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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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I LOVE THIS NEW BOARDING PROCEDURE, especially no more preboarding for families. I'm tired of familes using their children as an excuse to get the choice seats on an airplane. If it takes so long to get children situated, and you need to get on the plane first, I'm fine with that -- as long as you board from the back of the plane forward!! Now how many of you people with kids are willing to do that? Since you claim you need extra time to get situated (and you need the same amount of time whether you board first or between the As and Bs), by boarding from the back of the plane forward you aren't holding up anybody.
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About time! Sounds great! keep up the good work and "customer first "approach.
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Sadly, no more Southwest for this family. With a family of 5 with 3 children under 7..do you expect the kids to sit scattered throughout an airplane? If the choice is between no preboard for families or assigned seats, assigned seats it is. This is definately a NON FAMILY friendly move!
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I have 2 children--one who will be two the next time we fly and Kate who is 6 months. I am willing to try the new policy once, but I really doubt it will survive the holidays. And I think my situation will help explain why. At 2, DS needs his own seat, which means he needs his carseat. His carseat is a Britax Marathon--its an FAA approved seat which means SWA has to permit me to use it as long as it fits in the seat which it does (barely but it does). However, that thing is huge, and unmovable once the flight takes off. I babywear my daughter and she's safe in a sling so we board her as a lap child--that means we won't be able to board with Group A. By the time we board, the window seats will be taken up. If someone isn't nice and no one volunteers to move when we board then DS car seat will be in the middle seat blocking the hapless person sitting in the window seat. That person is stuck for the entirety of the flight. (I think on seeing the carseat hopefully even a curmudgeon would move but I can't be sure). It takes a while to strap that darn thing in--I'm presuming that B wouldn't start boarding til families were done so that isn't really that beig a deal. Also consider, baggage. Parents need to pack a lot of stuff to keep their toddlers happy--toys, food, formula, diapers, wipes. Parents who can't preboard will be holding up the line while they stow their stuff, and the other passengers better hope that there's actually space near us for us to stow our stuff. Because we pack 2 bottles in the diaper bag and the formula can in the carryon in case of emergency (it amazes me how often those emergencies have arisen). If we're landing, and she's chowed through her bottles but there's another 10 minutes before we're down, Kate will scream the entire time. Same if DS gets tired and wants Goodnight Gorilla that's several rows away while the beverage cart is rolling. Add several families like us on a completely booked holiday flight and everybody is going to be pretty miserable. On airlines with assigned seating, preboard isn't as essential b/c we can select our seats ahead of time to ensure that DS gets a window seat and that we're in the first boarding group (most airlines load the back first even though its the least desirable) and able to stow our stuff directly overhead..
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I really really like the idea of boarding in numerical order: a home run. And a great idea is that I heard is that "parents" with kids will board AFTER the first group has boarded: a master stroke. And even better idea would be to provide at least one adults only (18+ age) flight each day: that would be a big incentive for your business travelers.
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wow. reality and what the future promises is not very encouraging when so many members of a so-called civilized society display a truly disturbing, dystopic lack of compassion or empathy for others, especially for children -- mysanthropic dead hearts and cruel minds truly worthy of the most cynical self-involved narcissists a superficial culture has ever produced. shame on southwest for completely proving their allegiance to the republican screed of greed & profits over people once and for all.
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YAY! No more pre-boarding for families! No more irresponsible parents with they're screaming children getting special privileges. I LUV you Southwest. All of you parents who are crying just like your children do during a flight, go ahead and fly another airline. Hey, I know, you can use the hefty tax breaks that your family nets you to pay for those expensive flights! Have fun!
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Sounds like this will be a process that will cause more frustration and anxiety to parents. Frustrated parents = fussy children = miserable passengers.
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Nice "Bill". You have obviously never procreated and now we all know why. Or maybe you just left the responsibility of child rearing to the person who had enough patience and compassion to handle energetic young children. As someone who understands that taking a young child on a trip is inherently difficult, I will no longer fly SWA until they reverse this lapse of judgment.
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I have enjoyed flying on your airline for the last 10 years (while I was childless.) I am amazed to hear that Southwest, which used to have a reputation for great customer service, is getting rid of the first preboarding for parents with small children. We flew American back in December with our then 2 month old child. They let us preboard early (not after the first 30 customers) so we could get the babyseat situated. It was extremely useful even on an airline that offers reserved seating. If this continues to be Southwest's new customer service policy, I will no longer be buying any tickets on your airline.
