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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.)
525 Comments
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This will make a huge difference for me and my huge breifcase. I am definitely against all the line jumpers. By the way MEG did you try to impress us with big words. You didn't.
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P.S. I do have a small child and follow the rules. I still get my boarding pass 24 hours in advance and arrive 1-2 hours ahead of time. I do not take advantage of the system and even before my bundle of joy arrived I still followed the rules and did not have a problem with the preboards. When my time is up (i.e. when my daughter is past 4), I will be happy to go back into the regular process that SWA currently has in place. Please don't change what you do! I LOVE your airline because of the current system. 😞
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AMEN! Stephanie that posted her comment on September 19th. I am with you. Everything you describe is exactly what I experience with my 18 month old. SWA needs to re-think this change. I am like you, most people don't want to sit next to you with a small one. You are right if those people board and think they are getting a prime seat and then we show up with a little one, they cringe! Pre-boarding eliminates that feeling for everyone. We get on with the little ones and then only those brave soles who wish to sit next to us choose to do so and the ones that don't can choose somewhere else to sit and then everyone is happy!! But the other way around will make it uncomfortable for everyone!!
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After posting twice on this subject and seeing the comments regarding pre-board families, I hope SWA's execs are listening. WE business travelers do not mind pre-board children. We sit away from them. As for all family members going on with them, aunts, uncles, etc, gate personnel need to police it better. I am a loyal SWA flyer out of MCO....Please put the children on first.....Comments fron San Antonio show this....
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Ruth: Assigned seating is so archaic! You don't get to choose....I am not sure why you like that type of system. Don't you like to either be in front or back of the plane with a window, isle or center seat? Many times you don't get a choice with assigned seating but at SWA you do. You just have to follow the system and sign in 24 hours in advance. Get an A boarding pass and you are on your way to flying bliss! If you really like assigned seating then stay with all the others and leave us loyal SWA customers to the way we like they do things!
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JEEZ shut up you whiny people. Those of you who think this is the end of the qworld, wake up. I have had more problems with assigned seating and kids than I have with non-assigned seating. If you are at B, with kids, you still have 2/3 of the aircraft to sit in. Plus, I have never seen a toddler not sit next to a parent. Get a life people. Southwest is now the No. 1 airline, worldwide, for a reason. To the tall people, guess what, seats are the same on other airlines as well. To SWA, you did a good thing by keeping open seating.
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My complaint about Southwest boarding procedures is that being a senior I have to check in at the ticket counter to get a boarding pass . This gives the people yhat can get their pass online an unfair advantage to get a A or B ticket.
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Rod, Good news, your complaint is solved. Customers using the Senior Fare CAN check in online, as long as they verify their age ahead of time. This link explains how http://www.southwest.com/travel_center/seniors.html. Just scroll down to the section "Checking In For Your Flight" then scroll to "Online Checkin" Brian
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NO YOU ARE NOT LISTENING!!!!!! MY FAMILY OF 5 is the problem. We are now all over 5yrs old and not eligible to board first. The problem is not the first leg of our trip, when we can get on the computer and obtain an A Boarding Pass. The problem is on the return home from grandmom's with no computer, or vacation land with no computer access, or if we just plain forgot to obtain the pass 24 hrs ahead. We should not be put through the worry of stressed out kids who think for hours that we can't sit together. During the holidays when we board a plane sometimes it is already enroute, meaning even an A Boarding pass may not get you a seat together. Believe me when you are traveling with children under the age of 12 sitting together is a BIG DEAL. Check out the Virgin Air website, it lets people pick and reserve their own seats. WHY CAN"T WE JUST GET A SEAT ASSIGNMENT????? IN THIS DAY AND AGE OF COMPUTERS.
