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How do I love "A"? Let me count the ways.

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Wow. It's like I can hear my college professors as if it were yesterday. The laws of supply and demand. Somewhere, someone is willing to pay for something in short supply. Like our "A" boarding passes. It's the first group to board our flights, and it gets all the glory that goes along with it. "A" means I get that window or aisle seat or even the first row. I can even avoid that dreaded (gasp!) middle seat. So let's take a closer look at this. Now I appreciate the fact that not everyone agrees with our seating policy or may even take issue with our "first-come, first-served" operation, but we offer boarding passes on southwest.com for free. Everyone has the same shot at checking in–24 hours in advance.  (Customers can also use web-enabled mobile devices to check in.) Many of you know there are web sites that promise "A" boarding passes, for a price. Hey, marketing professor, I hear you again. Find a Customer's need, fulfill it and make some cash to boot. Nothing wrong with that. I like money, and I even like the creativity of these folks. Unfortunately, what has been happening is these sites are taking away our ability to provide the coveted "A" inventory. So what? Is it every flight every day? No. However, there have been several sites already and more are popping up daily. And I mean daily. We don't want our Customers to mistake the services as one supported by Southwest and to transact with companies that may not provide the level of Customer Service we hope to provide - thus potentially putting their personal information in the wrong hands. There are security issues as well, such as providing e-mail addresses that can be bought as well as be used for spamming. OK, now I feel a little like my mom and dad when they told me I could only ride my bike up and down my street because the kids around the block may push me down and take it away. A little protective? Maybe. But all we are in the end is a brand. And we've tried to make the Southwest Airlines brand mean something you could trust as someone that would provide great service, so it's important to us to do everything that we can to uphold that promise. You're all #1 in our book, even if we can't give all of you an "A" boarding pass.
75 Comments
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Please don't consider going to assigned seating. There are lots of us who like things just the way they are now. As contrarians, we appreciate and fly SWA because of the alternatives offered over other airlines. If you change, you'll be "just another one of the pack". Keep up the good work. Phil Chamberlin
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Dont you wish we could just "scramble" the boading passes? Some flts B boards first , some flts A, some flts C....just a thought
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Just give me an assigned seat anytime. At 57, I appreciate small creature comforts. But I love Southwest anyway.
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I love the Southwests boarding process. I'll admit when I used to fly those other guys I coveted the fact that I could pick my seat when I bought the ticket, but once you learn the system it is so simple and easy to be an "A" and get a great seat on every flight. Our (my wife and I) seat is the starboard (that is right for those non-Navy types) exit row that has only two seats. We'll take that row every time even though the seats don't recline. Of course having quite a few hours of flight time under my belt as a Flight Engineer with the US Navy , I'm more than will to "man the emergency exit."
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Are you saying that there are web sites that will, for a fee, retrieve an "A" boarding pass from your web site if a custoer can't? I wondered why I would get one that was number 10 or higher just minutes after my flight opened up. Perhaps you can use a little box of scrambled letters and numbers like some sites do to make sure it's a human and not an automated program.
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Last week I flew back from Las Vegas. First of all to get a boarding pass cost me $5.00 to logon to a Kiosk to connect to the Internet. I logged on about five minutes from the 24 hour rule and found that I was already number 27! The problem with the current system is that not everyone has easy access to the Internet (especially when on vacation) and now that there are bots out there you have to be on the Internet right at the begining of the 24 hour period. In my mind this is not good customer service. Here are my suggestions: 1. Allow the issuing of boarding passes on return flights at the same time as those issued for the original flight(s). 2. Attach boarding pass levels to the class of ticket purchased. Full flight coach can check in 72 hours before flight, etc, etc 3. Issue boarding pass class at the time of ticket purchase. 4. Allow the issuing of boarding passes through an automated 800 number with the boarding pass sent to fax or e-mail account. The current system is neither easy, nor fair. It discriminates against those who do not know how to use the Internet and or do not carry a laptop with printer with them on vacation. Just my two cents worth. John Brice
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Being a Southwest employee, I'm used to choosing any available seat, however years ago I took a flight on another airline with a friend to get to a city Southwest didn't serve. We had assigned seats, and as soon as the flight was in the air, more than half the passengers on board got up and selected an alternate seat anyway (including me and my friend). Ahh, now this is what I'm used to!