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I think this is a really great idea. Its something that Southwest is known for and should be continued in this new and improved way. What I really don't like is the fact that on Oct 2nd, you will not be letting people with young children board first. People that fly Southwest know to expect this and now you will undoubtably lose many "family" customers because of this. Your (not so) low fares will not help this. I know, I have a family, and this is disheartening.
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Re the discontinuation of the family preboard option. Why must it be all or nothing? Modify the policy, don't eliminate it. When my daughter travels alone - as she does frequently - with a 20-month old, she also has a car seat, a diaper bag, and a stroller. It takes lots of time, effort, and stress to get all of that stuff stored and still keep tabs on the toddler. Also, when I am on business travel, I love knowing that the kiddos are mostly in one place, so that I can choose another seat far away! However, when I'm an "A" and see large groups of able-bodied adults and big kids boarding because they have one baby or toddler in the group, it is most annoying. And by the way, I think boarding is now going to take much longer with babies/toddlers and their accessories sprinkled throughout the boarding lines. So I'm proposing this: Keep the pre-board age limit to 4 and under especially if a car seat is involved. - if the youngest kid is 5 or older, he/she is quite capable of walking onto a plane. Then - and here's the important part - limit the number of pre-board accompanying adults to two only. If two parents can't manage their own brood, regardless of size, they shouldn't be flying with them! Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Fred and Aunt Betty, can board with the rest of us. But SWA then needs to enforce the policy!!
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Great idea, SW. I'm also pleased at how you did your homework first. Here's a manual trackback: http://www.allbusiness.com/marketing-advertising/relationship-marketing/4967437-1.html
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I am very disappointed by Southwest's decision to eliminate the families with children board first. Now I have to board with a carseat and a 3 yo and a 1 yo in tow. It should be fun trying to install a carseat with these 2 squirmers with the hoards of people trying to get by. an then trying to find seats togehter will cause shifts of passengers already in seats. It will definately delay takeoff times. If I didn't already have my tickets I'd go to a different airline. As for the assigned seats, I have always been a fan of other airlines that let you go online and pick your own seats. I haven't seen that it takes that long to board. In fact, one of the reasons we have always avoided Southwest in the past is beause of lack of assigned seating.
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Hooray on your new boarding policies -- especially the change to family pre-boarding. You've come up with a fair alternative for the families and now, I won't be so very irritated watching 6-10 adults boarding before the A group because they are all traveling with a single 4-year old.Keep up the good work
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I was excited about moving to Chicago and being able to fly SWA at least once a month with my toddler and husband to visit his grandparents in other Midwestern states. I was impressed with the family pre-boarding policy in effect. I felt like SWA appreciated how difficult it is to fly with small children and that the airline would make parents' (and fellow passengers') lives easier. With this change, there is not a chance in hell I will set foot on a Southwest plane. It's very nice that "switching babies" works for one of the parents here, but my toddler is a two-person job, and better those two people be his parents than me and a stranger. Flying is stressful enough. Since i'm already paying for my child's seat to install his carseat and get him settled (a fifteen-minute process when he *couldn't* walk on his own), I'll go with the airline that *assigns* me a seat so at least if we don't preboard, I know where I'm sitting. Bad move, Southwest. Sugar-coat it all you like, but you've just lost five regular customers (since my mom won't fly with you either.)
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As a RR member and loyal customer since 4/03, I am glad open seating will remain. I understand the concerns that families have with the new policies, however I suggest giving it a try before vowing "never to fly SWA again". SWA is the best airline in the skies and on the ground (dress policy notwithstanding 🙂 ). Keep spreading the "LUV".