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SMF Jeff wrote: >Oh, and Brian? I must have missed it. Exactly what is the rationale behind the change in preboard policy? If you had visited flyertalk's Southwest forum (shameless plug), you would know. The frequent travelers who post there entertain themselves by figuring these things out. Here's what we think: Southwest wants to find new revenue sources. One prominent possibility is priority seating. Now that assigned seating has been rejected, priority boarding is the only way Southwest can offer priority seating. Most people who would pay for priority boarding will want to sit in the front rows so they can exit faster and be on their way. If families with little ones board first and take the front row seats, Southwest will lose part of the new revenue it needs. Pre-boarding non-priority passengers would be fine if they didn't take the seats that others are willing to pay extra for. That's why the back of the plane idea (pre-board only if you agree to sit in row 18 or higher) makes sense to me. I think the disabled passengers and Customers of Size should get the very same choice: either board after the A's or pre-board and go to the back. If a federal air marshal needs a front seat, hand him a low A and that should suffice. Brian says it didn't work when it was tried. I imagined a pre-boarder sitting down in row 2 and refusing to move. Passengers are well aware that the clock is ticking and the flight attendants have to board the plane quickly. Sure, someone can call the cops and have the uncooperative passenger removed, but the flight will still be delayed. Probably the earlier effort didn't work because passengers didn't know or didn't cooperate, and because flight attendants didn't bother to enforce the rule uniformly. Here's what's different this time under my proposal: 1. The passenger is given a choice to pre-board to the back rows or to mid-board (after group A) to anywhere on the plane. It's an informed and voluntary choice. 2. The earlier failure was a departure from longstanding practice with no visible cues to the change. People are creatures of habit. The switch to no-line boarding is a break from the past, providing an opportunity to break with past expectations and habits. 3. Flight attendants had no real incentive to enforce the rule before. Now it will be clear to them that Southwest's ancillary revenue stream depends directly on enforcement of "pre-board to the back". Southwest is doing a good job already of keeping pre-boarders out of the prime exit row seats. This proves that pre-boarding restrictions can be enforced if everyone is "on board" with the program. Southwest Airlines was not built by people thinking of all the reasons why they couldn't do something... One other thought: I know it's a foreign concept to many of us, but once Southwest starts offering priority boarding for a fee it's not out of the question for families to PAY FOR the pre-boarding privileges they want. The sooner Southwest implements paid priority boarding, the sooner it can respond to complaints with a simple: "You want it, you pay for it."
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I had always thought that the A, B, C method of boarding meant that the A group would board first and go all the way to the back of the plane. B in the middle, and C in the front third. This would be the *most* efficient boarding of an aircraft so people don't have to climb over others to get farther back. But alas, people have used it to pick their favorite seats, even if it means everyone else has to push past them to get to their seats. STil better than assigned seats though from a customer perspective.
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While I applaud Southwest for giving out numbers to passengers, I am saddened by the airline no longer allowing families with children to pre-board. If you want to cut back on the time it takes to get on the plane and leave the gate, then DON'T BRING CARRY-ON LUGGAGE! A carry on bag you can stow under the seat is fine, but the whole process would be much more efficient if people checked their luggage instead of carrying it on. After all, it's Southwest....and Southwest does not lose luggage the rate other airlines do.
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This blog is just too long to read, so perhaps what I'm saying has already been said. But I think discontinuing the children pre-boarding is a tremendously bad idea. And I may have the details wrong cause I can't find details on it. Think it through, guys. So worse case my 3 year old will have to sit between two strangers? I would tell you what I think of that but there would be a lot of four letter words involved. Get to the airport early? Well gee, the earlier you get, and thats over an hour plus now because of all the extra time it takes to get through security and such with kids, the worse they behave later in the plane. I believe the people deciding this perhaps are some smart young MBA's without kids? And yes, don't blame the kid cause you were exactly like that when you were a kid. Oh, I can just sit with my hand on the keyboard and click check in at home? Well, no because of our wonderful Homeland Security list that has a similar name to mine requires about half the time I am refused electronic check in (I guess I'm a security risk only half the time? bizzare). What many of the comments here completely fail to comprehend is that while individuals can pack and hit the airport with little thought (I do that myself when traveling alone once a month), parents with small kids have a huge amount of work they put into this with organizing food, entertainment, clothing/diapers, lugging child seat, and figuring out the crazy rules to get through security (yes, that twit really is standing there in a uniform telling me that he is confiscating my 2.5oz bottle because my zip lock bag its in is one gallon instead of one quart and yet there is only my toothbrush and chapstick as the other items in it). Anyway, Southwest, it should be obvious I could go on for an hour on this, but to get back to the point, I think this is a tremendously bad idea that is yet another case of fresh young MBA quality decisions without really considering the results.
