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New Boarding Process - After the Holidays

bstevens
New Arrival
In response to comments in our November announcement posts about our new boarding process, I asked that you be patient and allow our Frontline Employees to get used to working the new procedures.  It's now been two months and two Holidays since we started the new boarding process. Thank you for giving us time to adapt.  Here's what I heard and saw in Nashville during Christmas. I actually left my comfort zone (aka Baggage Service) in the month of December and spent some time working at the gates to see how things are going.  What I saw was a lot of Customers who have adapted to the new boarding process. I also saw a few that didn't know we made some changes because they only fly once a year.  But, they adapted quickly.  And best of all, I saw lots of people sitting around not worrying about their place in line (standing in line was the biggest complaint about our old boarding system).  I heard our Operations and Customer Service Agents doing a great job with the new announcements. They are flowing much better now and many Agents have added their own personality.  Additionally, Operations Agents did a better job keeping order when Customers tried to board out of turn.  Maintaining boarding order was something that had been requested by our Customers. I actively sought comments from Customers and Coworkers. The comments I heard were mostly favorable.  Everyone liked not having to stake out a place in line.   And to my suprise (and it would be to the surprise of a lot of the negative blog comments we received), quite a few Customers paid to upgrade to Business Select after receiving a C boarding pass. We did receive some negative comments at the airport and some people were caught off guard by the changes. But despite some of the initial concerns, the new procedures are definitly offering a more comforable, and stress-free gate and boarding experience for our Customers. I'd like to hear from both Customers and Coworkers about your current (real-life) experiences (as opposed to perceptions) with the new boarding process.  How's it going now?
80 Comments
bstevens
New Arrival
Desert Ranger - You're right! You, the Customer, should not have to do any enforcement. That's our job. I'm sorry you are still having problems. My point in posting an excerpt from the memo is to let everyone know that our Leaders expect us to maintian boarding integrity. And, from what I saw in December, it's much better than when it started. You've earned a spot on the A-List. It's our job to make sure you receive the benifit you've earned. If it's still not happening, please let us know. Specific flights, cities, and dates are helpful. I asked, so I can assure you that information is being passed upline to our Leaders.
George_S_
Not applicable
I absolutely love the new boarding system, except as many others have stated, when people cut the line. On my second flight as an A-List member, I was A-17, with just a few business select passengers in front of me. When numbers A1-30 were called, a "gentleman" from the adjacent A31-60 line jumped over in front of me. When he handed his ticket to the gate agent, I saw that it was an A-40. There was little harm done I suppose, with one person jumping 23 positions in a flight that wasn't even half full, but it seems that as time goes on, more and more passengers will start cutting the line if nothing is done about it. I'm glad to read above that SWA has acknowledged the issue and have asked their employees to enforce the numerical boarding order. I'm sure Southwest will figure out some friendly method for reminding boarding passengers to stay in the boarding order. Except for that one episode, every other flight I've taken using the new boarding procedure has gone off smoothly. Everyone seems much more relaxed and less stressed. There's even a bit of conversation between passengers as they help each other find their assigned spots - that sort of thing didn't happen so much in the "old days" as your fellow passengers were your competitors for seats. Thank you, Southwest!
R_Sherwood
Not applicable
I'm a long time SWA fan....until now. I will not fly SWA with my family anymore. We flew to Florida over the holidays and couldn't sit together on any of the flights. I will pay more with another carrier to ensure my 10 year old daugher and 6 year old son sit next to us and not strangers (SWA was not the lowest fare when we went to Florida). This is a bad system for families. I'm not asking that families pre-board ahead of everyone else. I just want the assurance that we will be able to at least sit together. All of the other familes we talked to waiting to board said that they will not fly SWA again for the same reason I stated above. Please fix this problem for families. Thanks
Arvind_Bakhru
Not applicable
What's up with SWA no longer being friendly to families? Why are the babies now scattered throughout the plane? I don't undertand why they can't just board in front of everyone else so they sit in front. Now they're everywhere and I can't take it. Besides, lining up in groups of 5 is ridiculous - especially trying to navigate the poles and everyone's luggage to get to your numerically correct spot. Crazy idea.