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Hi Heather, I'm the customer who "switches babies" and I totally understand what you mean! Toddlers are wonderful precious little things, but a TON of work! (And let's face it, when they are unhappy, NOBODY is happy!) If we are halfway through our flight, and my 2 year old becomes antsy, her daddy can take over and vice versa. It's a change of scenery for her and her father has his own little games and voices and things that he does to make her laugh and entertain her. It works really well! It couldn't hurt to give it a shot. Let's face it it - traveling with a toddler is never a walk in the park, but it can be very enjoyable with a good strategy in place. 😉
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As an Employee...and a PROUD employee of SWA, I must say I am not suprised by what I have read. The sad thing is, everyone has their reasonings. Tall people believe they are the only ones to sit in an exit row. Parents with children think they should ALWAYS get to pre board. Business travelers think they should have the pick first because they are solo travelers and are the bank of our company. The truth is, everyone is. Every Customer of ours is VERY IMPORTANT. I was recently on a trip with my family. My husband, 17 yr. old daughter, 13 yr old son and my 2 year old son. (yea, quite a spread there lol) Of course being Employees, we were last to get on board. I was very happy to be on board but at that time, there were no seats together for me to sit with my 2 year old. No one was exactly willing to promptly give up a seat either. But you know what? Our FABULOUS flight attendants came through for me! And they will for you too! It did not matter that I was an employee. They did not know this. They helped get a seat together for my son and I and off we went....for an on time departure! There will always be someone who is not happy. No one person/company is going to make everyone happy. As far as the families concerned about pre boarding, you still will board early.....in front of other people who are just as important. (remember, i'm a parent with a small kid too) Even if families board after group A, there are plenty of seats together I PROMISE. Don't knock it until you have tried it! Also, You, our awesome Customers, have luved us for a reason. Don't you know by now that we are here to server you? To do the best we can for you? We all know our Customers are our bread and butter! Just give it a try! You will probably find out it it much easier to chase down a 2 yr. old in the play area, instead of standing in line waiting. Happy flying to all, and remember, the aisle and window seats arrive the same time the middle row does. 🙂 P.S. I wish everyone had all their facts straight about our policy before rambling and complaining. 🙂
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anyone ever counted the rows of seats on a Boeing 737? How many window seats and aisle seats there are? I'm just curious. BOARDING GROUP A IS NOT THAT LARGE! Please think about it before popping your top. You have always trusted SWA to do the right thing, then trust us now.
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I am a frequent flyer with Southwest. I fly two to four times a month with them. I actually experienced their "new" system in a trip to Dallas, where I had a layover in San Antonio. The whole process I found to be completely dumb. We were given numbers but no one really knew where to stand so we all boarded just like before (A group). And, the attendant taking the tickets really didn't do anything to correct us. She really didn't want to enforce people lining up in order. This whole thing is just a trick to get families with small children to board with everyone else, which is just plain wrong. Although I am a frequent flyer (and I hate flying), I hold nothing against families with small children. Anyone who thinks that they should get on board a plane before a small child shouldn't even be getting on plane in my opinion. The fact that Southwest goes against the value of placing paramount importance on a child's safety is really disturbing. I guess it is just a sign of the times where everyone just cares about getting theirs and forget everyone else. I will definately be looking to use other airlines besides Southwest as my company pays for my airline tickets anyways.
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Brian, Sorry your arms are tired from moving chairs, but with your comment is sounds as if you only moved chairs and not removed any? It was sure a nightmare in SA over the summer months and no where to sit compared to before. I am glad SWA fought back with SA and their trying to bully you to the new terminal they are building, 3000sqft less and higer rent. That is another reason why I wish the test would have been in BWI, MDW, or TPA as they have modern facilities and SAT does not and the new terminal if SWA went was going to give you 3000sgft smaller. The true test will be rolling this out in time for the holiday travel, I think that will be the true test. Thanks for your reply and please do not remove seats, just move them around and easy on the power stations. Plus use the boarding poles, cleaner sleeker look and better that the long numbered ballet style line up. Thanks B P Heiss
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Brian, Your FA's do a wnderful job, they actually make the money for you as they are the face of LUV...I am just very disturbed with the comments of some of these people out here. Last I checked I was a kid too and I also had to be born and grow up. Some of these people's views sicken me and hope they can afford a piper jet and air taxi, then they will not have to fly with kids and I bet 90%4 are spoild rotten ones who ran wild and were exactally complaining about what they did as a kid. Yes we do have a few out there that cheat the system. Next year my youngest turns 4 and my oldest is 21 and 6 inbetween and we always fly SWA when we can and you know what, we will continue as we do buy the tickets for the car seat s to be used as their lives are more precious that a bump in the air and having them harmed. the FA's will continue to help those of us who need to be together, but I can tell ya as they get older they like to sit away from mom and dad. I love your