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Travel Tips...

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SummerWe just recently published some summer travel tips on southwest.com and you can read them here.  To those tips, I'd like to give you some hints and tips about travel from a Flight Attendant's POV (Point of View)! 1 - Luggage:  The travel tips have useful information about luggage, and as a reminder, please don't expand your carryon roller bag because it won't fit in the overhead bins. 2 - Pillows and Blankets:  Southwest Airlines is one of the few airlines that still provides complimentary pillows and blankets for our passengers.  If you need a pillow and blanket, they are usually located in the middle of the cabin.  Please take one of each, so that we have plenty to go around.  3 - Choosing Your Seat: Believe it or not, all of the seats get there at exactly the same time.  If you are a little timid about the bumps during flight, choose a seat up front or over the wing.  Also, please do not put any personal items in the empty seat next to you.  Most of our flights are full, and it will just take extra time if someone wants to sit next to you and perhaps make a love connection. 4 - Portable Electronic Devices and Cell Phones: This includes Game Boys, iPods, MP-3 players, DVD players, laptop computers, BlackBerries, etc...these devices must be completely turned off below 10,000 feet.  We will let you know when you can turn them on and when you must turn them off.  If you choose to use a  PDA during flight, make sure you know how to put it in airplane or game mode.  Also, remember we don't have any headphones on board, so bring your own and enough for your children as well. 5 - Seatbelts and the Seatbelt Sign: When the fasten seat belt sign is on, it is for your safety and the safety of those around you.  summerfunsmall.jpg6 - Inflight Service:  On those very quick flights, we endeavor to get your drinks out to you as quickly and safely as we can.  You can help us by knowing what you want to drink when we come by to take your order.  The Beverage Menu page is at the back of the Spirit magazine in the seatback. 7 - If possible, you may want to use the bathroom before you board! We have two lavatories on board our aircraft, one in the front and one in the back.  With 137 people on board, these lavatories can get busy.  Also remember that, for security reasons, no lines can be formed in the forward part of the aircraft or galley area. 8 - Unaccompanied Minors:  We love these kids!  Please be sure that you arrive early enough to fill out the additional paperwork and pack some things for your child to do.  Also, pack them some snacks, especially if they are going cross-country with us.  If you are going to pick up your child or grandchild, remember it is very difficult for the child to get up the jetbridge full of expectation and not have anyone there to meet him or her, so try to be at the gate before the flight's arrival time.  9 - Traveling with Children: Don't forget, we don't have assigned seats at Southwest Airlines.  So, you can avail yourself of the online checkin process at southwest.com, 24 hours prior to your scheduled departure.  It helps if you have kids to be in the "A" boarding group.  This will ensure that you all have seats together upon boarding.  Also, please be mindful that we don't make money unless we are in the air.  This means that we have to tidy the aircraft in 20-25 minutes while we are on the ground.  If you need a trashbag to put your garbage in, just ask one of the Flight Attendants, and we will be more than happy to provide one to you.  Take these hints and tips to heart and you will have an enjoyable travel experience on Southwest Airlines.  Do you have any tips you'd like to add?  Simply add a comment to share with us and your fellow Passengers.  Have a GREAT trip!
49 Comments
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James, thanks for those travel tips. This doesn't have to do with inflight but with the boarding process. I noticed that a lot of passengers will get in the "A" line drop off all of their carryon lugguage and then leave to go sit down. They do this so they obviously won't have to wait in line. i actually think its quite funny, especially because we are all riding in the same plane that is going to the same destination. people start forming a line an hour before the plane gets to the gate. i urge my fellow fliers... sit back and relax. i think we tend to try to rush ourselves. flying should be a relaxing experience, especially on Southwest. USS BLOG BOY
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With regards to #7. James, do you, and other Flight Attendants, understand that we have to wait in line for up to 45 minutes just to get a decent seat that is not one of the middle ones? Generally people secure a good seat then go the bathroom all while the FAs are barking at us to sit down. Flight Attendants don't get that we CAN'T go the bathroom before we get on the plane.
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I think I'm missing something. I've flown Southwest a few times and sat in a variety of seats. The only vast difference between seats that I've found is the ones in the very front, by the bulkhead. Other than that, they all seem the same to me. Am I missing something? It seems to me that an extra 30-90 seconds taken to get off the plane probably isn't going to make me late if I wasn't already late, if I'm sitting in the middle or back of the plane. Where are these special seats that everyone wants?? I'm just clueless I guess.