Marie1
Not applicable
I think the new boarding procedure is a good thing. I fell like it is a little more organized. I was wondering if anyone can tell me if the DING program is good and safe for your computor? Thanks
MIichel_Harris
Not applicable
I have the new process - it is just another shell game - first there were numbers 1-30 etc, then there were letters and on average if you counted there were 45 of the letter A - 45 of the letter B and and the final 30 or so were C - now i get run over being an A6 by A4 and and A5 you are stepping on my feet to get on the plane before me....why don't you just go to assigning seats - the charade of making me feel special and giving me an A when it is A47 just puts be at the back of the old B line.......what a nightmare the whole game is - i think the only thing you should have changed is limited one adult to one child and if that child is a lap child the parents have no need to preboard. If you have a lap child another child over the age of 5 you should not need to preboard/
Jean111
Not applicable
In answer to the e mail posted by Michel Harris, it is not just a matter of number of children boarding with you, but all of the extra things you need to make the trip better for every one concerned, car seat, extra treats, diapers, etc. so even though one child is five the other may be younger, anyway I would like to commend the crew of flight 3394 which had a rough trip on Jan. 31st from california to chicago we were delayed because of the bad snow storm in chicago, but the crew and captain kept us well informed regarding our landing attempts and our diversion to Indianapolis, and he kept every one aware of the situation and his final attempt to land at Midway which he did succeed although four hours past schedule. the landing was pretty smooth considering the weather. however, I do have a complaint with the baggage handlers getting our things unloaded in a timely manner. I was part of a three member group returning on Dec. 30th and one of the parties luggage got lost. It was shipped the next day, but the staff in customer service were clearly overwhelmed with this problem that day, their explanation was we did not expect this volume of people, come on! it was a holiday weekend. Now the same thing occurred on Jan. 31st mentioned above, everyone in the Midwest knew this storm was coming and we waiter over two hours for our luggage to appear, this with one three year old, and one 5 month old which gave us our time to even begin the journey on the road at 2:A.M. My daughter was told they had alot to do so give them a break, have your baggage handlers staged a slowdown or a strike. This part of my experience, with Southwest I am not happy with along with the new pre board for families. I have received two free flights the last year, because when it is necessary for my grandchildren to fly I take the journey with them. In respect to some of the other passengers who complain, I would like to see them in our situation, trying to make an already long day, into the twelve hours we had with the boys because of the circumstances. Also I would like to see an airport with some type of facility where disposable diapers could be purchased along with childs water and some packets of formula. One of our big concerns during this past flight was if stranded in an aiport late at night, without access to our luggae what were we supposed to use for diapers and food, the basic type of things, I don;t care if they stamped their logo on these items this should be available at every airport, and until the delayed flights have come in.
Anette
Not applicable
The new boarding system is worse that the old one. Everyone believes SWA is doing this to keep fares low, but has anyone compared SWA fares to other carries that provide reserved seats. SWA prices are now about the same as all the other carriers now. Why deal with this joke of a boarding system when you can book a full service carrier for about the same price and not deal with this mess. I recently flew SWA and many families couldn't find seats together since they were in the bottom of the B or C groups. We were delayed for about 20 minutes on one leg because no one would move to allow a toddler sit next to his mother. Great system! The old system worked much better. Many people I work with that have families will not fly SWA anymore. Bring back Herb!!
Larry12
Not applicable
Mr. Stevens, please don't let corporate ballyhoo this boarding process change as having overwhelming customer acceptance. Customer perspective: The first time I flew Business Select, I was at the back of the plane on three of the four flights. On my outbound flight I was caught in an unexpectedly long TSA line and I reached the gate midway through the boarding process. Each trip was two segments and each time I had a close connection -- my connecting flight was almost full by the time I even reached the gate. Customers do not all show up right before boarding either. The two new multipurpose lines 1-30, and 31-60 do not make it clear what the letter group is. Many late-arriving passengers come to the gate with "B's", panic, and barge into what are still "A" lines. Space is very tight in the boarding areas. After most people are already standing in the lines it is very difficult for someone with a wheely bag or stroller or duffle bag to squeeze to the front or to the rear to find their place. Finally, Southwest's perspective: The boarding process takes longer in my informal surveys. What could be easier than three lines, A, B, and C? I didn't mind standing and I hope more people will write to say the same thing.