airline and no one is perfect, but you are all trying to do your best. It is a changing society and it will continue to change, but Luv will still be in the smiles and attitudes for the great employees of SWA and I look forward to our next family flight. Keep up the good work and I bet if you notice problems and see fixes SWA will get it done. Looking forward to Turkey Day and that mess. I just hope everyone takes a deep breath and just have open minds and smile, we could be in a country that doesn't allow girls in schools and other opressions. God Bless America and God Bless SWA and some of the kindess folks in the Airline Industry. One thing we all need to keep in mind is that SWA is a wonderful eample of people who may or may not be having the greatest day in their life, but you never see it on the face of an SWA employee, a little sugar goes a long way and I love how SWA prides it self as looking at everyone from an infant to a grandparent and inbetween as someone who should be honored and respected and smiled upon. I think we can use a little LUV training in our lives. Thanks Brian and Herb and Gary and Collen for all you do to motivate your folks and make SWA so special. B P Heiss
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BP, Thanks to you for being our Customer and friend! To answer your questions about the SAT seating area, I don't know if this is the final version for the gate areas or not. The resason we chose SAT for the tests in the first place is that the station is big enough to offer the necessary variety we needed (a mix of longhaul and shorthaul flights and a mix of leisure and business travelers), but it is small enough that we could control the experiment. Brian
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Great point Tamra! I have NEVER had a problem getting two seats together, and those flight attendants are the BEST ever! Thank goodness for another mother of a 2 year old to FINALLY agree with me! Boarding last works better for me! 😉 Why make them sit in a cabin for an extra 25 minutes? That's torture for them! Nicole, a dedicated SWA applicant
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I am thrilled that you still have open seating and am sure that the new procedure will work with precision. There is no reason why families should have boarded first, children traveling alone and handicapped have a reason for boarding first. My concerns are for a company in Phoenix called BoardFirst. It is my understanding that you have a law suit against them, for which I agree with entirely. It does not seem fair to me that there is a business that will get Boarding Passes for you. When I apply for my Boarding Pass I must compete with a business that is set up to retrieve passes for many people at the same time. It appears to me, that this business is profiting from the SW web site. Is this fair or does it defeat the purpose of Boarding Passes? For those of us, who claim our own Boarding Passes, as we travel across the country, this appears to give BoardFirst customers a clear advantage to the higher numbered passes. Is there something that we, as Frequent Flyers of SWA, can do to assist you in this lawsuit. What is to keep other companies in other states from doing the same thing and charging more? In time, will Boarding Passes only become available through companies like BoardFirst? This is of great concern to me, as I see Boarding Passes becoming "BIG BUSINESS".
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As a mother flying with a small child on October 2, the day this policy goes into effect, I have to say boo to Southwest! You have made this policy change regarding family pre-boarding without addressing the on-line check in policy. When flying with an infant, I am barred from checking in on-line, and therefore, assured I will not be in the A group, and may not be able to sit with both my husband and my child. I chose Southwest when I made my reservation 5 weeks ago because of the old family boarding policy. Nice bait and switch. The new policy goes the complete opposite way, and now discriminates against families with small children. When I can check in 24 hours in advance like everyone else, it won't matter, but until then, I won't be flying Southwest again.
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Finally a couple of comments that make it appear someone from SW is still reading this. Seems like when customers started to disagree with the new policy, they dropped out. We were told initially that comments on an earlier blog like this helped to decide the policy, but now negative comments that should have at least the same weight are not being read? I was not even aware that there was a blog here earlier and ran across it by accident. Perhaps many of the people (including parents) who are more impacted by this are not blogging because they are busy elsewhere? Instead you seem to have gotten a nice sample that includes many young singles with questonable judgement that seriously seem to think people will have kids and plan a trip because they can get on a plane three minutes earlier than they can? Some of this stuff is bordering on weird. I also seriously question the comments above from people implying they travel a lot and others are an inconvenience. I travel a lot. I no longer care about view windows. I no longer care about the front or back of the plane, the few minutes difference is nothing. I don't care about an aisle seat cause I don't have incontenence problems and for actual honest-to-gosh frequent travelers like me the only preference is its nice not to have to sit next to a stranger if possible because the seats are narrow. Note that for those young singles complaining about kids, they bought one ticket while the family of four bought four. I believe four tickets represents more revenue to SW so maybe, just maybe, SW should pay attention a little more to the comments from parents above. And some of those parents, like me, also travel alone alot too. I still fail to understand why whoever is at SW responsible for suggesting these changes is mixing up the boarding pass number/lettering issue with the issue of pre-board for kids. They are totally separate. I have to imagine if the two were not mixed together there would be an even louder and clearer negative response to eliminating kid preboard.
