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Market Research 101

devansjr
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Companies pay millions of dollars each year for market research. They do customer surveys to find out the likes and dislikes of the public, and they try to spot trends as well as figure out the next "in" product. I have a less expensive suggestion that is probably a lot more accurate and gives "real time" feedback across a broad section of the public: just ask our Flight Attendants what's hot and what's not. Some of our Flight Attendants work 4-5 days per week flying up to 7 flights per day with as many as 137 Passengers on each flight for an exposure to nearly 4,800 very diverse people. Want to know the most read book? Ask a Flight Attendant; they could have told you how popular The Da Vinci Code was going to be. What is the hot puzzle? Flight Attendants knew it was Sudoku before the rest of us did. What about the latest fashion color or most popular magazine or laptop computer? I know some great people that can answer these questions. I have spent many evenings having dinner with the Men and Women who are in charge of our cabin safety and service, listening to their thoughts about what they have noticed during their flights. My advice to marketing people and manufacturing gurus...forget the focus groups and instead focus on what our Flight Attendants are observing each and every day. I think you would be amazed at what they could tell you.
59 Comments
Chris_Posey
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I have noticed a similar phenomenon in the education "industry." If anyone wants to know the best, latest techno-gadget, the next new Brittney Spears, the next hip new fashion statement, etc., one of the best places to go to for such information is the classroom. This information is communicated to teachers (whether thay want it to be or not) on a daily basis. I believe that marketers would do well to focus on these and similar high exposure micro groups in their consumer input searches.
FriendofBlogBoy
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Captain Evans -- You are quite correct, and I applaud you for being astute enough to have noticed this. Many companies in hundreds of different industries overlook their most valuable source of information, feedback and awareness of the marketplace, when they ignore their own people and pay big bucks to some outside consulting firm to tell them what many of their present employees already know. This is not a condemnation of consultants, who can provide a helpful and fresh outside perspective, but our "front end" employees usually have a better finger on the pulse of what is happening. If you really want to know what is going on in the trenches, ask the people who work in them every day! Your attitude also reflects one of SWA's best traits -- they value ALL of the people who work for them because they recognize the worthwhile contribution that they each make. Keep up the great work up front and let your fellow teammates keep up the great work in the main cabin! Best wishes, Kim
d_woodward
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Please DO NOT change the seating system on your fights Your boarding arrangements work! I have one suggestion for the pre-boaders which would speed up the entire boarding process: Have ALL preboarders go to the rear of the plane when they board - they take more time getting into their seats as they board and also take more time deplaning . If they were moved to the rear of the plane, all the regular passengers would have an easier time boarding and deplaning , thus speed- ing up the entire boarding process Thanks for running a great airline and keeping your fares low!!!
cynthia1
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While I can appreciate your peanut gimmick, I think you should know and probably do that many people are severely allergic to peanuts. My daughter can never take advantage of your wonderful fares, nor us when we travel with her, because she is severely allergic and will go into anaphlayctic (sp?) shock even from the smell or touching something that has had peanut oil on it. Please be sensitive to people like my daughter with this disability. Yes, there are other airlines, but she should have the option of flying yours if the rate is better, just like everyone else. Please consider getting rid of peanuts on your flights just like other airlines have done for the same reason. Advocate mother in New Mexico
LP
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I have noticed the pre-boarders have gotten a lot more lately, everyone is in wheelchairs when we leave for our destination and miraculously only a couple needed them when we got to our destination. I think that seat assignments are necessary, you can still have a fun and friendly airline at a lower cost, what would it hurt to assign seats? No matter what time we get to the airport, we always arrive very early, we're not in Section A. Don't change anything else, but please assign seats.
Mary14
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I have been traveling on Southwest for several years and I find it troublesome with the non-assigned seats. I would prefer having my seat assigned ahead of time, instead of spending hours at the airport - in order to get a good seat. Please reconsider having assigned seats. It's a real "cattle call" getting there early, then having screaming kids and familes "camping out" in order to get the preferred seats ahead of someone who really is in need of an aisle seat, or whichever they prefer. You would make many of your existing (and future) customers much happier to be able to get the assigned seats ahead of time.
Dan_Lane
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You stand out as an airline. Why assign seats and be like all the other "losers", you are a winner, stay that way. Are you losing business? If so do what you feel is necessary. Don't seek mediocrity! A loyal and happy customer with the status quo!
