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To Assign or Not to Assign, That is the Question

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As many of you know, the question about whether to keep our open seating or to assign seats has been the Southwest question for the past couple of years.  Proponents of each process have been very vocal and heartfelt in support of their positions, and my post of last summer generated more than 700 comments (including those on a followup post).  To those who weighed in on this issue, thank you, and I assure you that your voices were heard. After much investigation, which included extensive "real life" testing in San Diego and San Antonio, we are ready to close the book on "the great seating experiment" and announce our decision.  (If we had drums, we could have a drum roll at this point, but we don't, so imagine one in your mind.)  Southwest has decided to keep open seating, but to adopt a new and improved boarding process.  These decisions were based on the input we got from you, our Customers, through this blog, written correspondence, and surveys taken during the tests.  While a substantial majority of our Customers prefer the ability to select their own seats onboard the aircraft, many of those folks have told us they don't like our existing boarding procedure that sometimes has Customers doing everything possible to be at the front of their boarding group.  Instead, many of you suggested, why not board the aircraft in the numerical order of the boarding pass? Well, we listened to you!  After initial tests in San Diego last fall, we conducted a full-scale evaluation in San Antonio last month, and the responses we received were very favorable.  Basically, the new boarding procedure divides the airplane into groups of five Customers, based upon the order in which a Customer checks in.  The first Customer gets an A 1 and so on, and they will line up to board in their group of five.  (To the extent possible, our gates will be modified with marked columns that reflect these new boarding groups.)  Customers will know where their boarding pass aligns in the process as soon as they check in, and this will eliminate the need to "camp out" and hold a spot in the boarding lines.  For a full description of the new process and to see the comments, click here to read Susie Boersma's August 23 post.              Our goal is to have the new boarding process up and running systemwide by early November.  I am fully aware that this news will excite many and disappoint others.  To those of you who are skeptical, I can only ask that you give the new boarding procedures a try.  After everyone gets used to it, I bet you will wonder why we didn't think of this years ago! (Click here to see a video of the new procedures.  Also, check out this helpful site.)
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thank you southwest
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I heard you are no longer letting people with children on first. I would love to thank you for finally convincing me to never fly with you again. You have to know that if I have 2 small children that I will need extra time in the aisle to not only get myself situated but two other, meaning I will need 3 times the amount of time. Instead of giving me this time you are going to make me endure snide comments from other passengers and crew members that have no idea what it is like to travel with children because if they did they would open their mouths and give you grief for taking a little extra time. I will now be giving my hard earned money to an airline who better understands people like me and the challenges of traveling with children. Someone who is interested in creating a better travel experience for me.
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Brian -- I appreciate the post about the age verification (and believe that might be as the result of my PLS INF qestion). However, I am curious to know how age verification resolves the PLS INF issue? When I call to add my infant son, Customer Service never asks for his name or acct#. Rather, they just note my PNR and tell me that I have to check in at the airport. It would be nice to see some way to have this age verification done in person at the airport the first time so I don't have to go through all the hassle of mailing in documentation -- seems kind of antiquated for an airline that uses technology to solve a lot of their problems. With all the concerns from families being posted in the comments section, it would be nice to see Southwest be a little more vocal about these type of family policies and perhaps make them a little more visible (or publicize them better) -- in other words... let's at least see a blog article -- soon! This change of preboard policy is not being handled very well. I don't think that you folks are doing a great job of communicating it. I'm reading a lot of the comments here and can feel for a lot of these people because I too had the same panicked reaction to it. Since I read about the SAT experiment, I have had more time to absorb it and figure out how it would work. Honestly, Southwest moving only the family preboard at this time (especially when you haven't fully impelemented the new boarding process) seems to take a swipe at the fact that the family preboard has been a big problem for WN. Let's face it... a lot of the A boarding pass issues is because people want to choose their seat (which invariably is at the front of the plane!). I'm ok with the idea of allowing families to still preboard first and require us all to sit beyond row 15. This can be handled simply by having the exit row Flight Attendant wave people to the back. When we preboard we do that so that we can respect our fellow passengers and help Southwest by staying out of the way while the A group comes on board. You need to get in front of this problem and be more visible. Hopefully we see Colleen or Gary on the Today Show soon. Don't let this turn into another "mini skirt" debacle.