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325 comments and counting, and still not one parent who was unable to find seats together during the San Antonio test. It seems that Southwest accurately reported the workability of the new procedure. Pre-boarding was a security blanket, comforting but not actually necessary. Every parent knows what a fuss erupts when you take that security blanket or favorite stuffed toy away. The fuss here will likely subside as everyone gains experience with mid-boarding and results trump the initial fears. People who still think they need the security blanket will likely be able to buy an "A" before too long. Or they can do what everyone else does: check in online or have a friend do it for you. (You can print your boarding pass at the airport, even if your friend checked you in from 2000 miles away 22 hours earlier.) The lap child limitation is significant and needs to be fixed. As a work-around, perhaps one should not add the lap child to the reservation until AFTER checking in online? Just stop at the counter for a boarding pass for the infant to go with your "A". Can any SWA employees here comment on whether this will work?
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Tamra, Thanks for speaking up. Just one thing.. an A boarding group will now be 60 pax ... up from the 45 now.
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*sigh* Brian, I'm not here to get into a pissing match with you about whose "facts" are more valid -- yours are based on questionnaries completed by those in the midst of experiencing the changes who chose to participate in your survey, while mine are based on the responses of those who have chosen to comment on this and numerous other blogs/message boards. Neither sampling is scientifically valid, so ... whatever. But one undeniable fact is that I have at least twice asked you some very simple, very direct, very specific questions about these changes, and you have danced around the answers at every opportunity, apparently assuming that "Just try it -- everybody we asked really loves it" is a universally valid answer. On the bright side, you're clearly in the right line of work. Just keep sticking to those talking points and you're sure to go far.
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Yes Tamara thank you for participating in this. I am against eliminating the kid preboard. However, what you said confirms my concerns. To quote, "I was recently on a trip with my family. My husband, 17 yr. old daughter, 13 yr old son and my 2 year old son. (yea, quite a spread there lol) Of course being Employees, we were last to get on board. I was very happy to be on board but at that time, there were no seats together for me to sit with my 2 year old. No one was exactly willing to promptly give up a seat either. But you know what? Our FABULOUS flight attendants came through for me!" So, in your words you thought no one would willingly give up their seats. And so you had to appeal to the fiight attendants to help? That is the position you feel comfortable putting your customers in? Begging for seats or appealing to a higher authority for help? I'm beginning to see the point of those who earlier said they thought SWA was trying to drive families away.
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I think the new proceedures are fine except the whole issue of families traveling with small children. As a father of twins you guys are NUTS. The old way I barely had time to get down the gang way buckle thier car seats in and not hold up the whole works. You need to cut families some slack! Traveling with children is not fun not something my wife and I want to do, but since Ian and EmmaLyn's grandparents have failing health it is important to spend some time as we have the opportunity. One of the reasons we traveled SWAir in the past was the help and care given to us and our twins as we travel SWA. Do what is right for the Children adults understand (Although reading some of the posts makes me wonder if some of these adults ever learned it's not about you!) Who ever is making these decisions is obviously never traveled recently with small children. If SWA moves forward with this Anti-Small Children Policy we won't fly SWA. My 0.02, Father of 2 yo twins.
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Theres a lot of comments against eliminating the kid preboard. And yet this topic is buried under a blog title saying nothing about kids. I wonder what kind of comments SW would get under a blog titled: "From now on, we will not treat a 2 year old differently than a 28 year old"
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To NSX - Thanks for your suggestion on how to be able to check in on-line even when traveling with a lap child. A few months ago, I made a reservation on-line and forgot to call SW to have them add "plus infant" to my reservation. I checked in on-line, got an A pass and then went to the airport. At the airport, when I asked to add my son to my reservation, they cancelled my first "check in" and started me all over. Adding my lapchild changed my reservation/status completely. SW started the process all over again and I received a C pass.