DG
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I find a way to avoid flying SW because of the ridiculous cattle call seating. It is much more relaxing to arrive at the airport without worrying about where you might end up on the plane. Besides, most people check in 24 hours before hand to ensure that they receive the A boarding pass. This defeats the purpose "first come first serve". There is nothing more annoying when you travel in a group to board a plane and find every other seat empty. Cattle calls are horrible and it definitely makes the airline much less appealing. I may as well ship myself FedEx in a large cargo plane.
Drew1
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Cynthia: When you book a flight on Southwest, there is a "Disability Assistance Options" screen on which you can note that your daughter has a peanut allergy, and an alternate snack will be served. Complete details are available here: http://www.southwest.com/travel_center/disability.html#peanut
Robert_Llanso
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Most of your comments probably come from people that love to fly your airline, so I thought it might be useful for for someone who does not like Southwest to comment. I fly Southwest as well as other airlines. My selection is usually based on price and flight convenience. Most flights in the US are quite bad regardless of airline: often late, overcrowded, and attendant service not what it used to be. So the difference really comes down to price. Southwest is often very competitive in short flights, but I have found transcontinental flights more expensive tha in other companies. But, fortunatelly, there is still some great service left in some airlines. Your funny, short and T-shirt clad attendants are less than professional, and non-seat assignment is very problematic for families, which either they have to come to the airport very early to get that "A" card, or face having to be separated in the plane.. No, Southwest may have been successful in making profit, but it is far for being a good, professional company providing a good flying experience.
Drew1
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Robert: The fact that Southwest is consistently profitable and are the largest domestic carrier undermines your statement. The flying experience must be good for someone for so many people to patronize them.
blusk
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Hi folks, If you wish to post a comment for or against assigned seating, please post under Gary Kelly's comments here. It makes it easier for us to combine and tally your sentiments. If we could, let's keep on topic with Daves's post. Thanks. Brian
NTJ
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If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
Tucano_Bandeira
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As the mother of a 7-month-old baby (with her own Southwest Rapid Rewards number), I appreciate getting a little extra time to board early. I buy my daughter her own seat, and it takes a few minutes to secure her car seat. I'm also the mother pack mule, carrying my purse, a backpack and her travel diaper bag, all of which goes under the seat. When I travel alone, I just print out my pass exactly 24 hours before the flight. And I was one of the geeks that would show up extra early to get the A pass. This is just the way it is when you fly on Southwest. But you always know that you will get a ticket at a reasonable price and get to your destination on time. This is more than I can say with some of the legacy carriers that have assigned seating!!
Tom1
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What was Cap'n David's original topic this time around! We are all over the place here! Peanut Allergies, Cattle Calls! Everyone, Behave! And stay on topic!
FriendofBlogBoy
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Brian, Can you surgically remove these off-topic posts and transplant them to the right place, which seems to be part of the avalanche of emotions generated by Gary's original post? It would sure help us get back on track here with Cap'n Evans! Thanks, Kim
Nicholas_Walter
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Cynthia (Advocate Mother) I do not know if you are aware, but if your daughter has a peanut allergy, and you inform Southwest Airlines ahead of time, they will remove peanuts from the flight and instead serve pretzels. Southwest Airlines would never jeopardize the safety of their passengers or risk losing customers by ignoring their concerns. Feel comfortable knowing that you can book a flight on Southwest Airlines at a great price, and your child will be out of harms way. Simply notify the reservations agent you speak to, or the Customer Service agent that assists you at the airport, and you will be taken care of. Safe Travels
hcarboy
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Dave's observations are right on the money. I have been a flight attendant for SWA for 22 years. I read "The DaVince Code" before justr about everyone else, because I saw many copies on the airplane. I knew about Blue Tooth before most, and remember being shocked to see bell bottoms back in style. We definitely know what's hot and what's not!! These market research companies should be utilizing this "untapped resource". Especially all us "dinosaurs" who have been around forever!!
HQ
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Actually Capt. if you are trying to find out what the prisoners, the foot soldiers, and the city workers are thinking you don't ask the guards, the lieutenants, and the assistant city managers. Try as they may, their responses will reflect their own self interests and not those of the populations you wish to know about. That is Market Research 101. Fly the plane and leave the market research to the professionals, please. Thank you.