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There are 2 parts to this change in SW policy: giving people back their "time" to roam the airport by assiging smaller categories of boarding groups AND making parents wait until 60 other people have boarded before they can get on the plane. I agree with the former and strongly disagree with the latter. My son is 20 months old. Since he was born, I have taken 7 roundtips on SW (plus 1 on AA), so I feel pretty comfortable commenting on why this change in policy is not a good idea. When traveling with a lap child (which we are allowed to do until the child turns 2) parents may not check-in on-line. We must check in in person at the airport. As a result, there is no way a parent may obtain an A boarding pass (unless the plane is pretty empty). I don't understand why 60 passengers now get priority over parents who are traveling with infants. It really does take an extra few minutes to get the child, an infant carrier or car seat if necessary, and a bag or two situated. If other passengers are standing in the aisle behind me while I'm doing this, everyone will get very frustrated quickly and the child is more likely to act out in response to this stress. It will also take more time to board the plane, something that SW tries hard to avoid. SW recently touted itself as a "Family Airline" during the Kayla Ebbert incident. I am very surprised they would be so stupid to make such an anti-family change this week.
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SWA ought to do as the others do, assign seats. Until they do, they remain my second choice,if all other factors are the same like,price and schedule.
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We have seven children and have a family business - global importing. We travel as a family a lot and I am *very* disappointed in the new policy. We have always flown Southwest preferentially when we flew one of their routes. Now, realisticly, the only way we are going to be able to sit together as a family, is to show up first -- do y'all want to ride with my 3 and 5 year old after they've been at the airport for all that extra time? I don't! They are all well-behaved, experienced travelers, but this is too much. Too bad. I love Southwest and their business plan, but it's time for me to look elsewhere.
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I have traveled on SWA for many years. In fact our family is not only frequent flyer member, we have SWA visa and have earned a campion pass for the year. I CAN NOT TELL YOU HOW DISAPPOINTED I AM IN YOUR NEW SEATING POLICY. I CAN ONLY HOPE THAT YOU WILL CHANGE IT SOON! If you think other cutomers are bothered by my family boarding a FEW minutes before them, just wait unitl my FIVE kids are stuck in line for an hour with your other passengers. No child can wait as long as it takes to board a plane. They will be bumping into people, aruging over who's turn it is, needing to use the restroom and get water. You think you have complaints now! Then when we get on plane. They may end up sitting with some other customer. Asking them to help with opening this or cleaning up that. AND I HOPE YOU HAVE A PLAN FOR WHEN CHILDREN ARE EXPOSED TO ADULT CONVERSATION! More than once I have had to remind passengers that there are children on the plane and could they please hold that until my kids can't hear them. and I am not a crazy parent. These are conversations that include family problem with drugs, teenagers having sex, foul language, etc. I WILL BE CHOOSING A NEW AIRLINES FOR OUR FAMILY, but maybe that is the goal of SWA.
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Hey! One thing I just noticed from reviewing your Boarding School demo. A boarding group will now consist of 60 passengers instead of 45???? That is what the demo is showing. So, let me get this right. Southwest is going to allow preboard for wheelchairs (and other pax with assistance)... which I'll conservatively say is 5 people. Then they are going to board 60 people. Then the preboards if they weren't fortunate enough to have an A card. Let's say the flight is a through flight with 15 to 20 passengers on board. Before you allow any preboards with small children, you could conceivably have more than half the plane full of passengers!?!?! That's not right. I thought this was tough with the current 45... but adjusting that upward to 60? This can't be right... can it? I've appreciated reading all the feedback on this site. Has Southwest really thought this all the way through? Even your passengers travelling without children have expressed some valid reasons for letting the families get on first ... if for no other reason than to then be able to avoid choosing a seat near them! Who is this benefiting? I'm beginning to think that Southwest is shifting the policy in response to a minority that has perhaps been complaining the loudest ... at least up until now. Very disappoointing.