T_Hammer
Not applicable
Well never let it be said I won't make a retraction. I was a little harsh on SWA for their temporary boarding poles. I boarded in Oakland last week with the new illuminated boarding poles and screens. Very nice and efficient, you have my praise, well done. Now will the old poles be on EBay so I can have a set of my own for our office? They would be cool. TH
Lora
Not applicable
We flew two legs last week on Southwest. Our first time with the new system. On both legs passengers with higher numbers than ours went ahead ,or jumped the line. When we told them we were supposed to be ahead of them one ignored us and the other couple told us it was OPEN seating. I say enforce the new numerical system(the agents do not check the order) or go back to the old or assign seats. I think this system will only lead to passenger discord. We loved standing in line and talking to the other passengers. Everyone was friendly.
Sherrie
Not applicable
I have been a long time SWA flier and fan, primarily because of low fares and equal opportunity to get a seat where I want with my traveling companions. My feelings are being RAPIDLY REVISED - with no REWARDS! The new boarding system would be OK IF there was more room between the poles for all the people assigned to that space and IF everyone was polite and respected the numbered priority. Unfortunately that isn't the case. The boarding crew could do a better job of announcing the policy and take their usual humorous approach to ask passengers to check that they are in the right order. Also, the system says you can't check in until 24 hours prior to the flight time. I have learned, however, that it does allow check in at least a couple of minutes early. So I was able to check in 2 minutes before the 24 hour mark and still only got assigned A53!. Now that there are elite and A-list check ins, SW is no longer providing a level ground. Even allowing for the first 15 spaces for "last minute business travelers", that means 38 spaces are taken, even before the appointment checkin time. Between that and the significantly increased fares, what is the difference between SW and other airlines? The joke is on those of us have been flying SW because there were no elites and A-listers.
RobG
Not applicable
I'm an infrequent flyer, but have used SWA when possible. Now I'm supposed to fly LA for an interview tomorrow, and checked in exactly 24 hours prior, and have A44. In the past, I was one of the first in line because I wanted to get on the plane quickly, get my seat, and get off quickly. Now, thanks to this idiotic new system, I'm stuck at the back just like I would be on any other airline. SWA's one big advantage just went out the window thanks to higher-paying or more-frequent-flying customers. I absolutely HATE flying because I never liked being treated like cattle, and the paranoid fear of anybody and everybody that any kind of electronic item could suddenly cause the plane to fall out of the sky. It's absolute BS. I will never fly SWA again, and I will be cancelling my trip tomorrow. This is ridiculous.
Andrew_King_CSA
Not applicable
Get a grip! Jeezzzzz!
Karen31
Not applicable
I agree with Sherrie - I'm a long-time SWA flyer and have always preferred them over other airlines. I liked the new boarding system initially but feel that as a non-business traveler I'm getting screwed. Fares are going up dramatically and I can't get an A boarding pass anymore. Ding fares have become a joke. The last thing keeping me with SW is the ease of booking and changing flights without penalty. If you start charging for that, then I'm outta here - that would give no advantage to flying SW and I might as well pick my assigned seat on another airline. Also, even though I don't have kids I don't think it's right to have them board late. I would rather see them board early than business travelers just because they can pay more.
cynthia21
Not applicable
I have been a frequent SW flier for many years between mainly Los Angeles and Chicago because of the simplicity of booking, choosing my seat, and reasonable FAIR fares. Let me tell you, as soon as I use my last award ticket, I won't be back. Traveling is complicated and stressful enough without having to try and navigate your new "improved" system. Families should be allowed to board FIRST not only for their being able to sit together, which generally is at the front of the plane, but so I can choose NOT to sit right in front of a seat kicking child. Pay extra for the same kind of seat just to board one person ahead of another in a line? I'd much rather scrape up those few dollars more to guarantee a RESERVED seat with another airline. Sorry, but goodbye. ( Hmm... I wonder if this letter will cause my final award flight to be "assigned" to a "C" number of 100 plus? We'll see!)