Robert_Cruz
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Let me start by saying that I love flying Southwest, as you can tell by my record. However, I do have an opinion on reserved seating. I believe that reserve seating should be focused on specific flights i.e. non-stop flights to Las Vegas, etc. But most importantly Southwwest should strictly enforce the size limit on carryon baggage. It seems that the luggage carried onto the airplane is larger that then the authorized size. I see people struggling to lift and store the luggage on the overhead bins which in turn slows the boarding process. It is frustrating to customers who abide by the rules! Don't worry about losing customers should you enforce the rule because with the fare price Southwest offers and on-time service few will leave. So my suggestion is to start enforcing the luggage size limit and the boarding process will be more efficient which will continue to save the airline money and more pleasing to the customers.
Mike_Di_Bella
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Keep the non-assigned seating arrangement. My wife and I love it. I find that under this seating arrangement, Southwest passangers seem to hurry to find and sit in their seat of choice, and this expedites the borading process. Kind of like the game "musical chairs." When a seat is assigned, passangers can take all the time in the world - and some do - to park their posterior in the seat. Also, the suggestion to have pre-boarders sit in the rear of the plane is a poor suggestion. Many of the pre-boarders have ambulation difficulties and some need wheelchairs. It is best to seat preboarders in the front; this will save the time needed to move slow walking people or a gaggle of kids to the rear of the plane. Lastly, the option to check in online to receive priority group boarding is just wonderful. Southwest Airlines is successful because of such innovative thinking. Remember: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
mimi_parker
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keep your abc boarding...it's all about choices... carry on luggage only under the seat...remove overhead storage...everybody needs to check their bags....can you amagine all that time saving!... peanuts are great...drink delivery is great...midwest sure has great seating... man if you changed to that seating and we could fly everywhere out of dallas i would never fly american again...flying american is like a torture chamber!...thanks for asking about our opinions. mimi parker...mbparkerand company
Jeannine_Payne
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I gave two suggestions- 1) if the piece of luggage you are carrying on board doesn't fit under your arm-check it. 2) Assigning seats helps speed seating and take off time. Oh yes, I have stock in your company and think you are the best.
Karen__amp__Kar
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Hi, We often fly SouthWest when going to CA or NY. Booking a flight on line is very easy for us older folks. The employees on the ground in the air have been great. It's the pushing and shoving to get a seat that has us down. WE try hard to get an A boarding pass. That is easy leaving home but not always on the return trip. We like to sit together but without an A it is impossible and even sometimes with an A we do not get to do that. Standing in the line for 45 minutes and still not getting to get to sit together is a real downer. If another Airline cost is not a lot more we book with them just to have seats together. We would probably always fly SouthWest if we could get seats together. We would still hurry aboard to help you keep your schedule even with seats. But perhaps we would not have to be pushed or elbowed by those that were in the back of the line trying to get to the front of the line. If passengers were as nice as your staff there would be no need for the seating assignments. But they are not.
Howard_L__Mango
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I love your seating policy, but, I do think you should let ALL the people with children get on first, force them to sit in the front or back all in one pile so that the people who hate to listening to screaming kids can get as far away from them as possible.
Gary_W__Holdgra
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Having been a member since 1988 I always look first to Southwest for all of my travels. One of the things I like best is the open seating. When my company flies us to sponsored events they usually have me booked on another airline but it always seems to be a center seat no matter how far in advance it is booked. I will always ask to be switched to Southwest if it's a Southwest city, because I know I can make the extra effort to get my boarding pass online and get a group A pass, then I can sit where ever I want. Please don't change. Thanks Gary W. Holdgraf San Antonio
Bob4
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For Management-Ownership Suggest looking to Myrtle Beach, SC as a new destination. I have moved here from Maryland and in the last three weeks have met more people from New York, New Jeresey, Chicago, and Atlanta, then I have people who are native to the Myrtle Beach area. Myrtile Beach and the Grand Strand area are becoming to retiress from the "North" the new "Florida" location to move too and housing and jobs are growing in leaps and bounds.