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My wife and I are frequent southwest flyers as our son lives in Houston. Really hate to see you drop the preboarding for little ones since we babysit and my wife is usually the one who flys by herself to pick up or return a baby. It is really, really helpful to be able to get the "stuff" and the baby settled before the onslaught of everyone else boards the plane. We have used the direct Continental flight and it was nice not to worry about finding a seat but we just preferred your larger planes. Surely hope this can be reconsidered. John
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This change in policy does not address the problem that those with computers get groups A and B, those without, will always be last on the plane. The worst discrimination is that those with lap children, who are unable to check in online because of the lap child, will never get in group A. I've been a loyal customer of southwest for 20 years. I am rethinking that loyalty. Even Delta let me preboard with my infant!
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WoW. When Brian showed up for work this morning I bet he wasn't expecting this. We boarded many times at the beginning of old B after my youngest turned 4. We ALWAYS got seats together. We ALWAYS checked luggage so as not to carry too much on. And we ALWAYS got situated long before the plane needed to push back. Guess you can't make everyone happy. I echo the above comments in saying that pre-board had gotten out of hand. Keep up the good work SWA!
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JJG--I am enjoying reading the feedback to Gary's post, and I know that he and Colleen are reading the comments. Mike--The age verification does only apply to ticketed Customers, but I did want to mention that so everyone could be aware. Thanks for the blog suggestion, and it is a great idea. I am checking with a couple of Leaders about age verification for lap children. As to being out front with this issue, we did hold a press conference with Gary yesterday, and all media (including networks) were invited. I'll let you know when I hear something on lap children. Brian
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I am very concerned about the lack of family pre-boarding. I can somewhat understand if the children are older, but I certainly don't want to risk getting separated from my 1 year old! If we have to wait to have people shift seats, that's just going to take up more time in the boarding process. Also, my daughter sits in a car seat when we fly; and she will do so until she's big enough to sit comfortably in a regular seat. We were told the car seat has to go in a window seat because there's no way to get past it to the aisle. There's no problem with that if you pre-board. But if we're stuck going after the A group, there's no way a window seat will be available. I can imagine some very angry passengers if we're forced to do regular boarding with a car seat.... Yes, I do try to check in early. It's usually not a problem when we're leaving home, but we're rarely anywhere with computer access for the flight home. Contrary to what the SWA rep said when I called, there are not computers at all hotels. Most hotels have Internet access, but that doesn't help if you don't have a computer!!! She also told me that most libraries have Internet access and computers. Also, not true (I live in a town where none of the surrounding libraries even have dial-up, much less a computer). Besides, I'm certainly not going to change my plans to find a library when we're on vacation or visiting family. At a minimum, I think SWA should compromise to allow those using car seats to pre-board. Otherwise, there are going to be some very angry passengers; and the whole seating process will be held up. And I also think SWA should be able to guarantee that parents won't get separated from small children. I've been a loyal SWA customer for years. However, I will most likely be using another airline unless the new boarding policy changes. BTW, I don't have a problem with the boarding policy in general. When I'm flying by myself, I think it works very well--it's just the complete lack of family pre-boarding that is a concern. I used to be one of those people who hated the family pre-boarding...until our baby came! Thanks for listening!
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[...] don’t care enough anyway. If this explanation didn’t work for you, try this link or the Southwest blog post, both of which give you other ways to understand what they’re doing. So what do I think? I [...]
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Brian, Thanks for the follow up. The problem is that your press conference was dilluted for the evening news. Here in Arizona, many of the local stations simply announced the change effective 10/2.. but did not mention the new boading pass concept or give the story any depth. Your message was abbreviated and honestly it didn't do much to help clarify things. Southwest.com has the Boarding School which is novel. However, the fact that this change affects a significant population of your passengers, I think that more details should be available to quell a lot of concerns. I, for one, would like to hear some background on how the SAT tests were conducted. I still question whether this is smart for Southwest to be implementing so close to the holiday rush. It would seem more prudent to let these changes digest over time (early 2008 or even over the long summer season). I'm happy that I won't be flying at all this holiday so I won't have to feel your pain. I know that doing the talk show circuit may not be the most practical idea. I think though that having the Company put more information on their web site and keeping the topic alive here on the blog would go a long way to helping us understand the changes. Like I said, this has been in the rumor mill for a while. I hope that Southwest keeps an open mind... and I'm promising to do the same. Thanks.