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Why doesn't Southwest offer a competing service and let the "market" (e.g. "supply and demand") sort the problem out? Instead of listening to your former marketing professor, perhaps you should visit a modern economics department of your choice and inquire as to how prices serve to allocate scarce goods to those who value the good the most (and are willing to pay commensurately.) Instead, you've chosen the "sour grapes" approach in claiming (a bit phonily, IMHO) that these sites are taking away Southwest's inventory. Didn't Southwest agree to accept a reduction in its inventory in exchange for the ticket price paid by the Customer? Why should Southwest care how Customers choose to obtain a BP? This sounds a little heavy handed and evidences a slide in Southwest's culture from the "good ol' days;" remember the lawsuits that almost grounded Southwest early on? I see Southwest is now returning the favor with respect to this nascent group of companies in the (tired) name of "protecting customers." If any doubt remained, this should clearly demonstrate that Southwest is your run-of-the-mill fierce competitor wrapped in a flag of feel-good "customer friendliness." Also, why the change in heart from the original (i.e. neutral) stance? I LUV Southwest, but this is just another typical corporate "squish the little guy" tactic -- not in keeping with what I'd expect those I LUV to do.
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I'm like Phil-I say please don't assign seats. I LUV Southwest just the way it is! Southwest LUV & mine! 🙂
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I would like to see Southwest produce evidence that any of these have become -- or are projected to become -- popular enough to snatch up any sizable fraction of the A boarding passes. They have been around for about eight months and I haven't seen or heard any such evidence. By the way, the reason you might get boarding pass number 10 or 20 or 30 even if you check-in right at the 24 hour mark is that connecting and thru passengers get to check in before you (since their 24 hours starts at the departure time of their first flight). What you're seeing is NOT the effect of the boarding pass sites! If a small number of people are willing to pay a premium to get a good seat, I fail to see the harm in letting them do it. Instead of a knee-jerk "shut them down!" reaction, Southwest should think about how they can benefit from the demand for this service, perhaps by giving full-fare passengers A boarding passes, or charging a small additional fee for a guaranteed A boarding pass.
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Open seating is great. To scramble the boarding groups is, quite frankly, a stupid and unfair idea. If I log on to get my boarding 24 hours ahead of time, I don't expect to get a B or C boarding pass. The idea of boarding group classes is also stupid and is also expensive. I have logged on two or three minutes after the 24 hours period has began and gotten a higher number than I expected. That's no problem. All I care is that the group is "A." If I'm at a place where I cannot access the Internet, I'm not going to get upset and think it is unfair that I'm unable to get the coveted "A" group. In most cases, people flying on Southwest are flying for only a couple of hours. With Southwest's seating pitch, no seat is really bad.
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On the news in Dallas Southwest claimed that these sites are "messing with their inventory." Now the passengers are considered Southwest's inventory, like tires? Or maybe heads of cattle. If these services weren't useful, there would be no demand for them and they would simply disappear. I've never had a problem getting an "A" pass, but who cares if someone wants to use a service, it's up to them. Has anyone else noticed that first they cut back on our frequent flyer rewards, then they raise their prices and now they want to get rid of these websites? Where is Herb Kelleher when you need him?
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I'm not usually one to encourage lawsuits in our overly litigious society, but I'm all for Southwest seeking to stop these fly-by-night firms such as BoardFirst exploit a well-designed policy for profit. It is a violation of SWA's terms. The right to create and enforce ticketing policies is theirs and theirs alone. Aside from the intellectual property issue, there are more practical reasons why this behavior should be discouraged. This stratification of different "classes" is a bad trend, and should not be allowed to "infect" Southwest. One reason why SWA's competitors have such a high cost overhead (and why SWA is cheaper) is because they have to manage these different classes, assigned seating, etc. Southwest embodies the model of simplicity (a single model plane for their entire fleet; one class of passenger, no assigned seats, etc.) If these "hanger-on" companies are allowed to continue, it will in essence create the same stratified situation for Southwest, in which some passengers become a "permanent A class". This would ruin the elegance (and possibly screw up the pricing model) of the current model. If you want to pay more for an assigned seat, fly another airline. To the management at Southwest, I say, "RELEASE THE HOUNDS!" P.S. SET LOVE FREE!
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An airline's inventory is its seats, represented by boarding passes in this case. These services can use computer programs to "suck up" all the A passes in a very short time, taking away other customers' equal chances at the A passes. Southwest 's goal here seems to be to give all customers an equal chance at the best seats.