B_R__Ricks
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Actually Capt. if you are trying to find out what the prisoners, the foot soldiers, and the city workers are thinking you donÃ
Dorothea_Oliff
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I fly Southwest because of the way you seat. It is so much easier. On other airlines I feel like cattle being round up.. Please dont change. I also agree that the preboarding people should go to the back to speed up boarding. Thanks for listening.
cynthia1
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Dear Responders to Peanut Allergy, Thank you for the information, I was not aware of the special procedures in place. I consulted my daughter's allergist, and he says that because peanuts are served constantly there is no way to guarantee her safety and would advise not to fly southwest. Of course, you are right about the being unable to control what the other guests bring. I guess ideally the flight attendant could make an announcement that we have an allergic individual aboard and would all please abstain from eating peanuts on board during this flight. Maybe that is just to unrealistic and too much to ask. Anyway, I enjoyed reading the responses and at least educating people to this issue. Thanks again, Advocate Mother.
Samuel_McCall
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Please do not go to assigned seating.
Andy_Martin
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Dear SWA, I love Southwest so I want to work through this seating problem of yours. And it is a problem. I have a solution. Keep your existing system but with one minor change. This minor change will take out the worst part of the unassigned seat problem and not cost Southwest any time or money. The worst part (in fact, really only bad part) of your seating policy is that even after securing an A, B, or C boarding pass, passengers still have to get to the airport early and stand in a line for an hour in the A, B, or C line so they can get on early in their group. I really don't like having to stand there and I have a solution. Number each of the Boarding Passes and board according to that number. That is, if there are 137 seats on a 737, print the boarding passes, say, A-1 through 47, B-1 through 47, and C-1 through 47, and board in order. All the agent has to say is "We will be boarding "in numerical order" (you couldn't say "numerical" on an American Airlibes flight, they wouldn't understand it, but Southwest passengers are smarter), on your boarding pass starting with A, B, then C. Then board A, B, and C separately as you do now--but now in numerical order as well. Passengers will get used to simply looking at each others tickets and quickly getting themselves into line just before boarding, which will only take about 30 seconds. You used to kind of do it this way, but since you din't enforce it people cheated and we all suffered for it. Thus if we get in the habit of boarding in order then passangers do not have to line up in the A, B, and C lines an hour before flight. Net result, no assigned seats, which are costly and cumbersome, but no tiresome standing in line for and hour because you don't have assigned seats. Everybody wins. Best Andy Martin Nashville (a happy Southwest hub)
JAMES_HAGAR
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I AM FOR SEAT ASSIGNMENT MAINLY DUE TO THE ABUSE OF THE PRE BOARD . I HAVE BEEN A FREQUENT FLYER FOR SIXTEEN YEARS . THE PRE BOARDS HAVE CONTINUE TO GROW, KNOW IT IS SOMETIMES AS MANY AS FIVE PEOPLE WILL BOARD WITH ONE CHILD . I THINK IF YOU PRE BOARD YOU SHOULD BE THE LAST TO LEAVE THE PLANE , IF IT TAKES YOU MORE TIME TO BOARD IT WILL CERTAINLY TAKE LONGER TO LEAVE JIM HAGAR
Matt29
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These are the same people that can't obey the fasten seat belt sign... folks, read the post and post in the correct place like the nice guy asked above.
Albert2
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The open seating makes Southwest what it is. It's a wonderful, empowering, egalaterian airline. I fly every week, and I'm "gold" on three other airlines and Platinum on two others, and I will always pick Southwest, even though I almost always get upgrades to first on many of the other airlines. The big difference is Southwest likes its passengers. The other airlines hate their customers. I guess it's somewhat understandable, going through bankrupcy several times, pay cuts, etc. I had to listen to a flight attendent tell us about her third paycut on a "triangle" carrier for a 4 hour flight recently - she was not very interested in us, just herself. I'm a big guy and I don't like the middle seats any more than the next guy, but everyone has the same chance to get a decent seat. It's like America - you have the "opportunity" to do whatever you want, but not the "right" to have it automatically given to you. I hope Southwest maintains it's current seating policy - I'm not sure I want the crybabies who "demand" their assigned seat on the same plane with me - if I wanted to be near them, I'd fly the other "loser" airlines. I LUV southwest - keep up the great product and the great people.