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Brian, As someone who flies out of MCO all the time, I have experienced tons of preboard children, I have to question the policy of boarding those children after the "A" group. I'm guilty of being one those first in line to get the exit aisle seat, but I also want to see where the children are at, plus parents do need that extra time. It's not the pre-board children that abuse the system. Enforce only parents with the kids and tightened up what constitutes a pre board adult. Also, I really think the boarding will slow down after the A group while the parents get there children buckled into there seats, stowing their bags, etc. While the flights out of and into Orlando are not the norm for children, the situations I have experienced involving children boarding, tells me that this new policy with boarding children needs to be looked at. The other part is quite fair.. Ask you customer Ops people in MCO their thoughts.
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I am a Rapid Rewards member and have flown SWA many times. I have not experienced this new boarding process. I thank SWA for thinking of us (the customers) in adjusting this process. I also think it is something that will help everyone, and benefit all customers. I am going to keep trusting SWA as they are the ones who are conducting the thorough research to help keep us comfortable. They don't have to listen to us or spend time and money to cater to our needs and wants, but they are. It's funny how we like to pick and pry this new process apart of what we like and don't like without actually being a part of the experiment. As for me, I am going to let the professionals of the business continue their "real-life" customer experiments and trust in them that they can make a decision that will better our experience at the gate.
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Brian, Again, though, the rule you mentioned only applies to children who have their own seat, not those who sit in your lap. Your rules say: # One child over 14 days and under two (2) years of age, not occupying a seat, may be carried free when traveling with an adult (12 yrs of age or older). Online checkin is not available if the infant is not occupying a seat. # Affordable Infant Fares are also available that enable a Customer to reserve a seat for an infant and use his/her FAA approved car seat. Online checkin is available if the infant is traveling on an Infant Fare and is age verified. I have yet to book a flight with you where your infant fares are affordable. In fact, they have been the same price as an adult. When we are paying $300 for our child to fly, it is simpler to take Continental out of Houston because chances are it is the same price, and we don't have to take extra time trolling the rows for a seat. That is why no matter how you do it, it is not going to save time when people are having to split up and look for seats. I have always thought that if you want to be first on the plane, you should go all the way to the back of the plane and sit down. Let your Rapid Rewards people who fly all the time get coveted seats in rows 2 to 8. Give them a paper with their boarding pass that says so. Let the taller folks ask for exit rows - give them a piece of paper or something to show the flight attendant, so that person will at least assist them in getting a seat in the exit row. I also think it would help if everyone would calm down about sitting in the middle. You get the two middle armrests any way, and if you haven't been, then middle seat sitters around the country need to take back the armrest!
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I have not read through all the comments yet, but have to agree with most people about the preboarding changes for those traveling with children. We flew with our 5 month old daughter for the first time two weeks ago and were very thankful for preboarding. As it was, when we preboarded for our flights, there was no delay between the preboarding group and the A group. The A group was fast on our heels down the jet way and before we even set foot on the plane at least 10 A group passengers were already seated. This made it very difficult for us to try and carry a car seat, an infant, diaper bag, and our carry on luggage to the back of the plane, all without hitting someone in the head who was already seated. Now, trying to do all this with 60 people seated on the plane, not just 10, will not be a pleasant experience for anyone on board. Southwest would be very wise to reconsider the preboarding changes for families traveling with infants who must check-in at the counter.
