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Middle Seats Announcement

Employee
Employee

Southwest Airlines Middle Seat Announcement.jfif

 

Earlier today, Southwest Airlines released our third quarter 2020 financial results. Along with our financial performance, we announced that flights departing December 1 and later will operate without an artificial cap that, through November 30, limits the number of people traveling on each flight and allows middle seats to remain open.

 

So why are we making this change now? Guaranteed distance onboard was introduced at a time when little was known about the behavior of the virus and to bring comfort to returning travelers. We now have a chorus of scientific studies that point to aircraft cabins as an environment where transmission of the virus is statistically improbable for two primary reasons: the uniform usage of masks; and sophisticated air systems that introduce fresh air throughout a flight with a mix of HEPA filtered air that replenishes the entire volume of cabin air every two to three minutes.

As we continue to learn more about the virus through data-driven research from reputable institutions, we are evolving The Southwest Promise to focus on initiatives that offer the highest level of protection for everyone traveling with us, including mask enforcement; cleaning; HEPA filters; and fresh air onboard.

 

True to our Brand, we are making this change in full transparency with flexibility for our Customers. In fact, we’re enhancing Southwest’s flexibility by offering a refund for all Customers booked prior to October 23 for travel on December 1 or later—and by empowering Customers who choose to keep their booked travel to make a change with no fare difference when we can’t guarantee middle seats will be open on their flight.

 

  • Refunds: We recognize that some Customers may have booked travel with the hope that our middle seat block would be extended beyond November. Therefore, we’re offering added flexibility by allowing refunds for all Customers booked prior to October 23 for travel on December 1 or later. On Friday, October 23, Customers booked on travel beginning December 1 will get an email that provides an option for a refund back to their original form of payment, regardless of the fare purchased. These Customers will have until midnight on October 31 (CST) to opt for this policy exception, and the refund must be initiated through a link provided in the October 23r email delivered to all eligible Customers.

 

  • Full Flight Changes: Customers who keep their booking will be notified two to three days before travel if their flight is booked to a capacity where middle seats will likely be occupied. Those Customers will be given the option to change to a flight (if another flight is available) that is less full within three days of their original flight at no additional charge.

 

We continue to uphold The Southwest Promise by requiring and enforcing face masks throughout the travel journey for Customers and Employees, ensuring clean air onboard, maintaining an extensive multi-layered cleaning program, and leaning toward our Customers by offering the most flexible policies that put the choice to travel in the hands of the Customer.

 

Rest assured, our top priority remains, and always will be, the safety of our Employees and Customers.

13 Comments
Active Member

Delta keeping middle seats open through 01/06/20.  Other airlines allow us to purchase an extra seat to avoid sitting with a stranger.  The only option on Southwest is to be a person of size or purchase an extra seat for an instrument.  I guess everyone needs to buy an instrument case.  Southwest needs to update this policy!!

New Arrival

Prior to my taking a trip to Maine this past summer, I carefully researched the Covid-19 policies and practices for each of the airlines flying to Portland.  Because Southwest is our #1 preferred carrier, I was so pleased to learn that SW also had the best approach to safety and social distancing.  A big factor in my flying Southwest was that y’all had committed to leaving the middle seats empty.  After other airlines began using the middle seats recently, I was so happy that Southwest had extended its commitment this fall.   However, the most recent announcement that you plan to  begin using middle seats is so disappointing.  Y’all were leading the pack. 

 

Southwest has built its brand on care and concern for people, and that has been the key to success over other airlines.  Please don’t step away from that now.  Hang in there and do the right thing by maintaining social distancing.  I won’t fly other airlines because they’ve gone back to using middle seats.  Reconsider this decision so that you remain the airlines that puts people first.

New Arrival

As a decades-long customer and big fan of Southwest, I'm stunned by the decision to open up middle seats just in time for the holiday crush, and just as cases are surging again all over the country. It seems totally counterintuitive to me, and out of chracter for the Southwest I've known and loved all these years. I appreciate the critical need to recoup from major losses over these last seven months, but I can't imagine that this is the way to do it.