Mitch2
Not applicable
This Blog space is too small (I think) to list all my negative comments about the new boarding system (even much worst then the hated old one), so I plan to follow-up with a formal USPS letter (SWA still does not accept email letters, unless SWA considers these Blog comments an email letter feedback system, due to bone-headed tradition and plain poor and slow Customer Service feedback options!!) to SWAÃ
Leah4
Not applicable
I experienced the new boarding process last week & of course, coming back today from STL. It's nice not to see people lined up long before the plane arrives! Keep up the great work, SWA! I don't have another thought for the day, although I think I spelled peanut "brittle" wrong; maybe it's "briddle." I drew a blank! SWA LUV! 🙂
Steve2
Not applicable
I'm new to the whole southwest thing as this will be my first flight. Are there sections on the plane designated as A, B or C? I logged in and got a place in line of A39 and A41... So when I get on board can I sit anywhere on the plane or are there designated areas...
Karen_Roniger
Not applicable
I have to say that I am very disappointed with the new SW system. Previously, SW had always treated every one equally. The fares were cheaper the earlier you made reservations. Everything was first-come, first-served. We were all just travelers. Now, our rapid reward points don't really count. Very few flights will accept the awards, unless you are on the A-list. SW now seems to cater to business customers or those who are financially able to pay for the higher business fares. I made reservations for a vacation flight for myself, my husband and 2 small children. The vacation package reservation and work and school plans had to be adjusted because I couldn't get 2 reward flights on a weekend, unless I was in the elite group. I had been saving these rewards specifically for this vacation. I checked all 4 or us in exactly 24 hours before (within a 2 minute time span) and received numbers A25, A32, A39, A40. The highest 2 numbers are the children. We don't get to pre-board and they won't even be in the same boarding area with us! Sorry SW, but you will no longer be my airline of choice. You have your favorites and it's not the everyday average customer or family anymore. I guess when I can afford the more expensive fares or maybe afford to make 32 flights/year, I will be one of your "favorites" again.
Mitch2
Not applicable
UPDATE 1, 16 Mar 08! "Safety & Boarding System Problems"! Safety Issue with an AD not Performed??? Get real!, this is truely not important (a small one-time expensive issue) in the large sceme of things with flying and SWA, when compared with the problems with the SWA Boarding System! I hope you read on and post some of your experiences with the SWA Boarding System (Not based on so-called Tradition or Nostalgia with the Cattle Call Boarding System!)! Although Important because aircraft safety is involved (one-instance), the real safety issue with SWA is not the one being talked about endlessly! Its the crazy/weird SWA Boarding system that could get you in a fight or ran over by other Passengers trying to be first in line or get in their correct SWA assigned row position! SWA Passengers need to write and lobby SWA Mgt to make some logical changes ( a real break from no reserved seating) to its non-functional Boarding System and its new rule to Board Women, Children, and handicapped Passengers between BC (Business Class) and Row B Passengers! This is a disservice to all Passengers in that such needy Passengers are more inconvienced and B row Passengers have no chance of getting decent seats! Former A row Passengers are now relegated to 2nd Class Passengers and get what seats that may be left after high paying BC Passengers board First (if they are on-time) to get a preferred seat! Just try getting a low A row number now on full flights 24 Hours in advance, when BC can get theirs 36 Hours in advance! This completes the update One! ------------------------------ New Boarding Process-After the Holidays (Title from Archived Blog ending Feb 08) This Blog space is too small (I think) to list all my negative comments about the new boarding system (even much worst then the hated old one), so I plan to follow-up with a formal USPS letter (SWA still does not accept email letters, due to bone-headed tradition and plain poor and slow Customer Service feedback options!!) to the SWAÃ
Homer_Allen__II
Not applicable
I am a frequent flyer on Southwest and am always in contact with people who are also frequent flyers. I have got to give some criticism over the new boarding process. While I understand the intent of the new system and possible reasons for its design, it way over complicates things. Though it may seem as if things are going smoothly, I have seen one couple in Salt Lake City (SLC) board a plane in-route to Vegas with the A group while they were carrying a B-23 boarding pass. They simply put each of their respective fingers over the -B- part of the pass and the agent thought that they were amongst the A crowd! In addition, amongst other things, I find myself constantly trying to figure out the numbers of the other passengers to figure out where I stand in between. Basically, then, my opinion is this Southwest: I love your personalities and your enjoyable sense of humor but get rid of the mess of signs in the airports and go back to A, B, and C seating.