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Christine in HOU and Mike in AZ, I did check with Teresa Laraba, our Vice President of Ground Operations, and age verification isn't in place for a lap child at present. According to Teresa, we are working on a technical solution to allow this, but she is honest in saying that we don't know when it will be ready. However, we are looking for a way to allow online checkin for lap children. It is also true that many of our fares are lower than the Infant Fare. The Infant Fare is a walkup type fare with no restrictions other than the age requirement. It is a discount off of our full fare unrestricted ticket. Customers with infants aren't required to purchase this fare--if they qualify for our discounted fares, the infant also qualifies. Mike, the tests in San Antonio spanned a month period, and unlike the two San Diego test periods the year before, every flight in the San Antonio Station was involved. If you want more information about the tests, click on Susie's post that Gary mentions in this post. Incidentally, when we went back to San Diego last year for the second time so that we could test open seating boarding methods, I understand that the family boarding procedures were also tested there. Brian
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Thank you SWA! I'm loving the changes. I'm claustrophobic, and must have an aisle seat. Thus I've always had to camp out early to get a seat. I'm so thrilled that I don't have to do that any longer. Folks -- do you know that you can check in for your flight on your cell phone (assuming you have internet access on your phone)? If you're not near a computer, this is a great alternative. Thank you, thank you, thank you for listening to the customers. I fly SWA every couple of months, and I'm thrilled to hear about these changes.
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In the article they stated that it wasn't fair that families with children show up at the last minute and get onto the aircraft first. If they only realized how difficult it is too carry an infant through security (taking apart car seats, taking off shoes, etc.), finding a restroom to change diapers, breast feeding, all while dragging strollers, car seats, diaper bags, etc.!!! Getting to the gate takes people with babies longer and we are usually sweating, tired and anxious when we do finally make it there!!! I find this very disturbing as I travel (mostly alone) with our young son often and find the pre-boarding necessary! We need time to get settled, get the car seat strapped into the seat, settle the baby, etc. If a woman is breast feeding, we need to find a seat we feel comfortable in (location). For anyone who does not agree, travel with a baby first, then decide.
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Way to go Southwest, you have successfully made boarding quicker by driving customers with families like me away. If you want to be an exclusive airlines why don't you just advertise yourself as such. My days flying Southwest will be over with your new policy. Families should be able to sit together period. You have now lapsed into the same vacum that has taken the other airlines to their current perils. Good luck with that Southwest you won't see any more of my business.
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As a mother of an 11 month old and recently having made the mistake of flying over labor day weekend, I can tell you that dropping the pre board for families with young children would have made a generally pleasant trip unbearable. We flew out on Saturday, September 1st and were able to preboard and get one of the bulk head seats. This was our first time flying with our son and the four hour flight from Denver to Baltimore was manageable because we had time to get his car seat in place and room to move. This flight was booked full as was our connecting flight with only 4 open seats. By the time our boarding letter "C" was called, there were only middle seats left. Other passengers would have been irate to give up a window seat for my son's car seat. (Which is where the seat is mandated to be).We then had to make a connection from Baltimore to Manchester and it was helpful to be first off the plane and first on the next plane. The rear facing car seats also take up the entire space of the airlineseat and don't allow the people in the row in front of you to put their seats back. (as the lady in front of us on the return flight discovered). While our son slept for 3 of the 4 hours, when he was awake he was active and difficult to keep in his car seat or even on our laps. We took the entire row and were able to limit the number of people we subjected to his antics. The flight attendants were wonderful on all our flights (by the way). I'm not sure what the reasoning is behind not allowing families with children under 4 to pre board. Hopefully, it is not because of a misconception that these families are delaying departure. It appears (from my experience) that families board together and move quickly toward the window seats to get their children situated. I think the pre board for families should apply only to the child and their parents or guardians (not extended family). And for other passengers needing additional assistance, they should also have limits as to the number of people who can pre board with them. (this is where we saw a lot of abuse). While we definitely enjoyed our first experience flying on SWA with our family, I'm not sure we would choose to fly this airline in the future, given their move towards a non family friendly practice.
