I have a good chance of getting the kind of seat I like. I fly SWA r/t across the country about 3 times a year between BWI and Oakland. I like safe, dependable, on time, efficiency at an affordable price. I think your success demonstrates a great marketing idea.
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I flew Southwest last week from Reno via Las Vegas to Manchester, NH. I don't think I will fly Southwest again until there is assigned seating. In the past, you were rewarded with arriving at the airport EARLY with an A boarding pass. The night before my flight I logged on and was suprised to find I was issued a B pass on a 5 hour flight. Then on the way back, since we didnt have internet service we went to the airport itself 20 hours prior to departure and again received a B pass for a 5.5 hour flight. I find the line up to be very annoying as in order to get a good seat you need to stand in line a whole hour before boarding, while instead I could be sitting down getting work done or even going to have a beer somewhere. Then you have the cutters who when the line starts moving just blend in as no one ever knows which line is ever what. No thanks to that! I will spend the extra $20 to fly on a legacy carrier where I know I will be seated ahead of time and be able to sit next to my wife. Some other annoyances of Southwest. On a five hour flight what is up with getting a dixie cup of soda or coffee twice on the entire flight? Why can't there ever be a full can of coke or a full cup of coffee? The flight attendants mostly just sat in the back of the plane and talked and talked instead of going around and seeing who wanted more to drink. We flew over some great landmarks (Grand Canyon, Zion, Lake Powell) on the way to and from Vegas and the pilot never once got on the intercom to point those out. I was pointing those out to fellow passengers and they asked why the pilot didnt? When the pilot did speak he was so garbled no one ever cared! When are the airlines ever going to get rid of reclining seats? There is nothing more annoying than the person in front of you reclining all the way into your lap for a 5 hour flight! Nothing like having that tray table in your gut and knees in the back of the seat, then we you move the guy in front of you always gets annoyed! Do us all a favor people, unless you have a kid behind you, make do with NOT reclining! The Fasten Seat Belt Sign - Does SWA always leave that light on whenever the flight attendants are actually serving drinks? Seems like to me whenever you hit the tiniest of bumps that light comes on right when you have to go! Then it is usally another hour it stays on even though there is any turbulance, and miraculously goes off when the flight attendants go the back for their social hour and reading of magazines. To me SWA is like any other airline these days, We are going to stick with the airlines that let you pick a seat and even give you a movie or Direct TV for a 5 hour flight!
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@Lisa A - I'm glad you guys and gals got a chuckle out of SetSeatingFree.com, but so far it is a very lonely bulletin board.
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I want to go on record as a person who is opposed to assigned seating. I think Southwest Airlines first come, first serve policy is absolutely the best. Not only is it fairer than assigned seating, it just makes much more sense. Please do not return to assigned seating. Thanks!
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PLEASE retain open seating. It has worked for Southwest and I can't imagine that you would think that you could speed up boarding with assigned seating. I know you have watched the other major airlines struggling with all types of seating scenarios and none of them are as efficient as your current system. With internet, and most now have it or access to it, it is simple to print out your boarding pass 24 hours in advance. I can't remember ever getting a B or C Boarding card. I live in Las Vegas so please don't try it out here. You have an extremely efficient crew here in Las Vegas and we always leave on time if the incoming equipment is on time and it is most all the time.. In many cases we are ready to go 5 minutes before the scheduled departure. Thanks for being such a great airline and Thanks for using only Boeing 737's - the most efficient airplane made and wait until you start using the - 900's. Great fuel efficient plane! Al (Big Al) Bjorklund
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I just read about this in the news. IMO, open seating would be better if you would decease the size of your groups. I am sure that you could still do it as fast with A - Z (10-15 people in a group). I think that would eliminate the pre-boarding line up which I hate. If I know that the flight is not very full and I have no carry-on, I usually just wait to the end to avoid all of it. While I don't mind open seating, I do know quite a few people that avoid SWA completely because of it.
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My husband & are Southwest frequent flyers, and we are both VERY DISAPPOINTED that you are ready to jump on the assigned seats bandwagon. WHAT IS WRONG WITH OPEN SEATING?
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Personally I don't mind the "cattle call" now that you've perfected it so that you don't have to stand in line for an hour before the flight leaves. I can check in online 24 hours ahead of time and get an "A" "B" or "C" card and that's fine by me. I don't believe that the people who won't fly Southwest are going to be converting in droves because of assigned seating. How many people do you think fly your airline because they have a bit more control over where they sit? Sure, you can get your seat ahead of time on other airlines, but that only lets you pick where you want to sit. It has no control over who you're sitting next to, and with Southwest's boarding I can at least have some control over that aspect of things... and computer systems always have problems now and then. I've been on several flights on other airlines where our departure was delayed because the same seat had been assigned to more than one person. None of that crap on Southwest. I think you should leave your seating system alone and not mess with something that works fine the way it is!
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I really like open seating.KEEP IT! I have notice the pilots don't have much to say. Are they stressed out? Sometimes they could be a little more reassuring when you experience turbalance. SWA has some very nice people working for them.