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As I mentioned above, I'm against any policy to eliminate the child pre-board. The comments that the adminstrator deleted and other comments provides another reason not to eliminate the pre-board. Clearly there are people who are very angry for whatever reason about children and airplanes. Allowing pre-board provides the freedom of those wingnuts to sit away from children. Those angry people can get on the plane, see where the kids are, and sit elsewhere. Isn't that a win-win situation?
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David, I am confused. Aside from a couple of duplicate comments, we have only held one comment to date off the blog and that was because of swear words. Additionally, we don't delete sentences from comments. If your comment wasn't published, I am sorry. We do have a spam catcher and it's possible it may have caught your post by mistake--one of mione wound up on it earlier. Brian
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Look, Southwest, do you need help? Then ask. Most of us really like this airline. And many of us here are professionals and/or are providing you some professional level ideas. I do statistics and financial analysis. It seems to me from all this that your consultants may have sold you a very poorly thought out study that concluded you should eliminate pre-board for kids. Don't take it personally. Dive down into this and likely there are about three people, probably consultants, behind this. Comments against eliminating pre-board are not comments against your airline, it is against those three people's judgment on this one issue. For example, their study probably didn't consider the elimination of freedom of choice for those who can get on a plane to not sit next to a child if thats their preference. And potential liability if someone like that extremely angry guy whose comments got deleted takes action when the baby in the next seat is crying during the landing. If I'm seated pre-board with my child, someone who sits next to me will probably not have a problem with limited child misbehavior, but if I get on in the middle of boarding I won't know I'm sitting down next to such a nutcase.
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David, see my post above about deleted comments. Brian
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Brian: There was a comment, I believe it was all in caps, that self-censored itself with a bunch of %$#$% type stuff that referred to groups getting on first because they had one child with them. Maybe its just me, but my memory of that comment was that it was very angry and threatening. Perhaps I've had too much coffee today. I'll stop now. By coincidence, I'm booking a flight today with you and should be doing that now instead of letting the time go by and losing the chance for cheaper seats.
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NSX, Thanks for your suggestion. Unfortunately, suggestion one wouldn't fly if you are applying that to all preboarders. According to the federal Air Carrier Access Act, Customers with qualifying disabilities can't have their seating restricted other than exit rows. In other words, they can occupy any available seat at the time of their boarding. David, Thanks for clearing up the mystery. That has been the only comment deleted, and for almost 300 comments, the conversation has been passionate but civil. Thanks to everyone again. Brian
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OK, Brian. I'll try this again, since it still has not been addressed: Exactly what is the rationale behind the change in preboard policy? As I noted earlier, itÃ
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Jeff, I think we had covered it before, sorry. When we did the test in San Diego last year, our written correspondence, our phone calls, and comments on this blog were overwhelmingly in favor of keeping open seating. However, many of those folks had a great distate for the boarding process, especially having to camp out in line. One of the suggestions we had was to board people in the order they check in, and this concept to which we are going was tested both in San Diego and then in San Antonio. In San Diego, we also tested several methods of boarding families--also the result of Customer suggestions. And yes, it has tested well in San Antonio. There are many posts on here to that effect, and according to Gary's press conference, the new system shaves several minutes off of boarding times. As we mentioned, we also extensively survyed Customers traveling our of San Antonio and before that San Diego. I hope that background helps, Brian
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Brilliant, gang! The best of both worlds! I knew LUV would find a way. Looking forward to trying things out for myself. Your pal, Mark Turner RR flyer from way back
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Jeff, I have a little more additional information on the San Antonio tests, thanks to fellow blogger Susie Boersma, who was in chage of the tests. We timed the turn times for every departure with over 100 Customers, and each of those Customers also received a survey form. As mentioned above, turn times were faster. Customers found the overall Customer Experience and boarding efficiency to be better. Both general boarding and family Customers found the experience to be slightly less stressful than the current system. General boarding Customers found more seating options. All families were able to sit together, and we did test the new procedures on flights with through Customers. Brian
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Brian, thaks for your response, though it doesn't really answer my question. I am NOT supportive of the new numbering system -- it simply rewards those who got to their computer first rather than those who got to the airport first. But I can see why some people might not have liked things the way they were and how this new policy could have evolved from the evaluation process. But I'm asking specifically about the PRE-BOARD policy change with regard to children. Again, what is the rationale for the change? What problems were found in the existing policy? How does the new policy alleviate those problems? Unless I'm missing something (and please clue me in if I am) NOTHING about the new policy promotes greater efficiency in the boarding process. Am I to believe from your response that it came about simply because some customers suggested it?