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West Texas Blog Boy had to run errands this morning, so I did a fair amount of driving. Guess what the topic was on West Texas Talk Radio? Yep - The New Southwest Boarding System. The host started by reading the story in the El Paso Times, then he editorialized about how stupid the change was. Caller one "Dittoed" the host and added her own thoughts on why it wouldn't work. Callers two and three were similar. Caller four must post on this blog, because she said she was never flying Southwest again. Thankfully, caller five came on line. He mentioned he has flown from San Antonio "quite a few" times and really liked the new system. The calls were about even after that, with six or seven callers stating they had used the new system in SAN. Every single one of the people who had used the new system said that it was a great improvement. "Slicker than whale snot" was how one guy described it. So - I have noticed one huge glaring omission amongst all the comments posted here, at Flyer Talk, at USA Today, and on other forums and blogs - I have yet to see even a single posting from someone who has tried the new system and said that they did not like it. Pretty telling, huh?
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Children pre-boarding or boarding after the first group - whatever. Calling it an improvement to have me figure out which numbered post to stand by (within my boarding group no less)? That's insulting. Congratulations Southwest. You've managed to take away the only saving grace to the A B C system of open seating by effectively guaranteeing that anyone without access to a computer to print an early boarding pass is relegated to a middle seat. Used to be if you got stuck with a C pass you could mitigate it somewhat with a small bit of industriousness by getting there early and being at the front of the C line so you at least had a shot at the least bad of the worst seats - but no more. The only industriousness rewarded now is to those techno savvy enough to have computer access and remember to use it to retrieve their boarding passes 24 hours early. And woe to you if you wait until 23 hours. You've just moved the line online, and created the stress of knowing you've got a guaranteed seat that sucks up to 23 hours early. And how long did you study this "improvement" Southwest???
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As the father of 3-year old twins, I am disappointed in the elimination of the family preboard policy. Even before I had kids, it just made sense to me to allow people with little kids to get settled in before the onrush of adults into the plane. I hope that Southwest reconsiders this portion of their new policy.
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As a mother of a 4 year old who has ONLY flown Southwest with my child, I am very disappointed with the decision to not allow families with young children to board first. Lugging a carseat on board is difficult enough, but now not being able to get set up in a seat before everyone else is trying to board will be next to impossible. I will have to re-think our family's decision to use Southwest as our only airline from now on.
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CrankyFlyer loves it (see his website) and so do I. Wish it were in place on my flight tomorrow! PS. Brian, Gary and Colleen. Seeing as we have your attention. You know what just happened in MKE. Please put pencil to paper on that. See if you guys can make money and serve my fellow Packer fans. I can just see it..."Brett Favre One!"
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Discontinuing preboarding for families with young children is a BIG MISTAKE Face it, SW is no longer the cheapest fare (at least in the Bay Area). You are not the most convenient carrier (security at Oakland is a fiasco, the baggage system at Oakland is a mess, you have no real presence in NYC and I can't fly to Texas on your planes without going all over hell's half-acre). Yet I still chose to fly SW because I could guarantee my kids seats in one location, and be squared away with plenty of time to ensure an on-time pullback. I'm sure you've modeled your revenue from families vs. other travelers and that this decision makes economic sense for you. But not for me and my family.
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Sounds like a good try, but there will be more people in wheelchairs for the pre-board with all their family members gathered around. Can't wait to see how all of this will work and be better for us. I agree more kids trailing down the isles holding everyone up getting them seated. Funny how when there are children in preboard, all the aunts, uncles, etc. follow them. Anyway, I wil continue to fly SW, never had any problems in the past.
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My family just flew Southwest two times in the past month and loved the family pre-boarding aspect, as well as the clean planes. We liked being among other families and did not mind hearing babies crying because we are parents. I guess Southwest has chosen to ignore the Maritz Research survey in which 73% of respondents believe there should be a family section on airplanes. SW was accomplishing this goal with the family pre-board in that the families sat in the front. Now that families will board between A and B, the families will be all over the plane, bothering more passengers since they will be in the front/middle. Those who complained about families getting special treatment I guess will not get the last laugh in that now they will be sitting beside the screaming child who sits next to them after they have already boarded. With the family preboarding process, those who wanted to avoid children could do so by seeing where the young children were sitting.