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Whoa Francis! The inventory is the available SEATS! We don't sell customers (that'd be sorta illegal). We sell seats on flights! The inventory for a flight is reflected in the boarding passes that are issued. Knowing the inventory is how I get exactly 137 customers into 137 seats on flights. Having 142 folks in a aircraft that seats 137 tends to make about 5 people more than a smidge testy. As a CSA and very frequent SWA flyer, I wonder what the attraction of assigned seating is to those customers that prefer it. The same principle applies: "first come, first served" and it isn't like other airlines don't have middle seats. They do. I see the "other guys" board their flights everyday when I work the gate and it's a mass of confusion. I see their customers crowding around the departure gate waiting to hear their rows called while the SWA customers are neatly lined up waiting to board. Seems to me, even with assigned seats, people will *still* get middle seats and people will *still* have to board in groups and it'll *still* be based on "first come, first served." Seems like much ado about nothing. Just my humble .02. Laurie SWA/CSA
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I fly SWA more than 50 times per year - so I'm frequently in the SWA lines and under some other carriers' definition I would be a Frequent Flier and would be awarded special privileges. I LOVE the current system. I routinely log in and obtain my boarding pass - I also have you bookmarked in my Blackberry and you have made it very easy to log in when I am away from my PC. I think my knowledge about how to use your system - and the "A" boarding pass I generally obtain - is my 'reward' for the number of trips I take. You And when I screw up and don't get online - well, as one of your flight attendants once said "You're not getting married, just taking an airplane ride - so find a seat!" I believe these Third Parties unfairly disrupt the process and should be immediately shut down - if not prosecuted for interfering with your business. They are no better than hackers who would deface your website or steal confidential information. PLEASE don't change a thing in the process and stay diligent about protecting your customers against these interlopers.
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I love being able to check in the day before and getting my A boarding pass. Sometimes it is B but that is much better to choose my seat.
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I fly SWA 25 plus trips per year. I love the random seating proceedure. The system can be improved by adding an "A-Plus" boarding group. Here's how it works. 1. Ask for 30 volunteer passengers, first from "A" boarding, then "B", then "C" until the quota of 30 is filled. 2. These 30 volunteers board immediately after the pre-boarders. 3. The 30 volunteers MUST AGREE to choose their seats from the AFT-MOST 8 ROWS OF SEATS (on each side) of the airplane. 4. The next boarding groups are "A", "B", "C' (same as it is now). 5. This gets 30 people on the back of the airplane and out of the way while the front of the airplane loads. 6. These 30 "A-Plus" boarders will have about 48 seats to choose from. They need not sit in a center seat unless they are traveling as a family or other group. "Group" travelers may be the first to volunteer because they get to sit together. 7. After the "A Plus" boarding system has been in place for a few months, there will be no shortage of volunteers because of the speeded-up boarding process and the fact that participants will soon learn that the back of the airplane gets to the gate very shortly after the front of the airplane. 8. Try it, You'll Like It.
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I remember the days ending shortly after 9-11 when Southwest Airlines checked in everyone at the boarding gate one hour before departure and gave out the plastic numbered boarding cards first-come, first-served. Inevitably, there were always those who arrived more than half an hour early to start lining up just to get number 1. No matter what the system, there will always be those who will try to beat the system. And, really, if some want to make a profit doing so let them. Beating the system and making a profit doing it is how Southwest Airlines got its start, I thought. Instead of getting unhappy about it, Southwest Airlines ought to come up with its own system and charge for it (though that would be petty) or just offer it for free to customers with a www.southwest.com log-in (for the price of some occasional e-mail spam, uh, I mean marketing). I've flown regularly with Southwest Airlines for the past year and some, and I've found that what actually matters in getting a good aisle or window seat isn't so much your boarding pass group so much as where you are in your group's line and how clever you are about finding that overhead bin when you first get on the plane. Only once since the lettered boarding passes was I in group "C" and get a middle seat against my choice (and that was one of the handful of times I flew stand-by on a full, delayed flight). Really, this is all much ado about not very much. Oh, did I mention that while I'm following my group in line and stowing my bag overhead I'm using a white cane because I'm blind?
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This is an excellent decision by Southwest. Please don't do away with the current seat system. If it is a problem, just give the highest fare class (or two highest) priority for A. That would solve most legitimate concerns. As for BoardFirst, screw them; they are clearly taking away from your product.
