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Enhanced Boarding

sboersma
Not applicable
Over the past year and a half, I've been fortunate enough to be involved in a project that is focused on improving our Customers' experience with our boarding process.  This is another great example of how Southwest Airlines truly listens and cares about our Customers.  Enough to make changes for you.  So what am I blabbering on about, it's the hottest craze to hit our gate area in the San Antonio airport.  We are testing a new boarding method that tries to improve our Customers' experience in our gate area.  I think it's great, and, no, I'm not biased.  Here's how it works: you check in and get your boarding pass, just like you would today, but now, in addition to the letter A, B, or C,  it also has a numeric position on it.  That numeric position is your spot in line!  We're, essentially, holding a place for you in line so you don't have to camp out in line before it's time to board the aircraft (Old Way: A...New Way:  A6).  You're now free to move about the airport...grab a coffee, a bite to eat, maybe even use the restroom with out having to leave those bags unattended. You don't have to be watching for thar first person to race to the front of the line and then hurry behind them, only to wait 30 minutes utill the plane even lands.  With all the flying I do, I lUV it, and I hope you will too.  Now remember, we're just testing it in the San Antonio airport.  We want to make sure you, the Customers, like it and that it doesn't hurt our "turn times."  So if your travel plans take you to the river walk, come say "hi."  We'll be testing there for a few more weeks.   
154 Comments
David_Hall
Not applicable
I think this is a great idea. I dispise assigned seating. It is a sport in our office to see who can get a boarding pass first for their flight. This will make it even more fun!!
Donna_Edgar
Not applicable
What if part of a family is in one number group and part in another? I didn't see this referred to in your FAQ's about the new boarding system. Also, it is a bit annoying not to be able to ask these questions through email. There isn't always a blog posting that is applicable to what I need to ask.
Kristen3
Not applicable
I'm not sure why SWA thinks people will suddenly stop standing in line, simply because a number exists. This change in policy has a huge negative affect on families with lap children and when I called SWA today, they had no answer to my concern and the rep, Brittany, just kept telling me (5 times I counted) that this change was "better for everyone." If you travel with a lap child, you CANNOT check in online. You must do so at the airport, no more than 4 hours before your flight. Suppose you arrive at your airport 1.5 hours before your flight. No way you're getting an A boarding pass. However, your spouse and older children are able to check in online. They receive A boarding cards. SWA encourages online check in, but now, an entire family is penalized (read: boards later), because a lap child is involved. How is that possibly fair? Since individuals with disabilities still participate in normal preboarding (as they should), families with small children (in particular "lap children") are the only ones getting the short end of the stick. How does an airline that is "family friendly" possibly justify that? Worse yet, because they have been touting "family friendliness" as the reason for some of their bad press lately (i.e. telling women in short skirts and low cut shirts to cover up?). I would love an explanation for this!
Steve_Clayton
Not applicable
Cudos to SWA!!! #1 I have been a RRW member since 1982! We arrive at the airport AT LEAST TWO HOURS IN ADVANCE, even though we check in online! What's wrong with these people that show up 5 minutes before the flight leaves and they expect everything to be on hold for them! My wife and I have been flying SWA for 23 years and we are loyal customers. We've brought her parents and siblings out here for the last 7 years via SWA. In 23 years, we've never had lost baggage or delayed flight for more than 30 minutes. Our only complaint has always been about the pre-board families. We've seen pre-boarders with (1) one baby and 6 adults! Now, that's not fair! The policy you have just enforced is great! We agree with SWA, move it or lose it!!!!!!
Edward__Kelley
Not applicable
I, for one, would never fly an airline that did not have reserved seating. It's like trying to get on a cattle car with absolutely no room in the overhead bins. Lufthansa and many other airlines in Europe had open seating and, as a businessman, I refused to fly with them. I don't know who you surveyed in San Diego and other areas but you should expand the survey as the only people in favor of open seating are those occasional travellers with kids and they are not the bread and butter business traveller that will sustain your profitability.
S_Wallace
Not applicable
One of the reasons I fly SWA is the open seating policy. When the aircraft arrives, we are seated and away from the gate in a much shorter time than other airlines. I think the new twist will be welcomed by those who hate standing in line. I don't have children but would rather see families with small children board first. I say this for two reasons: 1) it is difficult enough to travel with small ones and 2) it they are boarded before I get on, I can choose to sit away from them rather than having them choose to sit next to me. Bottom line: do whatever you must, but please DO NOT assign seats.