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Again.. thanks for the follow up (and honesty) regarding the PLS INF. At least it is recognized that it is a problem that needs to get fixed. Chances are it will be after my son turns two... so at least it will be better for those in the future. What is the logic behind removing the Family Preboard earlier than implementing the new line pass system all at once? It is my impression that the new "bingo system" (yes, that's a nod to Cranky Flier 🙂 ) will be coming online all at once at some point in November. Or is the line system being phased in? Reading some of the more recent comments, I hope that what works in SAT can work everywhere. I too raise my eyebrows about how you will address high through counts (which I'm assuming that SAT fit that bill). Also, those stations that handle a lot of small children traffic (MCO). Southwest has pretty much made sure that families with small children HAVE to check in online early to avoid the issue. As I said, I understand the intent. I do feel that the pendulum swung a little bit far in the other direction regarding the preboard policy though. Perhaps that was necesary to curb the abuses out there. I agree that 12 years old (or even 5 years old) does not necessarily define a "small child" appropriately in the spirit of what the policy is meant to serve -- basically give everyone a little more time to get on board and get equipment situated. Lap children and those with infant seats though??? I find it remarkable that your experiments have shown that the new preboard process does not slow down things midstream. I've experienced your famous 10 minute turnarounds. It is hard enough to get passengers to get themselves with their wheelie bags on board. Now you are asking parents travelling with small children (truly small children) to step it up. It would seem to add stress. Honestly, I speak from experience on this one. I've flown another carrier where we were unfortunate enough to get zone 8... which placed us in the last boarding group. This carrier (ATL based) does NOT observe any family preboarding. We were the last on the plane, the kids were crying (2 year old didn't understand why everyone else was getting on and not us)... we then had to get the seat installed and everyone calmed down. To make matters worse... no overhead space available for the diaper bag. We're seasoned travelers and found the whole experience very discouraging and made me thankful that WN was still family friendly. I know you have a lot of interests that need to be met and the devil is in trying to strike a good balance for the convenience of all. I think that new "bingo method" is intriguing overall. It just seems to me that Southwest was overzealous on their revision of the preboard policy and is removing something that a lot of us felt was truly something that added a lot of value to the brand for basically no cost. Flying these days is stressful enough. Messing with small children under the auspices of "saving a couple of minutes"? That's a tough argument to make. Did Southwest ever consider the idea of preboards only beyond Row 15? A lot of the complaints about small families has to do with getting off the plane. Even when we are near the front, we tend to hang back ... recognizing that it will take us a little longer to get out and we don't want to clog the jetway waiting for our stroller equipment. I hope that the kinks on the new policy will get worked out. Fortunately, we're experienced enough at flying to adjust accordingly. However, my fear is how much additional confusion this will cause with the less experienced fliers and the stress and delays that could result?
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Jim, I would be interested to know how many of the callers on the radio show that commented they liked the system flew with infants who did not have their own ticket.
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After all the post and feedback, I will still attempt to use another airline if at all possible. I find the "give it a try" quite amusing. I have given it a try and it is not fun. I travel with an infant and car seat. It is rather difficult to navigate the narrow rows and aisles while they are empty! Sure we can still sit together, but that is not the point. Living in Chicago, I have many other options so I am lucky.
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I am strictly appose to the "assigned seating." And here is why: 1. Non assigned seating is an identity of Southwest Airline. Thats what makes it DIFFERENT as a product and service. 2. You can choose your seat equals freedom! (compare to other airlines). You are not bogged down by a "system". 3. (and again) Why Stop doing what you are so famous for? Do not stop a good thing! Do not stop "sit any where policy!" Southwest should FOCUS on lower fare cost and better Customer Service instead of these useless corporate projects which have a low ROI . Stick with your competitive advantage, freedom to travel with low fare, freedom to sit anywhere! Am I the only one thinking like this! Thanks for listening, R
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I avoid SWA anytime I can for on an airline that assigns seats. This business of SWA to treat us all like peons to get into a plane is ridiculous. BE LIKE OTHER AIRLINES AN ASSIGN SEATS AT THE TIME OF BOOKING.