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NSX... I asked gate supervisor about adding the Infant after check in and she told me that the current system won't let them modify the PNR to add the PLS INF without checking me out, adding it, and then checking me back in. I'd lose the A. Now... this same supervisor also said that they have seen internet boarding passes that had PLS INF. So... Southwest themselves is really confused on whether you can indeed check in online if you have a PLS INF. I know that the call center says you can't... and honestly I haven't flown recently with my PLS INF to know if you can indeed do it (first time next month after this all kicks in!). One lesson learned though... my wife and I are flying under separate PNRs. That way she can check in online and board with our 3 year old... then I'll take the hit if I can't get an A boarding pass. Lots of good comments here. Hopefully this feedback is being considered. Though, I'm guessing that we aren't going to see any changes prior to roll out. Honestly, I'd still like to see some details from Southwest on how this will be rolled out. Some cities are going to come online with this before others. Why on Earth WN would transition to this just as the holiday season is ramping up is beyond me. Do they feel like there needed to be some more stress travelling this time of year?
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Brian, SMF Jeff has a good point. I'd also like to point out that you've mentioned Susie's prior post as Southwest's way of communicating the new process and the "good things" to come of it. What I find telling is that there is NO MENTION in that post (just a month ago) about the preboard changes. So... obviously this policy was either still in debate or Southwest really didn't want to open it up for debate with their customers. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to get a survey on the options and since the satisfaction survey is not for public consumption, I really don't see any evidence that the preboarding portion of the policy involved any customer feedback. Here is what I'm seeing: 1. Quick shift in policy (preboard implementing 10/2 instead of along with the overall new line up policy). 2. Odd implementation time frame. There seems to be this sense of ugency to do this 4Q2007. Right during the Thanksgiving and winter holiday rush. 3. Southwest is saying that family preboarding is a problem for them. Not sure how the legacy carriers have gotten along for so long. 4. No consideration for lap children -- as evidenced by the earlier response you gave that a solution is being worked on but honestly no ETA on it. 5. "A" boarding group will be 1-60. Was it 60 during the San Antonio tests? Or did you all go with 1-45 there? More PAX on the plane before those families with small children who didn't have a chance to log on EXACTLY 24 hours earlier. 6. No more official word from Southwest. Your comments have been nice to see, but I am not feeling assured that this feedback is actually being considered... but rather controlled so it doesn't get out of hand. I mentioned early on that I would appreciate hearing more details about this policy from the decision makers of the company. Many of us know who Colleen and Gary are and honestly feel that their past messages have contained a sense of rational empathy. A lot of what is going on with this policy just seems counter to the culture we've all become accustomed to.
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Mike and Jeff, My guess is that if all the airports could be reconfigured in time, the changes would roll out concurrently. However, it will take time to intall the new columns at gates around the system. Except for the first week or so, the tests in SAT involved groups of 60; it was a real world test of all the new procedures; and those procedures remain in place in SAT. In fact, we are coming up on two months of those procedures being in place. And Jeff, the surveys were filled out by inviduals who participated in the tests, and they had the entire flight to fill out those surveys--not just in the rushed moments before boarding. Again, this is real world data complied from Customers who were actual participants, not based on speculation about what might or might not happen. I know both of you obviously feel deeply about this, and your comments are being read by our top Leaders. I've tried to answer your questions as best as I can, but with all due respect, the answers aren't what you want to hear. Brian
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See, Brian, the truth is that I don't believe you really have tried to answer my questions. In fact, the only person who has made any effort to do so is nsx at flyertalk.com -- who correctedly points out that an employee of SWA would certainly not be inclined to provide the answer he/she did. One final time, spelled out as plainly and simply as I possibly can: REGARDING THE NEW PRE-BOARD POLICY, 1. What is the rationale for the change? 2. What problems were found in the previous existing policy? 3. How does the new policy alleviate those problems? You will notice that these questions have NOTHING to do with anyone's reactions to the changes. Therefore, citing the responses of survey participants after the fact is not an answer. I've teed it up three times for you now. Time to rip it down the fairway or slink back to the clubhouse.