So_Caler
Not applicable
Well, at least Southwest is trying to make it kind of fun for people to get used to their new boarding system. The employee blog at San Diego International Airport, a major Southwest airport, recently had some fun doing this at the online Southwest Boarding School: http://www.ambassablog.com/2008/03/treasure-hunt-winners.html
Marilyn_H
Not applicable
Boarding families after the A group is the most ridiculous thing Southwest has ever done. Maybe they will stop this after enough passengers complain about having to sit with crying children who boarded after them, or being hit with a passing carseat destined for one of Southwest's 'infant fare seats' (which happen to cost more than an online adult fare can be purchased for the same flight.) Southwest is rapidly becoming the most Family Un-Friendly Airline! And make sure you read about Southwest President Barrett on their website, and how much she loves children! What a joke! Apparently what she loves is her bottom dollar!!
Hank_Verbais
Not applicable
I really like the new boarding process. I fly at least 45 round trips every year on Southwest and have been for more than 7 years. I'm confused about how the boarding numbers are assigned. Someone at Southwest told me it was based on the number of round trips in one calendar year. Someone else told me it was based on the number of round trips per year plus how far in advance of your travel date you bought the ticket. A third person at Southwest told me it was both of those plus a magic algorithm. A 4th person told me it was based on the color of my grandmother's hair on her first birthday. Well, you get the idea. I but all my tickests as soon as the new schedules are posted and I buy them all the way through the end of the reservation period. Sometimes I get boarding number 16, sometimes I get 19, sometimes I get 24. Can someone give me an answer that I can understand? Thanks. Hank
bstevens
New Arrival
Hank - Sorry you've been so confused. It's some of what the first 3 people told you, but definately not the 4th. We don't have a time machine to check your grandmother's hair color on her first birthday. Here's an excerpt from Southwest.com: http://southwest.com/rapid_rewards/aList_membership.html Rapid Rewards Members who fly 32 or more qualifying one-way flights within a 12-month period will receive reserved boarding privileges for an entire year. When you purchase your travel at least 36 hours prior to your flight time, weÃ
Merri
Not applicable
I have traveled 3 times with the new system, the first time it was confusing and now it is just fun. Out of PHL they actually make it fun. Jokes, lighthearted comments. Everyone enjoys and laughs, even when a flight to Columbus was weather delayed by 7hrs. those of us who waited and flew had no complaints. The innovative system takes some getting use to but seems to be working well. Keep up the good work.
Anonymous1862
Not applicable
I enjoy the boarding preference as an A Lister, but see many travelers with higher numbers boarding before me. Also,when my Companion Pass holder travels with me we cannot board together.
Eric_Strait
Not applicable
I'm a frequent A list traveller A few tweaks I would make: - Allow A- List member to board with 1 other member (Spouse, child or co-worker) without hassle. (I got yelled at in OAK boarding with my 8 yo daugther who was A45) - For airports with consolidated check-in (DEN, ORD etc) allow A-List members to enter in priority security line. For southwest only terminal security (PHX, LAS) keep the same. - Priority Standy for A-Listers would be a dream, but unlikely to happen. This would get my co-workers to move from their programs with HP and AA
Rob_Harper
Not applicable
I am an A-List member and overall, don't really have any issues with the new board process but rather have some questions. . . I see people getting bent out of shape if the line is not in EXACT order. However, is it so bad if some one who is A23 gets in front of A21? I would understand if it was A40 getting in front of A21, but aren't the groupings of 5 there to guide people to the right place but not necessarily the EXACT right place? I would think that if Southwest wanted you to line up exactly, they would put numbers on the ground 1-30, 31-60 and you would just stand on your number? Just want to know for sure. . .your comments are welcome!!