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Of course, this new seating plan is a good idea---all of us hanging in those lines made no sense. And, of course, it is much better than assigned seats--because with assigned seats we often end up in the middle of a family or group of friends. BUT--when families dont board first, that cancels out the value of the change--for two reasons: 1) if families get on later, there will be much discussion and standing in the aisles as they try to find seats near each other--ask people to move--accept that their kids cant sit with them---this will all take time and cause confusion, instead of having that part go smoothly as it does now. 2) one of the main advantages to me of choosing my seat when i get on the plane is that i can look around and try to sit far away from babies and little kids---now that wont work as they wont be seated first so i think the new plan is great, as long s the babies get on the plane first!!
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The new boarding system looks like it works great except it is an unwise decision to get rid of 'family first' boarding. Southwest Airlines should continue to allow families who have a child riding in a car seat to pre-board. Allowing parents with a car seat to board early allows them to install the car seat and their belongings without causing a major traffic jam. This also prevents fellow passengers from being banged by the car seat as the parent tries to push their way through the narrow aisle. Just allow the dad, mom and children to pre-board. Any other people flying with the family (other than young children who need supervison) should board like everyone else. Also, car seats are required to be installed in a window seat. If all of the window seats are taken, passengers are going to have to play musical chairs to accommodate the parent and child and this might delay the plane. Another benefit for allowing families with young children board early is so that the other passengers can choose to either sit near or far from a child. As a result, continuing to allow families with a child in a car seat pre-board is beneficial to all.
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As a customer that does not fly that often, but always flies Southwest, it is a great idea that we don't have to camp-out anymore. Sitting on the nasty airport carpet is really unhealthy.
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I have just finished reading ALL of the postings and the replies from Brian. I can't believe that it has taken until September 20, 2007 for you to "look into a way" to allow lap children to check in online. Your message is loud and clear--you haven't really considered families with small children at all. My 5-year-old flew Southwest enough last year to earn her own free ticket. My 3-year-old and 1-year-old flew almost as much. I used to feel gratitude for Southwest's kindness towards our family--I had no idea we were so despised! You need to remember that I will not always have small children. Although you may consider me a "real customer" after I no longer burden you with my children, I will continue to consider you my last possible option for travel.
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On "not letting families board first" I can not believe Southwest is doing this! Customers see you as a "caring airline" instead of "anything for profit" type of business. Please re-think this policy, otherwise a guy like me will chose another airline when I travel with my one year old son! Again FOCUS on LOW FARES AND CUSTOMER SERVICE! Stop wasting your time on useless policies. Thanks, R
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I'm a single man with no kids. I also happen to like kids. I don't care all that much if kids are around when I do fly. The last time I flew on Southwest, I was first off the plane both times. I attribute this mainly to the system of open seating. I actually held up a small sign: PLEASE KEEP OPEN SEATING. In summary, I have simply had better seats on Southwest. If I were a parent, I am not sure how I would feel about the changes. It's an understatement that kids require a lot of time. I personally don't see anything wrong with the kids under five pre-boarding. However, I am also confident that such a system was abused. As a son who lives about 1300 miles away from his own parents, I wonder about this as well. And my parents are barely able to fly anyway. The fact of the matter is that the country's population is aging. People are getting married later and having less children. People are living longer. It's probably more common for grandparents to fly to visit their grandchildren than it is for grandchildren to fly to visit their grandparents.
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Just read Southwest will no longer allow preboarding for children under 4---please explain how you will save time having children and adults with carseats, etc. trying to get seats together when they have a high boarding number. How about when a 21/2 year old in a carseat is left with the option of sitting in an aisle and her parent is 2 rows behind---come on that will not only disrupt boarding but you'll have unhappy passengers that have to move to accomodate the necessary seat changes. Even the "high roller" airlines let the kids get settled before filling the plane. Be practical please.
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My wife and I fly Southwest several times per month and we are glad to see something being done to address the growing abuse of your generous preboarding policy by many. I do however feel the whole issue could have resolved itself by seating all preboards, including handicap in the rear half of the plane. We have all witnessed those miracles in the sky. I find it hard to believe those who threaten never to fly you again, SWA still is the best deal in town. You should be commended on your courage in addressing this situation.
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I agree that the lines need to go and the assigned seating is a great idea. I do not agree with not allowing families with young children to pre-board. I fly southwest more than any other airline, and that will now change. Southwest is no better than any other airline out there. I'm sure Visa won't be happy when I cancel my Southwest credit card either, because who wants a free flight on a crappy airline?