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Great post again, James! I can't understand why people walk up to the boarding area long before the plane arrives & they sit or stand & wait. The plane won't get there any faster, & some people may pre-board. Once, when I sat in the first row (right side), I put my carry on in the bin & my purse & camera case underneath my seat (that's the only time my carry on goes in the overhead bin); a flight attendant saw & kindly told me to put my things in my lap. I've put those same things in my lap other times, too, because I thought I was supposed to after that time. They didn't say anything. James, what should I do? I know if we stop suddenly, my purse & camera case can slide forward. If I have them in my lap, though, I'm not sure how safe I feel. I'm just wondering. :) SWA is So Wonderfully Awesome! 🙂
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BATHROOM COMMENT: i usually use the restroom before i wait in line and if by chance i need the restroom again during the flight i simply get up and head to one of the restrooms on the plane. Unless the seatbelt sign is on, the flight attendants usually allow their passengers to use the restroom.... USS BLOG BOY
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I once had a flight that left BWI around 8am and my ride had to drop me off extra early. I had checked in the day before, so I had my "A" boarding pass AND I was 2nd person in line because I was so early that nobody else was at the gate yet. Let me tell you - WELL WORTH IT - I was flying to LAX with stops in Indianapolis AND Vegas, but I got to fly SWA First Class the whole way. "What's that?!?" you ask?? "Southwest doesn't have a firstl class, silly!" you say! HA - It's called Row 11 (I think) - the Emergency Exit Row! Ya, when I would get the "B" boarding pass (all the time!), I would just kick back and join the B line at the end before they called the "C" group. But man, for that one time when I had the chance to fly SWA First Class - it was well worth the 1 hour and 48 minutes I spent sitting on the ground before boarding! 🙂
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In response to Sam Smith, as long as you checkin online 24 hours beforehand and get yourself an "A" Boarding Pass, you WILL get a good seat. I guarantee it. Heck, I've been the last "A" person to board and still gotten my pick of many desirable seats in all parts of the plane. Even the time I was late and went in the middle of the B's, I still got a decent seat. So really, as long as you plan to checkin 24 hours beforehand, you really have nothing to worry about. And just as a fun tidbit, Monday I took two flights on Southwest, exploring Columbus for a day thanks to an amazing DING! fare. When I bought lunch in Columbus, my total was $7.37. Coincidence?
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James great article. It is always good to be reminded about what to do and what to expect. There are a coupld of things that I have observed about the boarding process. What people don't understand that if you have an A boarding group then that means that you are going to get a seat that is either an aisle or a window seat. I was on a flight from Baltimore to Phoenix and this poor old man was in the "A" boarding group and he was sitting down next to the line and these other people came and barged their way in front of him. When it was time to get on the plane everybody was standing up and he went to get in line and they literally yelled at him that he was cutting in the line. This poor man was so confusedabout it . I went over to the gate agent and told her the situation. She grabbed him and let him preboard. I love Southwest and how they truly love their customers. And I love how they board. Everybody gets a seat.
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Sam - I understand your frustration with wanting one of the best seats. Typically if you are in the A or B boarding group, you will have either an aisle or window seat. On a 737-300/700 we have 23 rows of seats, 6 across. So, that means you have 92 opportunities to get a window or aisle seat, this is assuming that the flight is originating in your city and isn't already full of "thru" passengers. But as someone mentioned earlier, you now have the freedom to check in online 24 hours prior to your departure and try for an A boarding card. In addition, if you have a web enabled phone, you can check it at mobile.southwest.com and then when you get to the airport, just go to a kiosk or see a gate agent to have them re-print your boarding card. Leah - If you sit on the front rows, you really don't have any place to put your luggage and carry-ons except in the overhead bin and that is where they should go. In case of an aborted takeoff or something like that, you wouldn't want to have anything in your lap that might fly off and hit you or someone else. This is why we don't let you put your laptops or any other items in the seatback pockets during takeoff and landing. Everything must be in the proper case and stored in an overhead bin or underneath the seat in front of you leaving the area around your feet completely clear. James Malone MDW FA
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Thanks, James. I want to make sure I understand-I put everything in the overhead bin, or put my bag there & put my camera case & purse underneath my seat, right? I don't often sit in the first row, but sometimes I like to for a change. 🙂
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Leah - you have it exactly right. If you sit on that front row, you don't really have an "under the seat" area as that belongs to the person behind you. Have a good day! James MDW FA
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As an adjunct to using the overhead bins, people should make every effort to put their roller bags in perpendicular to the aisle. I flew on another airline (free ticket) and the FAs made the announcement to put roller bags in perpendicular in the overhead bins. Doing this can get much more up there! I also love the "first class" seats on the left side of the plane. That extra foot or so makes a huge difference for me as well as the seats in front of that row not reclining.