Anonymous1000
Not applicable
I'm one of the most frequent fliers on SWA and am very excited to hear about this so that I don't have to sit there and keep my place in line. Some of us do have our favorite locations to sit, and love the ability to change if we don't like a rowdy or noisy group sitting right behind us. You have no choice to move on most other airlines. The only thing I think is lacking here is that if your itinerary is changed by the airline itself due to delays or missed connections, they should give you an A regardless of what you had on your original boarding pass just to be fair. I've had an A in the past and my flight was canceled or late which made me miss a connection, only to get a C on a full long flight where I had to have a middle seat even though I was in the lowest numbers of the A group on the flight I was supposed to take. Kudos to SWA for solving the REAL problem (the long line-up and hold process) and not caving into the people begging for assigned seats who just want the airline to be the same as all the rest for the sake of being the same. I can't tell you how many times I've flown the rest and am always in the last boarding group no matter how much I paid for my seat or its location, and how rarely I can select a window or aisle seat when I purchase tickets on those other airlines. Quite often the rest of the other airlines don't let you choose a seat anyway - just 2 weeks ago I was unable to choose seats on one of the larger carriers online, and they said I'd have to wait until checkin to do so. With an early boarding group at SWA I can almost always pick a seat I want and sit with (or away from) who I want. Way to go SWA! You really came thru on this one
MSchwartz
Not applicable
Thank You Southwest! You still have got what it takes to "take" business away from the other carriers who don't bother to run on time. I've always wanted to say to the top airline executives, like at Delta who's reliability has taken a dive--- pardon the pun--- "ok I'M on time and you're leaving 30 minutes late, would you wait for ME if I were 30 minutes late?" We all know the answer! Sure it has been a little of a pain in the past to arrive 2 hours early to get in boarding group 'A' on SWA, but why not reward those who plan and arrive early? I'm certainly ok with that. I look forward even more to the new process. As for boarding early with kids... that has never been necessary. If you walk slow or need help with kids, it doesn't matter what "order" you board in, help is ALWAYS available at the gate and the plane has never left without you and never will. And I have kids!! THANK YOU SWA from A very loyal (and even more now) customer. 🙂
Liz4
Not applicable
I am happy with the new system BUT with a child now it sucks!!! People don't want to sit near or next to us so putting us together at the start help people flying with kids not feel so bad for the people flying without kids! We have tickets for several trips but will now have to factor this into the cost... emotional cost. I know it sucks to fly next to a crying or fussy kid so I feel bad as a parent but did not feel as bad when we sit all together. Maybe you just put us on first and all in the back??? We hope this works but don't think it will!
brooke_merz
Not applicable
I am thrilled to hear of the new boarding procedure !!! This is why Southwest is the best airline ... they actually listen and do something. I have always loved the open seating -but with the new changes - it will be even better. Thanks Southwest for always improving !!!!
J_Arndt
Not applicable
I am disappointed to learn that families with children will no longer be able to pre-board. I have recently went from "business traveler" to "mom" who travels frequently alone with the baby. It takes some time to get situated with a child when you are alone and do not have anyone to help. If you board between the A and B group or even in the A group, you will have to deal with other passengers being rude and impatient as you try to get situated in a comfortable seat with a child. In addition, you are not allowed to check in online with a lap child and the last thing I want to do is take a 6 month old to the airport by myself for any time longer than necessary. This new process also eliminates people who do not want to sit next to children the choice. Some passengers do not want to sit anywhere near a child - which is fine, but this new boarding process eliminates that choice. I understand that some families take advantage of the pre-boarding (ie. 1 child and 6 adults), but I would rather you address those situations individually rather than encompassing all families. The article I read stated that SWA "did not know" how much time this new boarding process would save - I find that hard to believe that this was not tested. In order to make a change of this nature, you must understand the benefits. Unfortunately I see this as another "thorn" in our new world of traveling. It is bad enough to have to deal with inconsistent security guidelines at airports in reference to what you can and cannot bring on board with a baby, but now to have to stand in a long line waiting to board a plane (alone with a baby). Honestly, I would rather pay a extra money to not have to deal with this "new traveling inconvenience" with another airline who truly is "family friendly". Sincerely, Loyal SWA Rewards Member
Rose_Lucy
Not applicable
I am handicpped amd require time to walk the distance to my seat. I legitimately walk with a cane, due to severe arthritis in my joints, I will need to sit until I board, I am not able to stand in line for any length of time prior to boarding. Will I still be able to preboard the flight when your new system is im place? I will be traveling from NY to Florida Dec.26, 2007.
Rose_Lucy
Not applicable
Please keep preboarding for those who need it, the Elderly, handicapped. and for families with children. I think the system you have now is the way to go.