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No matter what you say i am upset with the decision concerning the families! I am an extensive traveler both with Southwest and other airlines. I am now the proud mother of a 9 month old. I am preparing for our first trip home to Chicago. I paid the extra cash and got the baby a seat, purposefully choosing SWA because I knew I would be given extra time to get his carseat installed and him settled before having the rest of the line impatiently breathing down my neck, throwing bags over my head and in general causing quite a bit of melay. I have no idea how I will keep my child safe and out of the way and hook his carseat up during general boarding. I don't appreciate it and now I really have no reason to pick SWA since there are certainly plenty of decent deals to Chicago.
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Brian, Since the comments on this blog don't seem to post in real time, you apparently got a follow up posted (at 3:08 p.m.) while my following post (3:21 p.m.) was "awaiting moderation." Your 3:08 reply does provide some further clarification, but I'm still wondering about the questions I raised in the 3:21 post. One point in your 3:08 comment left me perplexed -- and points back to the questions I raised in the 3:21 post: you say that "Both general boarding and family Customers found the experience to be slightly less stressful than the current system." Again, I can see how some of the general boarders may feel that way regarding the adoption of the numbering system within the A, B and C groups, but that "less stressful" determination with regard to the new pre-boarding policy seems completely incongruous with the vast majority of comments on this board and many, many others throughout cyberspace. So, it gets back to the questions I asked at 3:21 (again, this is specifically about the policy on pre-boarding): What is the rationale for the change? What problems were found in the existing policy? How does the new policy alleviate those problems? I find it extremely hard to believe that data supports customer satisfaction with this change when ALL the evidence to which we have access suggests the contrary.
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OK, I'm back again. I'm not too convinced when you indicate the surveys were handed to each of the impacted customers and the result indicated passengers were slightly less stressed. Go to wikipedia, look up the Hawthorne effect. When people know they are being studied, they have a tendency to perform better and be happier. And maybe I'm missing something here but it makes no sense that pre-boarders slow things down because everyone gets boarded, so does it really matter who goes first? Are you mixing up the two things being discussed which is the new ordering (which is not an issue I care about, I'm sure whatever you do will be OK) with the issue of eliminating preboarding for children. Hand one of those forms to a parent who got to the flight late, hassled by security cause of the baby stuff, and then has to beg passengers on the full flight to be able to sit next to her children.
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I applaud this new way of boarding. I'll make a bet that most of the persons complaining have cut in line, abused the family privilege, or simply like to complain. The last time I flew LUV to Orlando, there was one family with about 12 people who all "had" to sit together. Also, we were in the A group and waited patiently in line. When boarding began, there were 2 people in line up front for this one family - then all of a sudden, up rushed the other 8 members of the clan and cut in front of everyone. iThis, my friends, is why the new process is here. 5% of people cause 95% of the trouble in this world, and boarding an airliner is not different. As per families, I can see where larger families may have a problem sitting together boarding between A + B, especially on continuation flights, where there are still passengers on board the plane. I kind of agree, that it is not a good idea to split up TRUE families (not the whole clan). How to define what a family actually is as it pertains to boarding is where the rub lies. To me, that is two parents (or one) and their minor children - not Aunt Ida, Uncle Joe, Granny 1, Granny 2, and all the cousins. There are 3 seats to a row. If a family needs more than 2 rows (2 adults, 4 children), then maybe they should have another adult along to help out with the kids. So, my definition of a family group would be, at max, 2 adults + 4 children = 2 rows of 3. Not 3 adults and 3 children Or in rare cases, 1+5. For infirm adults (another dubious claim to preboard), it's the infirm person + one caregiver. LUV needs to attract more business flyers. By doing so, it keeps fares down for everyone else. In fact, I would gladly pay $20 a flight to buy first dibs at a seat, especially on longer flights. The bottom line is this: Fares will always be low, and demand for seats high. If LUV can make a few more bucks and still keep the seats full, I do not fault them one bit. As to the complainers who say they will never fly LUV again, that's more hot air than comes out of the jet engine. However, there ARE other airlines. In fact, I flew one recently, and compared my worst LUV experience, it was 20 times worse, and I paid way more for it. Thanks LUV, for bringing order to the process and putting the cutters in place!