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James, Great post, but you forgot an important one: 10 -- Windows: Don't forget that SWA follows a strict policy that ALL windows should remain completely rolled up while in flight, and at no time should you extend your arms out the windows to wave at people on the ground. Wanting to be fully safe, Kim External Blog Boy 🙂
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Kim - actually the windows need to remain open and EVERYONE needs to sit by one of the open windows for those RARE instances when our flights aren't full so that the competitors THINK they are full!! Clear as mud? I hope you ALL are having a good week! James MDW FA
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I thought this was a great post - well-written and I luv the SWA humor! I just wanted to pass along kudos that I noticed in the blogs in my local paper: http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/features_parenting_blog/2007/07/captain-we-have.html
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Hey! Where was the tip: FAs need to yell at screaming kids?! "Don't make me turn this plane around!" I don't know the entire story and I'm going to "Google" it now....but we all know...SWA FAs would "assist" in moments of toddler insanity! Oh, and as I instruct my kids, "everyone goes to the bathroom before we ___. (Fill in the blank with get in the car, leave for the train, head to the park, get in line for a ride, get on the airplane). When you see a restroom nearby, better use it before getting in line. Same rule holds true for many amusement parks - once you are in line for the ride, can't leave and return to the same spot. Just have to plan ahead and as you stroll to the gate, look for the restroom and use it. Thanks for the tips! Jenny Frasco
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Jenny, Great advice. One point in particular, "...When you see a restroom nearby, better use it before getting in line...", is something that Brian has adapted to his own situation and has been a hard and fast rule for him for years. His version: "when you see a candy corn vendor nearby, better stop and stock up before getting in line." Kim EBB 🙂
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Kim and Jenny, that's not quite true. I don't buy candy corn just anywhere, I seek out candy corn vendors who know how to handle this fine commodity. Blog Boy
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Regarding travel tips, my only complaint about Southwest (after flying so much I get companion passes), is I wish the Flight attendants would be a more pro-active about what goes in the overhead bins. Announcements just don't get it, and they fill up with plenty of things that SHOULD go under seats. That is one thing I noticed about Jet Blue. They go up and down the aisles poiling the overheads untill everone has boarded. It helps prevent carryons from having to be checked.
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You must be lucky to have a job that pays you more to travel for free than you get from your salary. I always dream of having that kind of job but it seems it will only drive me nuts trying so very hard.
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Leslie - I understand your frustration. Believe me when I say, "We feel it too!" The last thing that we want to do is to check your bags. Typically we don't have any problems on the 737-700. If people would put their roller bags in perpendicular to the aisle with the wheels out, they fit great that way on a 700. We tend to have more of an issue with carryon's on the 737-500 and the 737-300 where they won't fit that way, but have to go in the bin horizontal to the aisle. Also, when we go through the cabin to monitor what is going on in the overhead bins, and attempt to move the items that should go under the seat, laptop computer bags, backpacks, etc..etc...the comment we get is that it takes up their foot room. We try again and again with announcements and policing but at what point do you want to make someone upset when they don't want to put it underneath the seat in front of them. I think if everyone would adhere to the rule of 1 carryon and 1 personal item that would help alleviate some of the problem. I hope you all are having a good weekend! James MDW FA
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I agree with Leslie Ann above ("...I wish the Flight attendants would be more proactive about what goes in the overhead bins...") I've been on a number of flights when the majority of the passengers have wished that the FAs would stuff a couple of the rowdy kids and complaining adults into the overhead bins, too. Kim Who Never Checks His Bag Full of Candy Corn 🙂
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I have a few suggestions to make Southwest (SW) run a little smoother plus generate more revenue. I recently travel from Glasgow to London. Booked a flight on Easyjet. Easyjet is very similiar to the low cost, unreserved seating SW has...BUT, you have an option of paying $15 o/w more for advanced seating. That meant they let the assisted passengers go on first, then the advanced seating passengers go, then the A and B and C passengers. Also, they were very strict about only letting kids in the assistance line that were under 10 years old NO older and having only two adults with them...., no aunts and uncles or grandparents. If you were a kid older than 10 years old, one parent had to go in the A,B or C line with them. The preboarding rules are really getting out of hand with SW. Even older people, that appear to be in great health, but are over 55 are taking advantage of that rule. Come on, SW ...have some backbone and start practice what your policy states. Also if you what to generate revenue for your stockholders. Create advanced seating costs. Thanks.