Joseph_E_Kurill
Not applicable
I like the new way of getting a number and waiting in line. I have traveled with Southwest and am planning to continue to do so. My last flight in August of 2007 was a great example of eliminating this problem. We were in group A in the first two seats at least one hour before flight time. With at least 30 minutes to go people came in and sat on the floor and were eating. Enough said bravo and kudos to your new system I hope it works and you adopt it permanently.
Jean_Gonzales
Not applicable
Sounds a lot better to me. As a woman of 75 I hated the "cattle call" way of loading SW plane. To get in a standing/sitting on the floor an hour before loading was so stupid and tiring. People sat there eating, holding places in line for traveling companions wandering about, etc. Traveling via SW was not a pleasant experience.
Richard_Jewell
Not applicable
Wonderful Idea. I hope this goes further than San Antonio. Customers will settle down and this will release the tensio n on who should be first to board the plane. Southwest has done it again. Congrats!
Dave_Giraitis
Not applicable
Much ado about nothing! Once you get over the need to sit near the front of the aircraft, it really doesn't matter. I usually take a window seat way in the back and in my extensive experience, even if you are the last person to board with a B ticket there are still plenty there to chose from. Sitting in the far back also reduces the chance someone will squeeze in next to you. I never cease to be amazed at A card holders who stand in line 40 minutes before the flight. Whether I hold an A or B, I sit until just before my line ends. In the rare instance I get a C card, I might get in line a little early, but it is not worth standing for 40 minutes.
Adina_Z
Not applicable
I think this is a terrible idea for people traveling with children. It is stressful enough to travel on planes with small children, WHY do away with family pre-boarding? Now we have to have people blowing comments behind our back while we get the children settled into their seats! Who needs this added stress! I'd rather fly Jet Blue and get direct TV!
Jeanne_Baldwin_
Not applicable
I have always wondered why the number (the number that is in addition to the letter A,B, or C) that is on our check-in slip wasn't used. Other passengers and I have compared numbers to see who checked in first. I think I will like this new arrangement. Thanks for your good service to me and mine. I ALWAYS use you whenever I can.
Betty_L__Birch
Not applicable
Regarding your new boarding procedure. Won't people all try to get in line for the boarding passes by being first in line? Years ago it was horrible when they gave out numbers. Ther was no one to check the numbers and rude people dashed ahead.If it's operating on November 5th I will see for myself as I will be flying to Vegas on one of your beautiful low fares. I,m near 80 and appreciate that Thank goodness I will be in a wheel chair being treated so nice by your nice staff. I have flown with you many,many times. THanks for listening. Betty Birch
Fred_Garvin
Not applicable
It sounds confusing. I wish you guys would just assign seats like the rest of the airlines do.
ted_kolby
Not applicable
I think the idea has a great deal of merit, however, in order for it to work and to keep the turn times, maybe they should also allocate specific rows rtothe individual groups, i.e first ten rows for A, next ten for B etc and the nboard fro mthe rear in orderto avoid the blockage that always happens when all the A's want to sit as far front as possible.
Donna15
Not applicable
Until and unless Southwest joins the civilized world and allows travelers to choose their seats in advance, I will never fly your airline again. The gate agents ignore those people who insist on boarding in the first group even though they are not part of that group. After waiting in line for over an hour to get an "A" boarding pass, dozens of pushy, obnoxious people pushed their way ahead and boarded before I did. When I complainted to the gate agents, they couldn't have cared less. Yours is the WORST airline I've ever flown and I have shared my experience with others in order to discourage them from flying your airline.
Trent
Not applicable
No doubt that SW has decided on the business travelers over the low-fare folks. Witness the decision to only allow "non-A" families w/small kids before the B and C. Business travelers also tend to have more options to check in early, and get the coveted position in line.
William_Harris
Not applicable
This idea, along with your recently announced change of NOT allowing parents with young children to board early, is just another reason that I will not fly Southwest if I have the option of flying American where I can be guarenteed an assigned seat.
Stallion
Not applicable
I Checked-In the second it became available and I was awarded A-14. Are some customers (handicapped, senior, Rapid Rewards) able to get boarding passes ahead of others?
Jay_Mathis
Not applicable
I can't believe that you actually did something about all the pre-boarders. Hooray, now have the guts to stick with it. I remember a few years back that you tried to cut down on all the pre-boarders but quickly backed off. Please stick to it and I may start flying you again. I was a Companion Pass holder for a number of years, but seldom fly SWA anymore because of the pre-boarders and the rush to get in line. Let's hope the days of 57, yes 57 pre-boarders on a flight out of Phoenix a few years ago are gone forever.