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Brian, Thanks for the response. I'm a little perplexed by your comment about the "answers aren't what you want to hear". I see that I have communicated my concerns rationally and in a professional and engaged manner. I have taken the time to research this new change of policy and maintain an open mind. However, I am interpreting your response to be that while our comments are being observed, that they appear to not be carrying any weight on the issue. I'd even go so far as to say that I'm feeling that you would prefer that we NOT engage in the dialog on this matter any further. I hope I've misread the comment, but have to say that I'm feeling put off by this process and the half hearted responses. The main articles on this blog do nothing to address the concerns about the family preboard process. In fact, they don't even do anything to publicize the change of policy. I've never posted comments to a blog before. Why this time? Because I do indeed feel deeply about this. Southwest is a great character and has always done things that make sense. I'm guessing that if you checked the e-mail addresses of all the posters you've received, you'll see that a lot of the same folks here have probably never posted before either. As you've indicated, there really isn't any need to continue to monitor the conversation here and I won't be checking back for a response to this post. You have my e-mail address if you feel the need to address my comments.
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Jeff, here is most of NSX's latest comments: 325 comments and counting, and still not one parent who was unable to find seats together during the San Antonio test. It seems that Southwest accurately reported the workability of the new procedure. Pre-boarding was a security blanket, comforting but not actually necessary. Every parent knows what a fuss erupts when you take that security blanket or favorite stuffed toy away. The fuss here will likely subside as everyone gains experience with mid-boarding and results trump the initial fears. People who still think they need the security blanket will likely be able to buy an Ã
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Brian, actually thats kind of surprising to hear you quote something like that and agree with it as an employee of SWA. You quoted : "Pre-boarding was a security blanket, comforting but not actually necessary. Every parent knows what a fuss erupts when you take that security blanket or favorite stuffed toy away." So, that pointedly condescending comment equates a parent trying to do the best for their child to nothing more than a child herself. I hope the senior management you say are reading this don't see that. You are calling parents children? Is that how you see us? Well, this child does not particularly like having my 2 year old walking down the aisle while grownups are hoisting heavy bags over their heads, sometimes unsuccessfully. And I've seen more than a few people get hit by these bags. My 2 year old would not fare as well.
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SMF Jeff, I posted my guess as to the rationale for mid-boarding families (paid priority boarding in the near future), including an explanation of why Southwest would likely not want to 'fess up to that aspect. Would you care to tell us whether you agree with my guess? It's not fair to berate Brian for not answering you if you won't answer me. Although nobody on Southwest has told me anything on this issue, you may have noticed that Brian hasn't posted that my guess is wrong. Besides that, industry analysts expect this sort of change soon. Mike in AZ, do you agree with my guess? Whether I'm right or wrong on the rationale for reducing family boarding priority, posts here confirm that a significant fraction of customers have been irritated by apparent abuse of pre-boarding. Switching families to mid-boarding addresses that concern, and that's undoubtedly part of the reason for the change. Brian, I have another question: Under what circumstances will the size of the A boarding group be reduced from its maximum of 60? Will 60 be normal for an originating flight? Will you just subtract the number of through passengers when deciding how many A's to issue? The more we know about details like this the better we can assure ourselves in advance that everthing will be OK for us with the new system. Julie, if the airport people need to cancel your check-in and re-do it with the infant, try asking them to do it VERY QUICKLY. Preferably with one person removing you from the flight and the other one adding you back within a second or two. Here's why: When your check-in is cancelled, your old "A" goes back into the pool for the very next customer checking in to grab. You want that very next customer to be you. Once you explain this to the person at the counter, he or she may likely take it as an entertaning challenge to be speedy enough to keep your "A". Incidentally, this quirk (removal of someone from a flight puts that boarding pass back in the pool) provides an interesting opportunity to upgrade yourself from a "C". Suppose there are several flights to your destination. Some people at the airport will be changing from your flight to one of those earlier flights. Some of those people will already have A's. Can you see where I am going with this? If you wait until Southwest has cleared standbys (beginning 10 minutes before departure of that earlier flight), you have a decent chance of picking up someone's dropped "A" for your flight. Just explain your plan and ask the counter agent to remove you and check you back in. If you already have a "C" you don't have much to lose. I've only tried this twice, but both times I got an "A". You can read about this and much more in the Southwest FAQ at http://flyerguide.com/wiki/index.php/Category:Southwest_Rapid_Rewards One other question for Brian: Why has Ding been on vacation since Thursday? Did the person who writes the goofy rhyming announcements get sick or something?