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Just back from roundtrip cross-country on SWA. All airports as mobbed and chaotic as media is reporting -- security lines hellishly long, delays inevitable. Throughout I noticed my relief upon reaching SWA gates for my flights. SWA employees were in every airport obviously overwhelmed thru no fault of their own -- had to explain to arriving people ad nauseam exactly why this or that flight was delayed, meantime their phone ringing, they were making repeat announcements paging passengers who hadn't shown up for departure -- all while their desk were surrounded by irritated people w/ questions. SWA employees were doing approximately six things at once in 7 mobbed airports. I never saw an SWA employee get impatient or behave in any way other than calmly and respectfully -- professionally. I've used no other carrier since discovering Southwest. Employee morale is for me a signal indicator of employees' mutual AND personal investment in their carrier and its customers. Those w/ good morale and a positive team ethic tend not to cut corners. I trust SWA employees' commitment to my safety, and I know any question I have will be thoroughly, courteously and patiently answered. And -- most important to any of us -- I trust that SWA employees in cockpits, too, are personally invested in my safety because they're personally invested in the success of SWA.
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Please do not forget the Customers who need curb to gate wheelchair assistance. It is best for the Customer to be with a companion or family member for the entire check in and boarding. I am floored by the children of parents who stop, drop and roll . There are many times when our Customers who are not familiar with all the changes become overwhelmed and it would be soothing for them to be with a family member rather than somebody who is not as able to sooth and assure them. We do a great job but really when it comes to it why would you dump a family member or friend and think with our Summer traffic all will be well and they will be fine? Help us love your parents by loving them first.
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I just wanted to let everyone know how good SWA was to my family . You see we lost our Mother in June 2006, and the day we buried her my brothers & sisters made a promise on her grave that we would all return to her home in Nebraska the following summer 07. Now this was know small undertaking. my mother had eight children I am the last one . I have 3 three boy's and like most of my family it was there first time to fly I traveled with my sister and brother and his daughter and my girlfriend also joined us. We left from Birmingham,Al to Nashville Tenn. and was suppose to fly toDenver but somehow we got routed to Kansas City which turned out to be a nightmare as bad wheather had covered Denver for about the next five hours .. But finally we arrived in Denver late and still had a three hour drive to Bayard Neb. All this aside I want to thank all the staff from Bham to Nashville to Denver yYou people were very nice and went out of your way to make us feel comfortable . One attendent on our flight from Bham to Nashville even called out our family name and told everyone where we were going and what for ..It made all 8 of us feel great . any how after we returned home from a great vacation about a week later I recieved 8 vouchers from SWA because they felt bad for the delay in K,C, I just wanted to let yall Know that we did not expect this in any way because we knew that you can't control the weather. Anyway I just wanted to thank you all And let you know we will be traveling to Reno , Nevada to see me niece next summer around the last week of May . see ya soon Michael Vera
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When I was on my way to MCO last Friday, a lady on my flight from STL (where I changed planes) to MCO was talking on her cell phone when we were fairly close to landing! I don't understand why she didn't wait until we landed. I wish the flight attendants had seen it. P.S. My birthday is this Thursday, & on my cake, it will say "Happy Birthday! SWA LUV." I wanted an SWA plane on it, but I would had to have given them picture & I was afraid I wouldn't get it back. My dad told the lady that I want to work for SWA. 🙂
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I love SWA and have embraced the boarding philosphy, never complaining even if I really goofed and was in the C group. As someone who thankfully has a less grueling schedule now but used to fly at least 2 times a week on Southwest, I was extremely disappointed yesterday upon learning that my flight from San Antonio was undergoing an "evaluation" for a new boarding process. Imagine checking in for your flight at the counter (2 hours and 10 minutes early) and the attendant checks in your child, prints the boarding pass and gets interrupted by another employee needing assistance. A few minutes later my check in is completed. With the new boarding process this means that my daughter is now assigned a "position" number that is 15 numbers below my own. We are both in the A group however the position numbers determine when we board within the A group. I questioned the gate attendant because I was concerned about my daughter boarding and being out of my sight and asked if I could just keep her with me and board together. She said that my daughter would be ok and should board with her own number group. I got an annoyed look when I chose to keep her with me but nothing was said. I sympathize with the gate attendant, she was doing what she was told I'm sure but this is far from what I have come to expect from Southwest. Just in case you have an infant you still want to be in the A group if you fly from San Antonio. Preboarding for families with children under 4 has changed to "family boarding time" and happens after the A group has boarded. There were a lot of unhappy parents at my gate yesterday. Hopefully this will not be adopted as the new process, it's really not any faster from what I saw and experienced.