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My husband & I are Southwest frequent flyers. WE LOVE OPEN SEATING!!! As far as we are concerned, assigning seats is the first step on the road to hell. There will be no reason to choose Southwest over all other airlines. I want to choose my seat away form screaming children and oversized people. This is a terrible idea! Please, please, please donÃ
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I have had too many bad experiences with open seating to go into. Bottom line - please, please, please, start assigned seating.
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A few comments regarding open seating: 1. Keep it. With a few minor mods. I like having options as to where I sit when boarding the plane. 2. More clealy delineate the A,B,C lines - like Huston Hobby. Seems to help reduce confusion and unintended "line cutting". 3. Pre-boarding for frequent flyers - (i.e. pre-board if you've qualified for a companion pass - very easy to administer). Thanks.
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This was the most persuasive comment I saw: "It will be MUCH EASIER for Southwest loyal fliers to adapt to the change of assigned seating than to try and continue to force the "cattle-call" on new customers, and I'm quite certain the market research that Southwest has done demonstrates this or they wouldn't be testing it out.--Dave Moore in Salt Lake City" The comments here show that some percentage of people are annoyed by the A/B/C process. To these people an assigned seat provides a security blanket. I don't understand it, but it's clearly a fact. My proposed conquest promotion does not address this problem. It's also clearly a fact that today's easy-to-please Southwest customers will accept most kinds of change, including assigned seating, without defecting. Therefore Kelly is correct that careful consideration of a change is warranted. Is there a way to combine the best of both systems? Perhaps. Personally I wouldn't mind assignment of part of the cabin (say, the back 1/4 and the front 1/4, boarded in that order) if those passengers had to pay an extra $10 to $20 for each non-middle assigned seat. For their extra money they would get earlier boarding, meaning assured bin space. When I have to gate check my roller bag, I'll just have to remind myself that these people are helping hold down my fares. Anyway, my point is that after reading the blog comments I no longer contend that nearly everyone will prefer the A/B/C system once they get to know it. Some people are just not relaxed enough to adapt to it, and those people could bring significant revenue to Southwest. On the other hand, assigned seating might require creation of an elite program: "Without open seating, IÃ
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Open seating rewards those passengers who are organized; if you check in online,than it is likely that you'lll be in the first few groups to get on; if you wait til the last mintue, you still have a chance of getting a decent seat, it just depends upon when you get your act together. IF you implement assigned seating, and if you do like the other airlines (who are all losing money so why do you want to do what they do???), then only a certain percentage will truly be available for assigned seating up until day of departure. So if you have to book late, then you won't get an assigned seat. That translates into more folks getting in line at the ticket or gate and bugging the agent about getting a seat. BTW, I love SWA and even though you don't fly into my city, I'll still drive 2 or 3 hours to fly on you, either OMA or MCI, because SWA truly adds value to each customer experience.
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I live in Las Vegas and fly Southwest quite often. I love the idea of open seating and hope you will continue doing so.Nearly 100% of the time I am in the A-group and I don't mind arriving early to get a decent seat. There are certain seats that are more comfortable for me due to the placement of the windows. I get these and can just snuggle in, get comfortable and go to sleep. Thanks Southwest for making flying easy and hassle free. I have friends here from Australia at the moment . I just dropped them off at the airport for a flight to Phoenix for the weekend. They always request Southwest when flying within the US. They too, love Southwest. In other words, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Thank you.
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It is inconceivable that assigned seats will board more efficiently than the current SWA group procedure. Isn't that the reason you board in groups? I am a 55 year old lawyer who flies a lot. The current SWA system works. So it seems like the bus; who cares? I want the bus to run on time. If I want to take a cab or a limo [or another airline], I can do so. The system works. Please do not screw with it.
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Open seating is the best. Anything else just takes more time. Please don't change.
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I just read about your blog in the newspaper and about the assigned seating test. Don't do it! There is an energy and vitality that emanates from the open seating policy. It (and your low prices) are what make Southwest different from the other airlines. Open seating allows frequent flyers to book a few days before a flight and still get a good seat. I love your other improvements--online check in and wireless check in. Just don't go too far.
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Living in Phoenix and having many choices of flights on Southwest or America West/USAirways, I always choose America West because the fares are usually identical and I prefer an assigned seat. Alaska Airlines airlines has assigned seats but experimented with open boarding, and it was total chaos. They have since returned to more orderly boarding. Recently, waiting for a flight on America West from LAX to PHX I couldn't help but notice the chaos and uncivility of the boarding process at the next gate of Southwest Airlines. I was grateful again to board AWA. I'm sorry if this sounds snobbish, but many here in Phoenix refer to Southwest as "The Flying Trailer" or "The Trailor with Wings." I flew Southwest once, and that was enough. As long as Southwest continues it's uncivilized boarding process, I will NEVER fly this airline. (But I do love Peanuts!) Thank you! PS: Go USAirways!!!