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The NSX comments to which I referred are as follows: posted Sept. 21 at 10:46 a.m. "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." and, posted Sept. 21 at 6:38 p.m. "SMF Jeff, didnÃ
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Brian, Cheer up! People are hard to please. I do think it is a bit of a waste of money to change the boarding signs and related items at DTW when you'll be moving next year, but it needs to be done to match the rest of the system. And now a special signature to cheer you up! His cheek Was rough His chick vamoosed And now she won't Come home to roost Burma-Shave and Doesn't Kiss you Like she useter? Perhaps she's seen A smoother rooster!! Burma-Shave Ding! boy Joe 🙂
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Geez David I cant win for losing. Everyone is trying to hyper analyze what I write. I quoted NSX because Jeff had contended that NSX supported his position Brian
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Hmm, as a new mother, I agree, I certainly won't be travelling Southwest now. I can already feel the "air rage" coming on at the image of people cutting ahead of me while I'm folding my stroller,then, when on board, being the jerk who slows everyone down by putting my car seat in. However, I previously didn't fly Southwest because I loathed the cattle call and lining up an hour early as a single person. So I might actually fly as a single person now. Though probably not, b/c the security line at LAX is always an hour or more for SWA and 15 minutes for all other airlines. Maybe SWA could do what British Airways does... have the car seats PRE-INSTALLED as a SERVICE. (I'd pay $25 for that!) But it appears no U.S. based airlne company is interested in providing real solutions for their family customers.
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You really should read things more closely, Brian. I never claimed NSX supported my position. I merely said he/she was the only one to offer a plausible response to my question. And NSX, I have no idea whether or not your theory is correct. I'm no expert on the subject, and I don't really see the relevance of whether or not I agree with your possible explanation. The point was simply that your explanation was one of the few -- if not only -- ones being offered. Again, I'm worn out over the pissing match this has become, and I sympathize with the position in which you must find yourself, Brian. I love Southwest, and I will continue to fly it. I'm just torqued that changes in policy with which I take issue have not been accompanied by a rational explanation for their adoption, that numerous requests for an explanation have been met with a song and dance routine, and that Southwest's communications team didn't think enough of us to bother to come up with anything better as a response.
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Brian, its just that I'm frustrated that SW seems to have thrown this "add-on" sort of idea of deleting pre-board into a change of policy. Frankly, I don't care much about that other policy change but it seems like this "add-on" was not directly vetted or addressed as far as I can tell. On a lighter note, I kind of disagree with an earlier thing said about the mad scramble for seats. I do not see any such scamble when I fly. People seem rather orderly to me. And I am even more confused by comments about people waiting in the the A, B, C lines. Why would people complain about something voluntary? If someone has an A card, what are they in line for? Why? Why do they stand there? Really, I don't get it. They are going to get a nice seat no matter what. This is also mostly true for B. The only reason I stand in line at A or B is because I know I'll be sitting for the next hour or so. I just don't get why anyone would complain about something so voluntary. Are they trying to save the extra two minutes getting off the plane? Its that important to them? As I said, things are different if you have kids and are trying to assure a spot next to them, don't want them to get stepped on by others, and need the extra couple of minutes to put the car seat in place so I'm not having to juggle the car seat, keep the kid out of the way of others all while trying to get space for the extra items children need. And I travel a bit and I really only remember once seeing a group purposely taking advantage by using a baby to get their whole group of 7 or 8 on. I believe my experiences must be different than others.
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I hope you will go back to allowing families to pre-board. Then those of us that look forward to a quiet flight can clearly see where the children are sitting and choose a seat away from them. I check in early to get an "A" boarding pass so I can get an aisle seat near the front of the plane. The last thing I would want is a child or parent holding a child sitting next to me on a long flight. With this new policy, taking an aisle seat in front of the plane just increases the risk that a parent and one or two children will take the window and aisle seat. I flySouthwest frequently and find the families take up little space. I don't see that the new policy will help the "B" and "C" boarders either.