Randy_Bryant
Not applicable
I flew Southwest for the first time last year. It was such a wonderful experience that I cannot think of using another carrier. For that flight, my wife and I arrived at the Nashville airport three and a half hours before departure. About an hour and a half before the flight, we noticed people began standing in line. In fact, they didn't stand in line: they camped out. Thirty minutes prior to departure a line was wrapped around the gate wall. Kinda silly I thought, especially jockeying to get the coveted first place. So, I applaud this new initiative. It sounds great! Maybe, just maybe, people can be a little more relaxed, knowing what number they are. But then again, knowing human behaviour, there will always be the campers and die-hard position jockeys.
Chris2
Not applicable
Who is making these decisions and do they really thingk that it is going to speed up boarding??? When was the last time they watched a plane board? Southwest had the most basic and simplified system, if you have an A you get in the A lline when are ready, a B etc. Look at the mess other airlines go through and that is the direction Southwest has decided to go??? Now everyone has to learn how to count and get into a line to board the plane. What was REALLY BROKEN and WHO are you catering to??? Also, as a Parent of a Small Child and a frequent Southwest flyer I am starting to question if Southwest is just getting in line with the Other airlines and getting away for what made them different. I can't wait to fly next because when I get on the plane with my some and all of the stuff I need to bring with him I will look for that person who probable made comments about the fact that families got to preboard and I am going to sit right next to them with my son and maybe they will start to realize that if the Familes get on first they can decide if they want to sit near a child or not. Now we make the decision for them and they will have to deal with it.
keith__-_st_aug
Not applicable
wanted to let eveyone know that in this day of hyped up everything, a flight from albany to baltimore last sunday sheduled to leave at 5:50 didnt get off ground until 7, THE PLANE FROM BALTIMORE TO JACKSONVILLE WAS HELF FOR US, LIKE WHO DOES THAT ANYMORE????
Annie
Not applicable
THE NEW FAMILY BOARDING PROCESS IS AWFUL! I think it is so lame that you force families to board after the A group. Your airline is usually so family friendly and this totally runs counter to that value. I am a frequent SWA flier with my 19mo old son and after a trip to LAX this past weekend, I am going to look at other airlines for my next flight. Change please!!!! -NorCal frequent flier
shane
Not applicable
I would also like to comment on the NEW FAMILY BOARDING PROCESS...WHAT A JOKE!!!! Not only has Southwest alienated families or passengers traveling with children, they have completely lost there marbles on the boarding process. You think the boarding process before was hectic, mix all those passengers up with families pushing strollers down the boarding ramp, carry one child in there right arm, a baby bag over there left shoulder holding there other child, all while trying to keep there children from throwing a temper tantrum because they have been standing in line for 15 minutes. It is quite obvious that the brain/brains behind this move have never traveled with a child let alone 2 or more. What was once known as a Family oriented airline in my eye has clearly shifted its values and family isn't one of them. My girl friend and our 5 month old had a chance to experience the ciaos of boarding a southwest flight this morning from San Diego to Oakland (delayed of course.) She told me the storyÃ
Steve17
Not applicable
when will the new boarding procedures take effect at BWI?
blusk
Not applicable
Our goal is to go systemwide by mid-November at the latest, and hopefully sooner. Brian
Wayne11
Not applicable
As of this date has the new boarding procedures taken affect at Indinapolis and las vegas airports?
blusk
Not applicable
Not yet Wayne. It should be within a week or so.
Wilbur
Not applicable
Excellent idea. Scramble for a computer, scramble to get to the airport. I like the prior.
S_Bradley
Not applicable
Just flew the new system for the first time. I am a frequent flyer who USED to love Southwest. I hate the new system. Let's go back to the old way. I didn't mind waiting to get a better seat. There is no way you can get a good seat if you are even a few minutes late getting a boarding pass. Even then it is impossible to get near the front of the line unless you fly even more than I do (which means you are never home) or you are willing to pay more. What happened to the Southwest democracy? I am seriously thinking of going to other airlines. I never thought I would say that. PLEASE go back to the old system!!
Buddy
Not applicable
Although a single traveller, I would like it if families board first. If there are any little screaming, crying children, I would like to be able to scope out where NOT to sit. This is just another goof by Southwest, plain and simple. Also, I feel it is unfair to families as they need the extra time.