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I forgot one thing. Give families the option to board before A by charging them $25, if they feel they REALLY need to sit together. Otherwise, they should be fine between A and B.
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There are a couple of reasons why I imagine Southwest wants parents traveling with infants to board after at least 60 other people have boarded the plane: -- Southwest is giving preferene to the road warrior/business traveler who always checks in on-line 24 hours before departure (the current Southwest policy does not allow parents traveling with a lap child to check in on-line ahead of time). -- Southwest wants parents to buy a ticket for their lapchild (more revenue for Southwest). I think this would allow us to check in on-line ahead of time and possibly get us an A ticket. -- Southwest received complaints from people who stood in the A line for a long time only to be pre-empted by parents traveling with children. Like SMF Jeff, I'd really like to know why Southwest made the Pre-board change. Yes, I will try out the new policy before I complain; I already bought a ticket for late October. But I will not feel bad if I hold up other passengers while trying to get my toddler, my purse and a tote bag safely stowed before getting out of the aisle and allow other people to pass. -julie
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Brian Lusk, Are you going to bring back the extra seats you took out in SAT, did you see the congestion over the summer travel months and no places to sit and relax. Not sure the family plan will work as 3 of 4 flights I flew out of SAT were late, got big strollers and car seat issues, not sure if someone was cooking the books to Gary Kelly on that one. Wish you would have looked at testing more at say TPA, BWI or MDW. Seems those airports had the seats starting to line up in A, B, C fashion and you would get to sit down in order and yes a few would stand or you could put your bag first and it worked well, even the airport manager for SWA in BDL used this method and it was well liked. Gary Kelly and SWA should stop using the slogan "Free to move about the country" as I am no longer free to be first with and A 35 or A12 as the numbers have always existed, had many of fun times in line with A1 folks and teasing with them as I beat them to the head of the line. Southwest is about freedom and now you are trying to conform to the rest of the whiney world, if you want to sell more business travelers how about a real commercial about how you are the only Airline in the USA that I know I can walk up and pay under $650 RT if seats are available and fly. No other airline does that and you all think the new boarding will bring travelers on business, just one weekend of commercials that show that pricing structure you have and your planes will be full forever, but I have a theory that it is an unwritten rule and SWA is in bed with all the rest and will never ever put a commercial on like that. Just my opinion. Sure wish this could have been rolled out in Jan/Feb 08 as it will now make for a wonderful holiday travel season and you all know how much fun that can be. One last question for you. I am flying from MCO to MCI with a connection in STL, I go on get my passes and get A17 from MCO and A3 from STL, my flight lands a little late in STL due to storms in MCO I get to the gate and you are boarding the plane and are about to call C group, but wait I have A3 and want an A3 seat, now what are you going to do to make me happy, unload and start over that is too close to assigned seats. Plus I have my family and say the through flight is full, now how is that going to work. I hope you thought these scenarios through and in this place called America your legal department is ready to defend these practices. I always had a saying my pop and grand pop would say, "IF IT AINT BROKE DONT FIX IT" and I hope SWA tries to keep its unique ways for in the future and does not try to conform to the other airlines and such. On my flights out of SAT this summer many business men especially the lawyer types heading to LUV for the day were saying exactly that. I LUV my SWA and wish you all luck and some growing pains rolling this out over the holiday will happen. Thanks and I will look forward to your response. B P Heiss SAT resident and SWA frequent flying fan