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Just thought I'd offer another vote for keeping the current system of no assigned seats and no classes of seats. I recently flew another airline because I had to go to Minnesota (hint of another market in desperate need of SWA), and the boarding process took probably twice as long as Southwest does. I had to crawl over everyone to get a stop for my luggage and get to my window seat. I much prefer the SWA method. I'm not much for computer technology, but the earlier idea of having a code to type in to get you boarding pass sounds like a good idea. I just used it last night when voting for the MLB all-star game. Also, great idea to have a blog.
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Southwest takes on seating controversy... Kudos again to the Southwest the Southwest Airlines blog. On the same day the Wall Street Journal article appeared about the cease and desist letters they are sending out to companies which help customers secure A boarding seats, they post...
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When my friends ask me what I do for Southwest Airlines, I tell them I'm "Chairman of the Boarding." (Operations Agent). I tell the folks that get a "C" boarding pass that they are the lucky ones because they get first pick on who they get to sit next to (if there are "C"s their flight is probably full and everyone will have to sit next to someone). Those poor "A"s and "B"s don't have a choice who comes and plops down next to them, but the "C"s have the real choice. The only real disadvantage of being a "C" is where are you going to stow your carryon bag? If you don't have any carryons, no problem. If your carryon fits underneath the seat in front of you, no problem. If there is no more room for your carryon? No problem, I'll be happy to check your bag to its final destination and we'll even deliver it to the baggage claim area for you so you don't have to drag that land anchor though the terminal everywhere you go! Scott/Music City
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Just one more thing to add about access to checking in. If you are on vacation or don't have access to the internet, you can use your wireless web on your cell phone. In your mobile wireless web, go to your options and "go to URL". Enter the URL: mobile.southwest.com. From there you can put in your name and confirmation # and check in for your flight. It will even tell you which boarding group you have! Then once you arrive at the Airport, just stroll on over to any Southwest Kiosk (The ones that don't charge you $5 🙂 ) Access your reservation via any Credit Card swipe (don't panic, our Kiosks are not ATM's, they just read the name encoded on the card and match it to the reservation in our system) or you can enter your confirmation # without using a credit card and reprint your boarding pass. I personally have used this option many times when flying my parents up to Chicago. One tip, make sure you book your tickets with exactly the same name as it appears on your credit card to ensure a match at the kiosk. All this information can be found at Southwest.com in the Travel Center under Wireless access. Happy checking and I look forward to serving you on one of our flights! Brian- MDW Flight Attendant
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Look it up. I am a legit RR member who flies 4-5 times a month -- almost exclusively on Southwest. Please, for the love of God, do NOT change your boarding system. I love my "A" and do not want to give it up. I feel rewarded everytiome I pull out my Blackberry, check in on my cell phone and see that wonderful "A" pop up on my screen. You guys are the best -- not need to fix something because the "less than motivated" cant seem to grasp the concept that we are in a new age. These 3rd party "hacks" dont get it --- nor do the users of such sites. To you folks who use these lame sites: "Get off your duffs and check in yourself!" Keep up the great work, SWA!
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Just wanted to give a super thank you to employee 697-51 who gave us a big help in recovering a suitcase that had been picked up by the wrong person. Her quick action saved the day and we gout our bag back! Thanks/
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Although I hate not having assigned seating it does make economic sense. Getting people to lined up and ready to board means move them onto the plane faster, which means more flights through each gate, which mean a better bottom-line. I donÃ
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I remember the first time I flew Southwest and knowing how some men are we don't always pay attention to what the airliners say about a 24 hour checkin service anyways when I got to the airport I was in the B section and then saw how Southwest did its boarding call and coming home I was in the C section almost did not get the window seat I was wanting. This year when flew I checked in online and got the A section both time going to Phoenix and coming home. If you ask me all airlines should do this no more with the assigned seat I say break it into sections and if you get there first please proceed to the A line and if you are the last few people sorry Jack you get stuck in the C section and good luck with a good seat.
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Keep it the way it is, for now.
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Personally, I think the bigger issue here is not so much control over who gets 'A' boarding passes, but rather the lack of control over customer service. As much as these sites like BoardFirst say they aren't part of SWA, they are still providing a service that directly affects SWA Customers. To me, this is more along the lines of the problems we went through to keep our information off of Priceline/Expedia/etc. If there is a problem, it's outside of our realm to resolve it for the Customer and we don't want to lose control over the Customer Experience.