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Please, Please, Please - Do not listen to these people who think you have to stand in line for an hour with an "A" boarding pass to get a good seat. If they invested the amount of time that it took them to read this blog into checking out the different ways to get an "A" and what seats are available to the very last "A" boarder, they would know better. I fly 15-20 RT's per year on Southwest and have never seen the problems they describe with the boarding process. If you decide that you just have to try this, the best idea I have heard is to allow assigned window and aisle seats at the rear of the plane only and even allow them to preboard, as long as they do not have any overhead bin carryon luggage. This way, the passengers who are stuck with a "C" pass will at least have a good shot at having overhead bin space even if they are sitting in a middle seat at the back of the plane.
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I strongly urge you to keep the present ticketing method. As a business traveler I often have to leave within a few days notice. The ability to have an "A" seat is a very strong reason I fly southwest. The current ticketing system sets up apart from the other airlines. I would look at flying other airlines (which I only do now if I have too) should your go to assigned seating. You have no club rooms. no premier status seating, no premier first seating status, no first class or upgrades and no premier step levels. I believe that sooner or later the other major airlines will be close to you on price and without the above you will just be another airline who nothing to offer other than price. The majority of business travelers will then take another look at what the other airlines are offering. I think you would lose more business than you would gain. The business travelers of this country are the big generators of your reveune not the vacation or leisure travelers. Thanks
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I have been a dedicated Southwest flyer for so long that desk agents are usually surprised at my LOW frequent flyer number. I also fly other airlines when I have to and I know from experience that seat assignment does not reduce the time one spends waiting in line to board. Why not board and de-plane from both ends of the plane? This is fairly common in Europe and certainly reduces the amount fo time it takes to get on or off the plane. OR---why not reward those passengers with NO carry-on luggage by allowing them to board right after the "pre-boarders"? The biggest delay in boarding is caused by those passengers who have huge or several carry-ons which they can't maneuver down (up?) the aisle, can't find an empty bin, or can't hoist their too-heavy luggage up into the bin. If you have only a SINGLE purse or briefcase or computer case, you could scmper on board and seat yourself with dispatch. I understand that extra minutes spent on the ground do not generate revenue, but I can't imagine that assigned seating is a step forward. Ruth Anderson
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Why do people fundamentally not understand that checking in for a flight is different from purchasing a ticket? Even if you wait until the day before the flight to purchase a ticket , you can still get an A boarding pass. And with an A pass, what's with "waiting in line for hours?" No, you can wait in the seats, like you would for any flight on any airline, and slide in at the end of the A line and still get a window or aisle seat. Open seating is one of the best things about Southwest. I appreciate that the airline is open to changes and innovation, and there may be some merit to instituting seat assignment to a small subset of longer-haul flights. But please leave open seating for flights that are 90 minutes or less.
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Ive been flying LUV for 12 years now, been an investor for 6,and I can't think of a single reason to give up open seating. It represents one of the few remaining democratic institutions in this country, a leveler if you will. If you want assigned seating go fly America Worst or some other legacy carrier. I want to board quick, get there quick, and get off quick, and SWA is the only carrier that lets me do it. Oh yeah, and do it cheaply too 😉 If you want to get an assigned seat, go elsewhere and pay more, but leave my open plan alone. If your looking to make more revenue, how about child free flights? I have to travel trans-con about twice a year and I would gladly pay an additional 20% if you could guarantee that there would be no children under the age of 12 on the plane. You bill the obese more for crowding out seats, why not charge more for kids, who do nothing but make the ride miserable for the rest of us
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please leave the system in place. it is undoubtly the quickest way to board. i fly on your system once or twice a month and when i have to go on another airline i don't like it. maybe you can refine it by boarding a group boarding pass 1-15 then 16-30 and so on. the boarding passes are numbered when you check in online. the people that don't like the cattle call will just complain about something else. i'd rather save money and get there on time. if it aint broke don't fix it. thanks
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When we started flying Southwest several years ago I would have been one of those asking for seating assignments but it didn't take me long to appreciate your efficiency and hope you don't change it.
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Maybe this would make all happy. As most resverations are probably made on line, why not give the passenger the option to pay maybe $10 extra to pick and get an assigned seat. The ones that like the herd boarding can opt not to pay and take their chances. If SWA is really worried about fast boarding they should do more at the gate about the size and amount of carry on luggage, also the crew on board should do more getting people to seats and seated. Any time I have flown SWA there are always late boarders going up and down looking for seats and space in the overheads. If Swa did allow the option to chose seats they could get more for the seat, and at boarding they could let the passengers with assigned seats be the first to board. As a senior passenger, with SWA policy that does not allow a senior ticket holder to check in online, it is impossible no matter how early you arrive at the airport to get an A boarding pass
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No to ending Cattle Call seating. If they want assigned seating let them pay for it. $50-200 per seat. Just reserve 8-12 seats in the middle of the plane and charge them a surcharge. Once they are sold, check in for your A, B, C boarding pass. I wouldn't pay extra but if it's that big a deal then they might put their money where their mouth is. (Idea stolen from Morris Air) I know the only place a plane makes money is in the air, not boarding passengers at the gate.
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What do you folks think of this guy's suggestion -- half assigned, half unassigned: http://upgradetravel.blogspot.com/2006/06/modest-proposal-for-southwest.html