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Many years ago I lived in the beautiful city of Denver, Colorado. The orginal Frontier Airlines was a very popular choice for air travel, and I had made plans to fly with my 4yr old daughter to attend my brother's wedding in Salt Lake City. Frontier Airlines had pre-assigned seating. When I arrived at the gate, the Frontier employee handed me the two boarding passes---never saying a word that the seats were several rows apart. I did not notice this until several minutes had passed. I approached the gate agent, explaining that I was flying with my 4yr old daughter and needed to be seated next to each other. He very rudely stated that was impossible as there were no two seats left next to each other. I was greatly shocked and truely did not know what to do other than to accept the seat assignments. (Also, we were not even permitted to pre-board the plane.) Thankfully a dear gentlemen noticed my problem , and he kindly changed seats so my daughter and I could be seated together. I will always remember his kindness and at the same time remember the rudeness of the Frontier Airline employees --including the flight attendants. Now for the present day: I have flown Southwest Airlines many times--and the Southwest passengers remind me of the kind gentleman of years ago. I have seen passengers change seats gladly to accomodate the need for children to set with their family. I have also seen the Southwest flight attendants be thoughtful with the needs of all passengers. I do recommend when you purchase your airline tickets, to do so as e-tickets/ticketless. In the majority of cases, you can obtain your boarding pass on-line as early as 24 hours before departure. (Even if you don't check in on-line; boarding after the A group will work out--remember the Southwest flight attendants are very helpful---they are there to help all passengers and to have the flight depart on time/or as close to on time as possible.) Every company looks for ways to try to improve their operations. I trust that Southwest Airlines will carefully monitor the new boarding procedures--and if changes need to be made again--they will do so. The LUV AIRLINE is a GREAT AIRLINE !! (fyi: my daughter is now an adult and lives in a city that Southwest does not fly to. (Delta is the main airline there--so very few choices when I go to visit her.---SOUTHWEST ----PLEASE consider flying into either Atlanta, GA or Columbia, SC--either would make me very happy.) Keep up the great work and Thanks for your LUV!!!!
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One other thing Brian if I can add, I have noticed several posts of parents talking about and using the term "LAP CHILD" they are playing a very dangerous game by not purchasing a seat and having that child in a car seat on the plane. Unfortunatly I was on a flight on another airline and we hit choppy air and guess what we got to witness a child flying out of big strong dad's arms. I hope SWA can educate parents. The life of your child is worth much more than that plane ticket and I am sure any responsible parent carries Life Insurance on your kids and so why not do the right thing. I know many flight attendants that continue to lobby the FAA and congress to stop allowing the "LAP CHILD" so I just want to add that SWA needs to encourage and educate parents about the dangers of "LAP CHILD". Thanks again. B P Heiss SAT frequent flyer and SWA fan
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Maybe this has since changed - two years ago we used Southwest Vacations to plan a trip. The only problem, by using Southwest Vacations, we were not able to check in online which now, it appears, will have even greater emphasis with respect to trying to fly together as a family. Is this still the case with using Southwest Vacations - no online boarding pass/check-in?
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SMF Jeff, didn't you believe my response (10:46 AM today) to your question to Brian? Can you see why as an employee of SWA he wouldn't be able to give you that response, assuming that I'm correct?
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We always look at SWA as the "model" airline for all that is customer service. Open seating is without a doubt the most efficient and less labor intensive program out there! Because you have an assigned seat on our airline does not mean that you are guaranteed a seat next to your child. The computer assigns seats and unfortunately, not always together. The only ?? I have is this. How are you going to meet your "on time" demands? Boarding children with car seats takes up so much time! Per FAA car seats cant impede egress, you need time to secure the car seat, time to strap baby in, time to store extra carry on's, etc etc. If they are not allowed to pre-board with wheelchairs, you will inevitably push late. I, for one, love open seating. Trust me, if the airplanes are on the ground, no one makes money.
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Two comments: Someone said those who are arguing for having preboard for kids probably are abusing the rules. I am one of the ones arguing in favor of it. I have not taken a child on Southwest for over a year but I did take one a few months ago on Aloha, which had both preboard and assigned seats. I'm arguing for what right, not whats good for me. Second, people keep talking about online check-in. Well, thats nice for them maybe if they are starting a trip, but in general I do not have internet access at my destination so it only works half the time.