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I fly Southwest several times a year and they provide great service. The only thing I do not like is not having an assigned seat. As someone who is older and also has anxiety attacks, it would be nice if I knew for sure where I was sitting before I got on my flight. I do Id I do appreciate being able to print my boarding pass from the internet 24 hours in advance, but I don't have internet access to the place I visit, so I don't have the opportunity to print my return boarding pass.
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Im seeing alot of customers have their neighbor or relatives board them online, since they may not have a computer. In this case the actual customer isn't checking in. It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit SWA filed against boardfirst.com plays out. Has there been any discussions of issuing A, B, or C as the ticket is purchased? That would sure stop 3rd party sites as the group would already be decided 24 hour prior.
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There have been a number of suggestions here for assigning the boarding group at the time the ticket is purchased. I often fly on short notice, so I wouldn't want to see this system implemented. What would be great is if SWA would auto-assign the boarding pass letters maybe 12 hours before flight using RR status, followed by time of purchase: Check our Rapid Rewards status, the more we fly, the higher we are in the list. The second sort could be who purchased their tickets earlier. Maybe a sort between those two so that families traveling together would get a higher letter. I do miss the plastic boarding passes - I think SWA should find some in storage somewhere and auction them on eBay - maybe the proceeds could go to the Ronald McDonald House.
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TRUTH BE TOLD, IT DOESN'T AFFECT THE "INVENTORY" ON SW WHETHER YOU CHECKIN YOURSELF OR IF SOMEONE ELSE CHECKS IN FOR YOU. THE FACT THAT YOU GIVE YOUR INFORMATION TO SOMEONE ELSE AND THEY HAVE ACCESS TO IT IS THE SAME AS GIVING YOUR INFO TO A TRAVEL AGENT THAT BOOKS THE RESERVATION FOR YOU. NOT ONLY COULD YOU BOOK THE RESERVATION YOURSELF AND GET THE SAME FARE, THE TRAVEL AGENT ALSO CHARGES YOU A FEE TO DO THIS SERVICE. SO IF SOMEONE ELSE IS WILLING TO GET YOUR BOARDING PASS AND CHARGE YOU A FEE FOR SOMETHING YOU COULD DO YOURSELF, THAT IS YOUR PEROGATIVE.
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A couple weeks ago I was shocked to get a C pass 20 hours before departure. I ended up between a very elderly lady who crapped her diaper (after waiting until cruising flight level) then pretended to be asleep while spreading out into my center seat and nearly cracking my ribs. At landing it turned out her HUSBAND was in the aisle seat. He was unashamed of making me sit between him and his incontinent wife for 2 hours. Full flight. The stewardess couldn't do a thing but avoid my row like we were all lepers. Coming back - same thing. C pass and inbetween two people who knew each other and talked across me the entire flight. My next SW flight will be when they have advance seat assignments. My company pays for my tickets so I am not price sensitive -I'll spend my connection time in Dallas or Houston in the President's or Admiral's lounge and sit in a rear window seat. Aggressive unplesant passengers never sit aft - they want to get off first and stand around waiting for their baggage.
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Southwest's culture and philosophy revolves on treating everyone, employees and customers equally. Automated programs like BoardFirst go completely against that philosophy and also most likely violate the SWA Website terms of service. I think that they definitely should shut down those sites both by litigation and by technical blocks such as image/word systems that sites like ticketmaster use to deter automated programs.