Folks I know are JUST beginning to consider flying again, based on: updated understanding about the air filtration systems onboard airplanes; contaminated surfaces not being quite as risky as originally thought; and until now, safe passenger spacing. SW will undoubtedly lose some business due to cancellations from some of us who booked holiday travel early (to save some money) based on a different set of facts concerning our risks. And for those who've been waiting to book holiday flights out of safety concerns, I'm sure this middle seat decision is not going to tip the scales in Southwest's favor. From a business perspective, this just doesn't add up...   

New Arrival

Big mistake, especially because it appears to be driven by dollars. With the holiday season approaching, it jumps off the page that the company is exploiting the opportunity to make more money.  Time to look at other travel options.  

Active Member

JUST FYI, research has shown that we are in one of the biggest waves of the pandemic since it started in the U.S. in the majority of the states SWA flies to.  Maybe a reconsideration of selling middle seats is in order.  Did I mention, it's the worse it's ever been?  So we fly without middle seats during the lean months, but include the middle seat when it's at it's highest???? 

Active Member

Here is research, and advice from one of our top leading experts, Dr. Falci, (Sp) who had it right in April.  Not an exact quote, "while the numbers may drop in the fall, we will get a second wave when the weather cools down and everyone is drawn indoors with much more close interaction."  He was right, we see that happening right now.  I'm sure that somebody on your research team can easily google that announcement since he said it MANY times.  I'm not against you trying to make up for losses, and am even suggesting a compromise, a slight increase in your fares, and even a small, TEMPORARY, $5 charge for checking bags.  

New Arrival

We have been Southwest supporters for many years and getting ready to book a trip in December to Florida.  However we just learned that Southwest will NO longer blocking their middle seats in the mist of COVID cases rising which is very disappointing!  Other airlines (Delta, Jetblue, Alaska, Hawaiian) are not unblocking their middle seats until January so why doesn't Southwest just wait! It's seem like Southwest is more interested in making money than focusing on customers safety.  We won't be booking with Southwest if they don't extend their middle seat blocking policy until next year.  

New Arrival

I understand the need for a profit. But social distancing works.  If you think your passengers are wearing masks think again.  They are taking them off, pulling them below their noses, or simply pulling them under their chins after the flight attendant passes by or sits down.  I fly every other week and your already over worked crews are now going to be constantly being called to address the lack of compliance.  

 

I have only flown SW this year and especially during the pandemic. As suggested by another, allow us to buy the extra seat!

 

Now I will need to look to Delta (they matched my status and are keeping the middle seats open).  So sad for an Arline that I had so highly valued.  

New Arrival

$$ over safety .. We are headed to Delta.

New Arrival

So sorry the middle seats are no longer blocked.  We worked hard to become A List this year, finally achieved it and now the safety measure of an open middle seat is no longer an option at a time when covid cases are rising again.  At least let us buy an extra seat to protect ourselves.

New Arrival

I "heart" SWA, but this continued decision to fill the middle seat of planes at the time when Covid-19 pandemic cases is breaking my "heart".  While it is recommended that people reduce their travel plans during the holiday season, there are some necessary travel situations during the December months - students returning home from colleges across the country, as an example.   People literally have to touch one another when sitting next to each other on a plane (more or less depending on the size of the person in each seat).  People will need to turn their heads to speak to the flight attendant, reach across to receive snacks and water, and will need to get up to go to the restroom.  Masks come down when drinking water and eating snacks.  The risk is just too high right now to open the middle seat.  Getting through the holiday season and/or waiting for the vaccine to be readily available should be considered, rather than selecting Nov 30th as the transition date.  I agree with a previous comment:  raise the prices temporarily to recoup the funds lost by filling the middle seats.  Please reconsider this decsion.

New Arrival

A-list, companion pass holder and very unhappy. The Covid cases are absolutely SPIKING in the United States right now as SWA plans to remove the hold on middle seats. SWA needs to reconsider reopening the middle seat at this time. I've only flown on SWA since the pandemic began because you were holding middle seats open. Now I guess I can fly any carrier and base my decision only on price. If you cannot be loyal to us, why should we be loyal to you?

Active Member

@NVSkier13 I agree, but I doubt that don't want to create a logistical nightmare of the flights they have already sold middle seats on, which I would assume are very plentiful now with the holidays.   Regardless, I'm staying loyal, just not until after the vaccine or an illness in the family I have to fly.