Tom_Sparkman
Not applicable
I do not like the new boarding policies. I travel every week and my boarding number is getting farther and farther back with every flight I take. I just checked in 24 hours ahead on the minute and got A47. I work in a consulting company and everyone else I talk to doesn't like it either. Next week I book my Feb flights and I'm looking at other options. Tom
Dane1
Not applicable
I just think you are beautiful
Norman1
Not applicable
The only thing that I think is a little annoying is that when families take their grandma along, the ENTIRE PARTY needs to get preboarding? I saw granny in a wheelchair- that's fine. she can be accompanied by one person. But then two adults, then three more, and four kids, all over ten years old, all got to get on the plane? forget it!
betsy1
Not applicable
The new boarding policy for families is ESPECIALLY unfair to anyone purchasing an infant fare for a child under 2. It takes a few minutes to safely install a carseat and safely install the child in the carseat, not to mention stow the diaper bag you definitely need for an infant. I can see where a lap child doesn't necessarily need preboarding if there is more than one adult along, but I think if parents are shelling out money for an optional seat for their kid they should get a few extra minutes. We actually decided not to bother purchasing an infant fare for our one year-old on our upcoming trip based on our experience struggling with the carseat while a flight attendant glared at us on a previous trip.
Kim16
Not applicable
The boarding policy for families is HORRIBLE! Like Betsy, I purchase a seat for my 15-month old child. Traveling alone with her on SW is now quite comical. I have my one small carryon over my shoulder, my daughters car seat grasped in one arm, and my squirming daughter in the other. Have any of you ever tried to walk down an aisle to find a window and a middle seat together (the only seats we are by law permitted to occupy with a carseat) without hitting each and every aisle seat and every person occupying each aisle seat? I think SW should rethink their pre-board for families. I agree that once your kids are 5,8,15 years old it's taking advantage. But give me a break! Please!
bhurst
New Arrival
I have watched, with interest, the back and forth about the new boarding policy and family boarding in particular. Just like our previous boarding method, some people LUV it and some emphatically do not. But since I'm an Analyst, I decided to do a little analysis. Our A groups can have up to 60 people, unless there are some unsold Business Select spots. And let's say that, on average, there are five pre-boarders. (I know there are more sometimes, but there are none sometimes, too.) Now let's look at the seats on the aircraft. There are 45 rows of three seats each (window-middle-aisle), plus the odd row over the wing with just two seats. That makes 90 window/aisle seats and 45 middle seats. So ... if the initial 65, or so, A's/pre-boards all sit in window or aisle seats that leaves 33 rows with only a middle seat. Of course, that means there are still at least 12 rows with an open middle seat AND either an aisle or window seat. I know there are many possible variables, but I just had to think it through for myself. Now I have to go take my meds for my obsessive/compulsive disorder :-) Bob
TEXAS_GIRL
Not applicable
I AM TRAVELING TO CALIFORNIA LAX FOR THE FIRST TIME WITH MY 16 YR. DAUGHTER THIS IS HER FIRST TIME ON AN AIRPLANE .....I HAVENT FLOWN SINCE THE 80'S I REALLY WANT TO SIT WITH MY DAUGHTER ON THE PLANE. .... WE GOT THE WANNA-GET-AWAY FARE THAT IS THE LOW FARE....CAN ANYONE TELL ME IF WE ARE ALOWED TO CHECK IN ONLINE 24 HOURS BEFORE OUR FLIGHT? AND IF WE WILL EVEN BE ALLOWED TO GET AN A NUMBER? I AM ALREADY WORRING ABOUT THIS WE FLY JULY 9TH
houston
Not applicable
I flew for the first time with SW, and the boarding system is just funny. It's simple, I was flying with my girlfriend, we normally wanted to sit next to each other. We managed to do that to our dest, by asking someone to exchange the seats but we failed to do the same on the way back. You have a chance to keep group of friends together if you assign seats during check-in. I can't think of one good reason for unassigned seats. If it's first come first serve, we booked two months ago, so I came first. Just do what all other airlines do..
Frank11
Not applicable
The new system is ok, but someone please tell me the trick to getting a low number. It is becoming a challange to me. I sit by the computer and hit the button at exactly 24 hours prior to flight time, and get an A-32. I have never gotten a number under 30. How do the people in front of me get a lower number?
carroll3
New Arrival
I think a better name for the newer way you board is to call it YOUR FEET NOT YOUR SEAT. This could be a fun way to market this concept since some of our Customers still have a hard way of understanding. FEET ASIGNMENT NOT SEAT ASSIGNMENT.
rasta
Not applicable
the boarding process could be made a lot simpler if the only option was to check-in at the airport counter/kiosk. that way, it is truely a first come, first served system. so, assign the numbers at the airport and ENFORCE the numbers. people are still cheating. the pre-board process is abused. if familes want to board first, they should sit at the rear of the plane. and if you continue with the current system. get rid of those silly advertisements that you make us print on the boarding passes, what a waste of ink.