Paul_Darden
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I was so happy when Southwest helped alleviate some of the cattle call by having designated lines for A, B, and C, but the numbengring ing in each class would not be a bad idea, although I doubt it would stop people from lining up early. Assigning seats would take much longer because so many people would need help finding their seats and delay takeoff a lot more than the open seating. I think further limitations on what luggage can be taken on board would speed up boarding and deplaning. Keep the open seating! Thanks for your great fares and your wonderful, friendly employees, especially those that take me to Lost Wages so often. All your non-stop flights from Nashville to Vegas are always full, so I hope more can be added.
Jim_Blackstock
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Of course you should assign seats! I know you love us, so let us all stop acting like cattle! But assign seats differently from all the others. Loyal SWA flyers should just check in as now, internert or in person, but instead of getting a simple A ,B or C boarding passs, we click to a second screen and pick a specific seat number. Same priority but less confusion. Then you keep, or even improve, boarding efficiency by boarding by seat number sections from the rear of the aircraft first. The boarding pass could list both a seat number and a boarding priority (I recommend at least 4 sections - A, B, C, D) and the rear-most section would load first and so on to the front. The cabin attendants would need (for a while) to remind continuing PAX not to change seats, and they would need to watch that early boarders don't fill the front luggage compartments, but those things should be "relatively" easy to police. Good luck with your test, I hope it works.
Craig11
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The comments concerning pre-boards is a legitimate one. 10 years ago there may have been one or two or three but now, on a regular basis there are often upwards of 10 - 15 people. Who are these healthy looking individuals (not in wheelchairs) that I see pre-boarding ? True story, a co-worker flies SWA regularly and pre-boards based on the fact that he is blind in one eye and wears a patch over his bad eye. Yet this same person gets off the plane and drives off in a rental car. Do you not have any guidelines whatsoever ? I love flying SWA as evidenced by my having qualified for a companion pass for the last 4 years but the companies policy of "not getting involved" is irritating. No enforcement of boarding with luggage that obviously should have been checked, no involvement in the increasing habit of people leaving their luggage in line to "save their place" and, of course, the issue I mentioned above. PS - Your current boarding system works just fine !
Terry_Lessig
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Dear Cap'n Evans, Permit me this one ON topic comment, please. You got ol' HQ scared he's gonna lose his situation! The rest of the world ain't ready for the common sense y'all preach and practice. Y'all are doin' a fantastic job. The naysayers here aren't really your customer base. What other airline could have such LUV shown back to them? Y'all don't have customers...you got FANS! Keep 'er straight and level.
LS
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I think the seating should stay the way it is. If you have assigned seats you will have people looking at every row because they forgot how to count. They have done tests and have said SW has the fastest boarding process. Control the bags and let them only come on with two and that would move things along. Of course you need the passangers to listen to the announcements of putting only large bags in the overhead bins. I can see on long flight being able to have assigned seats but on the short and medium hauls keep it just the way it is.
maria_watson
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bring back the rapid rewards program! I am canceling my 2 SWA visa cards tomorrow, I used to love the "freedon" now I get told there are flights that have no seats??? What happened, you turned into Delta!
Daniel_J_
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I understand the carry-on requirement is a Federal Regulation...How can this not be enforced? As a weekly traveler, I beginning to see more people bring larger bags and more than one-bag and a briefcase, etc...Does'nt the gate agent have the responsibility to stop this practice of lazy passengers not wanting to check bags? Or, could I be wrong, and it not a Federal Regulation? Less baggage will increase the boarding process and in-turn will make the turn-around time faster, and then more time in the air for profit?
Charlotte5
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Hello folks.....please comment under the correct topic. Preboarding, peanut allergies, rapid rewards and seating assignments have NADA to do with what the author was writing. Directions please. Thank you Dave for that interesting judgement. I am sure they could tell us a few stories about the world!
Margarita
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I know, I know this isn't in the right place...But I feel compelled to comment...I agree that the preboarding section has been growing larger and larger and I have seen passengers carrying on bags as big as buicks. I have also seen customers walking up to the gate areas and then sitting in the first available wheelchair so that they can preoboard, trying to bring their entire extended family with them in the preboarding section. I have seen those very same passengers become verbally abusive to the employee who tries to enforce the preboarding policy or carry-on policy when they are challenged. I actually once saw a customer throw her bag at the employee when she was told that she had to check it. I believe it's not only up to the employee, but also the customer to abide by the rules.