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The new queueing procedure is an improvement. However, the elimination of pre-boarding for families with children under four is just another in a string of decisions by Southwest that has moved me from loyal to indifferent. Along with decisions such as restricting the number of award passes on a particular flight (making it nearly impossible to use those passes for flights I need), Southwest is no longer my carrier of choice. Southwest - perhaps you have a different customer segment in mind. But please realize that many of us that fly with young children are you former, current, and future business fliers as well. I personally carry the Southwest credit card and always seek a Southwest flight first before I consult other options (and only if necessary), but this is the end of the road for me as a loyal customer on both fronts. This seems like a small concession to make for your loyal customers during the years that this accommodation would be needed in order to gain the lifetime loyalty of those fliers. Perhaps I will return when my children are older, but for now, I can't see carrying my kid in one arm and our bags in the other as I try to board - while unintentionally hitting other passengers as I move past the first twelve rows. Especially if I had to pay for that flight because I couldn't use any of the reward passes I've earned.
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Mike in AZ Actually, boarding times improved in the tests we did in San Antonio and before that--and, more importantly, Customers who actually used the procedures gave it a higher Customer satisfaction rating in the surveys we conducted during the tests. The family boarding procedure arose out of the many suggestions we received from our Customers on how to improve the boarding process. About four or five years ago, we did require preboarding families to sit behind Row 18, but it was almmost impossible to enforce. That experience showed us that designated areas are impractical. Brian
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As a parent of two kids under 2.5, I have to say that I wish this policy had been announced before we booked tickets to fly from Denver to Houston on Southwest for the Christmas holiday. We have one lap child, so we won't be able to check in online, and our older daughter will be traveling in her carseat. That will leave us in the unfortunate position of trying to find seats together with the carseat at a window, while being automatically ruled out of the A boarding group because we couldn't check in online. If Southwest had assigned seating, taking away family preboarding would be a nuisance to me but not a deal-breaker. Sure, it would hold up the boarding process in general to get the carseat and all of us situated, but that would just be like every other airline. Since there is no assigned seating, however, this new system just makes me terrified that the parents and carseat child will have to sit in middle seats scattered about the plane, which of course is an enormous safety hazard with a carseat. Having a two year old sitting apart from her parents is also a huge safety hazard, in addition to being an annoyance to end all annoyances to the de facto babysitters sitting around her. Please, Southwest -- address these concerns. How are you going to guarantee that my family can sit together, when we can't check in online and therefore won't be part of the A boarding group? For me the pre-boarding isn't about waltzing down the jetway and taking the good seats. It's about my family being able to sit together, which minimizes the stress and irritation for all passengers on the plane.
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I don't have children, but I am very willing to let family with children board first, knowing the struggles they are facing traveling long distance.
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Two questions, Brian: 1 - How are you going to handle the requirement that carseats be placed in the window seat only? 2 - Are the new restrictions going to also apply to all the senior citizens who lie and say they need a wheelchair just so they can pre-board, but then as soon as the plan lands they somehow don't need those wheelchairs anymore and scramble to be the first ones off the plane???
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Upsetting young children is the last thing you want it happens when you are on the plane. I have two myself and I totally agree with M Schneider comment. It feels like that Southwest is trying to keep the majority of the customers by eliminating the family preboarding. I donÃ
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I am in favor of family pre-boarding so I know which seats to avoid! I prefer flying NOT seated next to a child or crying baby, so when they pre-board I can plan a more peaceful flight. (No offense to those with young children - been there, done that)
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Sorting the A-B-C groups is great -- that helps get people through the airport building door with hopefully less pushing and shoving. But this all goes out the window as soon as you pass the windows... And not letting families pre-board under some sense of equality?! That's ridiculous -- I am not about to bring my 4- and 1-year old children to be trampled by all you selfish cows during cattle call. It's bad enough getting knocked around myself (6'1" 230 lb adult male) by all the cows trying to get the "optimal" seat... Southwest -- DING!!! -- you are now free to leave your children at home...