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To me...GOOD SEATS means I can actually sit with the person I'm traveling with!!!!!! AND..... I understand SWA wants to do things on "the cheap" BUT darn...would it add that much weight to the plane to at least put some music on board for the flights from BWI to SEA????? Not wanting to be delayed in the security lines I find I am not taking along a CD player (yeah, I can't afford an MP3) ..so it was distressing to find on that long of a flight there was NO music I could plug into??? I really understand not wanting to do this on much shorter flights BUT how about some complimentary music on long flights? And let's get real here.....you know you don't have that many pillows and blankets on board because they add weight to the plane! By the way....speaking of blankets...do you keep enough on board to use in containing a possible explosive device? I saw a training film where the device was moved to a Least Risk Bomb Location on the plane and covered with wet blankets and surrounded by luggage....can you still accomplish that task with the few blankets on board?
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Stephanie - I feel your pain. Just recently the TSA came out with a new directive that ALL electronic devices must come out of their cases for inspection and not just laptops. In addition, you can buy a very inexpensive MP3 player from SanDisk or some other company for under 40.00. Check out www.bestbuy.com (no, I don't get any kickbacks! 🙂 ) As far as blankets are concerned, we have plenty on board in case we need to use them for the above mentioned reason. I personally, wish we would get rid of them all together. When people come onboard asking about blankets, I tell them movie theaters and airplanes, bring a jacket! 😉 As far as the exact count of blankets and pillows, I think we have 2 dozen or so on each aircraft. Regards, James Malone MDW FA
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In regards to #4. One thing that I've done to allow more productive time on the short trips from Dallas to Austin is put my tasks in a Paper Planner. This way, I don't have to wait for the announcement to get out my laptop. I currently use the Bubble Planner to keep all of my goals and tasks. This has given me an extra 30 minutes of productive time on every trip.
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Flight attendents wear gloves when collecting trash for their protection. Why don't they wear them when serving drinks for our protection?
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Larry - I personally don't wear gloves when I pick up garbage. I am just a very, very frequent hand washer. Believe it or not, we've had this very discussion recently on a Flight Attendant message board. We have discussed different methods of delivering the drinks with the "claw" method, and the side method etc...the side method is very difficult with the trays that we use because the drinks are so close together. I use the "claw" method which is grabbing the cup around the rim with a napkin. This seems to work for me. When you go out to eat at a restaurant, do your servers wear gloves when serving you? Would you find it a little unnerving if they did? Just my thoughts. What do you all think? James MDW FA
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Hello James - If a restaurant wait person handed me a drink by the claw method I would say something to them. That is not an acceptable food handling procedure. I understand your dilemma. I will just continue trying to pick the spot where your finger tips did not touch the rim......... Regardless, I LUV SWA , your service and people are always the best......... Larry
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I like seeing the Flight Attendants wear gloves when they pick up cups. I think it's a good idea. James, I too, am a frequent handwasher. I also carry hand sanitizer in my purse. If someone could make lids small enough to fit the cups, would using those ever be a possibilty? I just had a thought, though; what if the lids come off when you hand the drinks over? Hmmm, maybe my idea wasn't so great.