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We want to thank all of you for sharing your thoughts, especially on assigned versus open seating and our boarding process. Your thoughts are being shared with our top Leadership. In the next few weeks, we will be posting additional information about this topic, so stay tuned. Brian
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@ Brian Lusk - It speaks volumes about the SWA culture that the well thought out replies from just 37 or so responses here would be shared with top leadership. I've got a few more thoughts: It is no secret that SWA is looking into assigned seating - http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2006-05-18-swa-seats_x.htm If/when you go that route, may I suggest six boarding groups? A1 and A2, B1 and B2, C1 and C2. Assign A1 to the people with window seats in the back half of the plane, and A2 to window seats in the front half of the plane. B1 and B2 would go to people with middle seats in the back and front respectively. And of course, C1 and C2 go to the aisle seat holders. I think that the boarding groups would voluntarily sort themselves between the "1" and "2" subsets within the lettered boarding group - maybe with a little encouragement from the gate people :-) This would, I hope, make filling the plane much faster. I don't know how this would play with my suggestions above about assigning boarding groups 12 hours in advance, giving Rapid Reward members "A" passes, then priority to people traveling together, then prioritizing by date of ticket purchase. But - IF you go to assigned seating, please come up with a better system that the one everybody else uses. And for heavens sake, do something about carry on luggage since it is highly likely that a very heavy SWA traveler (business traveler, light on luggage, needs to get through the airport quickly and buys at the last minute) will end up with a C boarding pass and all the A and B people have already taken up the bin space. See another thread on this blog - http://www.blogsouthwest.com/2006/05/02/carryon-toy-sorter/#comment-297 - that Jim guy over there has two great posts.
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I would like to know how many RR members are happy with the new type of tickets? The new tickets don't have expiration dates, but have limited seating. Just wondering.
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I don't mind the A B C's of flying...of course as a non-rev, i don't really have much say either! (i'm happy just to get my butt on the plane...i'll sit on the toilet if i have to!!!) the thing is, you can never make everyone happy and that's just the sad truth. I think assigned seats will make for a less "chaotic" boarding process, but it will still be mostly first come, first serve. the business man who just bought a ticket at the last minute is still going to be stuck w/ the seat no one else wanted to be assigned and the non-rev (waiting patiently to get on the flight) will still be put in the first row, middle seat, right behind first class watching them eat their four course meal when all you have is a plastic cup and some crackers....oh wait, that's american airlines!! what was i thinking...everyone is first-class on Southwest!! Bottom line, poeple will still fly Southwest because they LUV them. some will appreciate the assigned seating while others could care less as long as they get to where they're going. I hope Southwest continues to "give people the freedom to fly" no matter where they might be sitting!!!
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Please dont go to assigned seating. I love the current system. By and large, I can get an aisle or window seat by checking in early and dont have to buy expensive seats to do so like other airlines. Even if I am unlucky and have a C, I can choose my elbow mates if i show up early while on other airlines I could be stuck between two sweaty obese men while plenty of other middle seats are empty. I feel sure that there are many many more of your loyal customers who feel this way and the whiners who think about you as just another airline should probably fly another airline anyway.
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Please do not give in and start assigned seating. Leave it as it is; it works, it's proven; if it ain't broke don't fix it. I also would like to see that the sites that a person can go to to get an A seat be shut down. Do it yourself or suffer the consequences. The same goes for the people that get at a gate way ahead of time and leave their carryon on the floor and leave to sit somewhere else until boarding time.Either stand or sit in line or not but don't leave your luggage in line which of course is against airport regulations.
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PLEASE do not change the seating policy. I look forward to knowing that I can select who I want to sit next to. I just got stuck going to Atlanta (hint, hint)and having to be subjected to assigned seating. I fly every week and hate having to fly other airlines and I go out of my way to fly Southwest whenever possible. Your culture and your policies are the best. Now, if you can take care of the Wrong Ammendment and fly to Atlanta, well, life will be great.
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And, the thought of allowing cell phone conversations in flight is enough to make me retire. I would hate to sit next to some one like me that is loud as can be on a cell phone. Stock in noise reduction head phones will go way up if in flight cell phone use is allowed. It is the only peace and quiet from my cell and blackberry I get while traveling.
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We love open seating. But if you decide to go to a reservation system, we're sure it will be executed in a first rate fashion. Here are two suggestions offered in the most gentle manner. First, some passengers are unfamiliar with the Southwest custom that requires people, not bags, to hold a place in line. Something as simple as a sign might be helpful in reminding passengers that leaving a bag in one of the aisles is rude, not to say risking the collection of unmonitered luggage if a waiting passenger were sufficiently annoyed. Second, we think it is a bit unbecoming to sue Board First. You are not losing any revenue and the service is very helpful when your interim destination does not provide online capabilities. Cheers
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It finally dawned on me who is pressured most by the current system as is. It is the customer who is flying a short distance from a "focus" city. Las Vegas is your busiest (by number of LUV jets leaving each day) airport. But those who flying your 11:45 for Las Vegas to Sacramento are at a disadvantage to those are connecting with this flight. Passengers that are connecting from other cities are allowed to get their passes for this flight ahead of their Las Vegas colleagues because you are allowed to get both passes of connecting trip at the same time. In the case of this flight, the earliest group could log in at 4:20 AM Pacific Time and get there Manchester to Las Vegas and their Las Vegas to Sacramento boarding passes then. The bottom line is that this airline, which I love, had made a decision to give highest priority to "connecting customers". The longer the first leg (those an earlier time) the higher the priority. If this what Southwest had in mind then leave the online check-in process as is. But if you want to all your customer on the same playing field then consider allowing boarding pass pickup to begin at 6:00 AM Eastern Time on the day before the flight for all possible legs. The current issue has to do with when the seats are selected, allow me to pick my seat when I see it on the plane. Thanks.