Tom37
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Having spent most of my life avoiding SWA because of not having assigned seats and the "cattle call" mentality, I finally started flying SWA last March. I have now changed my opinion and really prefer NOT having assigned seats. For those of us who make last minute reservations, we would end up with middle seats most of the time. I know now that if I book a flight for tomorrow, that I will have a very good chance of getting either an aisle or a window seat because of on-line check in. I have learned to "play" the game, and I really like the game. I am especially amazed at receiving a companion pass for my wife just 14 months after switching to SWA for my flight needs. What a great program!!!! In closing, DO NOT CHANGE TO ASSIGNED SEATS!!!!!
chris_borreca
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Gary, Colleen and Herb: In my mind, there is no better airline than SWA. PERIOD! I fly no other. I love your open seat policy. PERIOD. Please do not change it . It works fine. I know you will do the right thing. Thanks
Marianna_Hayes
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Here's to staying on topic! Cap. Evans is RIGHT ON. Someone out there is listening because this is what we recommend that our small business clients do on a regular basis - they listen to their customers and keep what we call "cash register" polls where employees "notice" things and keep up with trends. It's helping our small business clients stay ahead of the big box competitors by providing an advanced customer experience. Southwest has always been the "small fish" in the big bowl using similar customer first tactics. Kudos. So, are you gonna keep us posted on the attendant "what's hot and what's not" lists? The inquiring public wants to know!
Allen_Gritton
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I have a different spin on the luggage and how one employee can ruin the opinion of an airline. I was coming onto a plane from CA coming home as a B - boarding pass customer after a one day business trip. I was told to check my day bag because they were getting so much baggage in the plane from the A guests, I have traveled all over the west coast and have never been asked to check this bag which is small for a day bag. With no name tag on this I was quite concerned and voiced my displeasure to your employee who was very snotty and said I had no choice she could make me check it if she wants to. My last statement was it had better make it to SLC I recieved a short we'll see! upon my connecting flight I asked to verify if my bags were checked, they had no record of them being checked. So the story continues- upon my arrival in SLC I recieved an urgent message my father was at the hospital suffering from a heart attack and given less than a 10% chance to make it! guess where my keys were! in my Bag. luckily I had a hide a key on my car. I returned later to the airport and did get my bag. I have flown with Southwest many times for business only once since this incident because it was booked before this flight. and may never use you again because of your poor boarding plan. My point is the seating based on a vs b does not work! This makes your people do this kind of thing to valuable cutomers just because they happen to get the B-disignation which by the way I checked in electronically as soon as the sysytem would allow. Hopefully this can let you see what damage the poor system and occasional poor employee can do to a business. I have sent this to corporate and filed a complaint
Barbara_B1
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Marketing? I can market SW for you! I am a loyal fan and only travel SW or I don't travel...... I made up a jingle a few years back and sang it, yes, sang it to someone on the phone at SW........they loved it and gave my phone # to your marketing department. Uh Oh.............I never heard from them AW SHUCKS! Anyway, with all the new places SW is flying, my commercial jingle is just right for TV advertising or radio for that matter. I am a 60 yr. old woman with tap shoes............if you are interested in a character..........singing a commercial jingle.........while tap dancing...........send me off an e-mail. BTW, the jingle was made up while traveling SW and having to be re-routed due to Portland, Or. airport being closed a couple of years back! LOVE SW AIR!!!!!
Pat1111
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The seat assignment situation used to be efficient and effective but quite honestly I don't believe that it works any better than having an assigned seat. I've flown for years on Delta and since we moved to NM our airline of choice is naturally Southwest Airlines. Boarding feels like a cattle call. When we first started flying Southwest we arrived at the gate like everyone else and took a seat. Now we're forced to be early 'que-ers' and consequently end up seated on the floor or on our carryons. I agree that the number of pre-boarders has increased substantially over the last year or more. While many of them appear to be justifiable it's difficult to tell with others. One final word and this is a general comment about flying - for those folks who are rather large, please remember that I paid for my seat just as you paid for your seat (not your seat plus half of mine). Perhaps airlines should take this into consideration and address it somehow without being punitive or discriminatory. I have been on many flights where I have literally been crammed between two huge people and ended up with one quarter of my seat, paid for just like the folks who sandwiched me. Perhaps I should be given a refund or discount since I only occupied 1/4th of my seat. Southwest Airlines is a great choice for us, but think about changing to assigned seating.