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Folks im doing this at home with my BlackBerry so I ask you to forgive any typos. Mr. Weiss, my arms are still tired from moving the chairs the first time. Seriously, I dont know if the SAT gates are in their final state or not. Jeff, I really dont know what else to say.The past year we have examined almost every wa known to man to putfolks on aircraft. These two procedures worked the best. With all due respect, your "facts" are speculation based on skepticism. All along I have been upfront in that folks were sceptical until they tried it. I will also be honest in that we arent infallible, but we made our best judgment. The proof will be in the pudding. To the comment about what will we do if a connecting passenger arrives after boarding has started--I answered this above. Also, the same thing happens under our current system. Have a great weekend folks. Brian
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Brian has a great point: In the long run, people will judge the new system by how it ACTUALLY performs for them rather than how they initially fear it might work out. Southwest has done its homework on this change. If their estimates are accurate, namely that families will be able to sit together, then I hope Southwest has the courage to wait for customer opinion to turn around based on their personal experience. I still recommend an early roll-out of paid priority boarding to allow nervous Nellies to buy peace of mind. As for me, I'll stick with using my A to sit aft of the exit row because that's where the most space tends to be.
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A tip of the hat to Brian. With all of us, including myself, strongly disagreeing with the new policy about pre-boards, he was always diplomatic and respectful. I've been reading the blog 2-3 times a day since this subject started. Wow, i as said on the very first comment, zillions of comments. Again, thanks Brian for your answers, even if I don't understand why you think us frequent flyers want children to board after us in A. Should have had the test hete in MCO....
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As a parent of small children and a person savvy enough to know that you simply MUST check in online to ensure a good boarding group, I applaud this change in policy. I despise the line-camping that the old policy encouraged. I can't tell you how many nasty confrontations I saw between people jockeying for position in the "A" group line. I for one will greatly appreciate being able to check in early online and know that my numbered boarding pass will ensure me a good seat selection at boarding time WITHOUT having to endure ugly arguments and cranky passengers who've been holding their spot since 5am for a 7:30 flight.
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One more thing -- to all the people whining that they can't check in online from the destination leg of their trip, do what we do. Call a relative or friend on the phone and have them check in for you. Then all you have to do is reprint your boarding pass at the airport. Voila! How often are you outside of phone coverage 24 hrs. prior to your return flight?
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EXCELLENT new system. First let me address families with children. Most people dislike change but there is nothing that states you can't sit with your family or your children may not have the front seat. This arangement only states that you will have to apply effort to obtain a A boarding pass with a number that would allow you to be some of the first to board the plane. The price of the flights and still freedom of choice is great. Others have addressed challenges that people don't want to sit next to children. Anyone flying Southwest knows for years Southwest has welcome children so if you aren't child friendly continue to move to the next part of the plane as you currently do when children board first. When you go to the next airline and you have to decide on the seat or you are given a seat, pay more for your ticket and the childs ticket, as usual Southwest will welcome you back with open arms and you TOO can still pick your seat just apply effort. THANK YOU SOUTHWEST
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I like the new boarding procedure with one exception.....families! I always make sure I am a couple of rows behind any family...not because of the noise...noise cancellation headphones take care of that problem..but because I always get the 'seat-kicker' with the 'unaware' parent behind me. I think families with children under 4 should still be preboarded and give the rest of us a chance to stay away from them. With this new policy, I think I would rather have a B pass, and take my chances for two seats together for my husband and myself.
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Thank you, thank you, thank you! Southwest continues to be my favorite airline. I am sick and tired of people with kids getting to cut in line and bring all their extra crap on board taking up storage space other people need. It's annoying enough to be on a flight with little kids screaming or crying or kicking the back of my seat. It was always salt in the wound that parents with kids got to board first - especially when I have been sitting in line for an hour longer than them. Parents, if your kids are that misbehaved and that much of a hassle to travel with that you can't wait in line like everyone else, then maybe you should either not travel with them on a public airline or use a little discipline.