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[...] I’ve written here on the Listening Post and here on my personal blog about Southwest’s entry into Web 2.0 with their Nuts about Southwest Blog. They took the initiative on the seating controversy issue by posting to their blog on the topic. [...]
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All in all, I don't mind Southwest's open seating policy - but I certainly don't consider it an attractive feature of the airline. If the company wants to stick with this policy, I think it could be implemented a little better. I would like to suggest that you consider using more seating groups (say 5 or 6) with smaller numbers of passengers. With only 3 boarding groups, passengers are motivated to line up long before they begin boarding so they can be at the front of a particular boarding group. This is especially true if boarding passengers expect a lot of carry-over passengers from the previous leg. I find it very annoying to stand in line at the airport gate for an hour for a good seat on a flight that is likely to last only an hour itself. Often times I don't bother joining the mob and just wander on the plane at the back of my boarding group for these flights ... but I do it wondering if I should have just saved myself the headache and booked a flight with an assigned seat. The policy also adds a bit of stress to traveling families with young children (but who are too old to preboard) who want to stick together. Fortunately, my children are still under the preboard age limit, but I've seen flight attendants working "deals" with passengers so that they can get other families to sit together (or close to each other). When traveling with small children, I don't need one more (uncessessary) thing to worry about.
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Wow! Reading everyone's responses to our boarding process is very enlightening. I'm astounded by the overwhelming support not to conform. As an Operations agent, I get to see and interact with all the passenger's on the flight. When Southwest was going to install the GATE READER's, most employees only saw drawbacks. I heard time and again that having them will only slow down the boarding process and hurt our ontime performance. Boy, were we wrong. I don't know of any operations employee that hates the gate readers. We would be lost without them! The reader's (gate scanners) tell us who is missing, where the passengers checked in, and also provide us with the ability to pull up flight information and print out connections, weather, flight releases and such. We can literally do everything ,except talk with the pilots via the company radio all from the gate area. With this said, I am TRYING to keep an open mind over assigned seating. We have been wrong before. I will hold my overall judgement until the results of the testing in San Diego are complete, but from what I have heard and read, the people who are loyal to Southwest Airlines are not easily enticed. They love us for who we are, and fly US if the opportunity exists. We give everyday people a chance to fly and to sit in the front of the aircraft. After all, being a non-rev on other airlines, don't we feel special when when we get a seat in the coveted business or first-class. If I do get a complaint from someone who is in the "C" boarding group, time permitting, I explain that they can check in 24 hours in advance, but the best response that people have a hard time counteracting, is that now "YOU GET TO CHOOSE WHO YOU SIT BY, AND NOT WHO SITS BY YOU!" With all of this said and the only thing I can say that I fear as an operations agent, is that with assigned seating that probably will mean we board from the back of the aircraft forward. I fear that when we do have to check bags in the jetway because the overhead bins are full, that it will be with those people who are sitting in the front of the aircraft, and I don't look forward to that battle. We have a great customer base, and as employees, I believe we all have to agree that they keep us entertained as well. They have been loyal to us, have provide US continual growth and profits, and allowed Southwest Airlines to become the largest Domestic carrier in the United States. They have offered us job security when all the other airlines laid off employees, they have, year after year, provided all of us with profit sharing. IT JUST DOESN'T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS! I guess in the end, I may be a little biased, but Southwest has taken care of me so far, and from what I have seen in the past, Headquarters has made wise decisions so I won't second guess them now. To our customers, Southwest is listening to your concerns, insights and ideas, so please keep them coming. And to our passenger's I have to say "PLEASE WATCH THE SIZE AND NUMBER OF YOUR CARRY-ONS!"