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The lids are a GREAT idea for kids...BUT they take some time to put on. So, on those very short flights you wouldn't have time to place lids on every cup. Good idea, but not very practical! James MDW FA
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Oh, yes, I don't know why I didn't think about the time it would take to put the lids on. Ahhh, that was a dumb idea! 😞
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I fly SWA a lot during my commute from L.A. to New Hampshire. I like SWA, but I loathe the festival seating arrangement. SWA occasionally mentions that it's testing assigned seating, but the latest I heard was the whole effort had been abandoned. I flew from Manchester to Las Vegas on Friday. At the Manchester gate, the agent moved a tall teenager to the front of the A group five minutes before boarding. Several of the leading A group passengers - including two men who topped out at more than six feet tall themselves - cried foul. The gate agent refused to address the customers' complaints. His action took two exit row seats away from passengers who played by the rules. (Of course, the flight was an hour late leaving, too.) I was about sixth in line for the A group, and this tall kid and I checked in right next to each other. He could have played by the rules and stood in the A group line with the rest of us. Instead, he had the gate agent make his rudeness official. I've been flying SWA dozens of times a year since 2003, but I've recently had much more pleasant experiences at similar price points with JetBlue. I hope SWA continues to examine assigned seating. And I genuinely hope that SWA gate agents stop rewarding rude behavior.
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We are going to be traveling in January of next year with 4 children 2 3 8 and 10 how can i be sure my children will be next to me? We had an issue last time we fle southwest in Febuary of 2006 my 6 year old at that time sat seats away he cried the whole flight.
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Amy - Since all of your children are over the age of 2, I'm assuming that you have purchased a ticket for each of you. You can check in online at www.southwest.com and click on "Check in for flight" 24 hours prior to your departure time. That should pretty much ensure that you each have an "A" boarding card. Be sure to do it as close to the 24 hours as possible as the "A"'s do go rather quick. I hope this helps! I look forward to seeing you and your children on your SWA flight! Regards, James MDW FA
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I just got off the phone with SWA customer service. Boy, that was a waste. All I heard was excuses. My wife and I read on SWA website that when you were traveling to Orlando Fl and staying at a Disney Resort, you could check your luggage straight to the hotel. When we asked about it when checking in at departure, no one at SWA had heard of it. I called their customer service and was told that it didn't exist. Then was told that the Disney Resort had to be located on Disney property to get that service. I was then told that I had to know where on their website we read it, so she could read it. This is service?
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Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that while waiting for a connecting flight out of Austin, there was a rain shower. Our luggage was left outside and when arriving at our destination, many articles in our luggage were wet. Granted, it is soft luggage but SWA should have moved them out of the rain.
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Jim - I'm sorry you feel that way. My family just got back from a Disney Resort / Cruise Vacation and they did infact get our luggage and deliver it directly to our resort. We did stay on Disney property. I would guess what happened was that you clicked on a Disney link that was on our website and then you were taken to a Disney website. I'm sorry you couldn't get the information that you needed. I would encourage you to contact the Disney folks to see exactly where the problem occured, but as far as I know SWA has never offered that service. We do however, have in our jetways in Orlando, FL signage that tells Disney Resort / Cruise Passengers to bypass baggage claim and go directly to the Disney Representative. Regards, James Malone MDW FA
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do you guys have DVD players on the plan my hole family is comeing which is 10 of us and it is going to be a 8 hour flight?
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Savannah - we do not have DVD players on our aircraft, but you are more than welcome to bring one along with you with some headphones. James
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We will be flying SW for the first time in a few weeks. We purchased group tickets for the 10 of us meaning they are paper tickets and we were told we would be unable to check in online due to this. There are 6 adults and 4 children. We don't mind spliting up slightly for seating but there is no way our children (ages 11, 9, 7 and 4) will sit alone. In addition the 7 year old is in a wheelchair so we will be gate checking his chair and carrying him on. We of course plan to arrive at the airport the recommended 2 hours before flight time. What are the odds of us being able to board early enough to sit reasonably close together with at least one adult next to each child?
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J.S. - One adult will be able to board with your 7yo who is in the wheelchair. The other family members with kids, will board between the A & B boarding groups during our family boarding. I hope this help! James MDW FA
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One small correction, if the rest have A boarding passes, they can board with the A group. Depending upon the flight, it is still possible to get an A checking in at the airport.