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Pre Boarding Out of Control

Explorer C

I fly SWA at least one or two times per week to destinations all over the country.  During the last year I have noticed that the number of pre boarders has absolutely exploded with people who appear healthy and many times are young and fit.  I totally understand people with legitimate health issue, but that is clearly not the case most of the time. I am 57 years old and I'm routinely in line with people older than me while very young and capable people are  boarding with no apparent disabilities.  And of course we board the plane to find they have taken the most choice seats on the plane.


Southwest Airlines, please crack down on these people who are clearly taking advantage of the system!  Please!



Re: Pre Boarding Out of Control

Explorer C

I absolutely agree.  


I believe there is a very simple solution.  All preboarders need to be seated in the rear of the aircraft.  Remove the incentive, sitting in the forward, problem solved.  For the truly disabled or elderly, they should be accompanied by SWA personnel to the rear and offboarded in similar fashion.  Frankly, the offboarding will be much quicker in that scenario as well.


I know SWA is in a tough place because of federal regulations.  


Another day every passenger may request preboarding...SWA is forbidden from asking about disability.  Imagine 150 folks standing in preboarding.  



Re: Pre Boarding Out of Control

Aviator C

I have been in your situation, and have also been frustrated. A few tips that help me stay cool while waiting to board:


Take a deep breath

Keep in mind that not all disabilities are noticeable

I don’t want my day to go down a path of frustration, so let it go

Im lucky that I get to wait for boarding instead of having a disability that lets me board a flight earlier


I know this doesn’t answer your question, but realize good things come to those who wait. 


SWA Passenger, Community Champion

Re: Pre Boarding Out of Control

Retired Community Manager



Thanks for sharing - those were some really great thoughts on how to respectfully handle the situation. 


Re: Pre Boarding Out of Control

Explorer B

My son is 2 years old, and just had his 3rd open heart surgery. Unless he takes his shirt off and shows his scars, you would never know he has any type of disability. He only has half of a heart, and anytime he catches a cold or gets sick he is at a much higher risk of being hospitalized or even dying when most other healthy kids could eventually get through it. Because of this, we definitely take whatever help can be given by TSA, we wear masks while in the Airport, and I also pre board so I can wipe down our seats and trays and set up his car seat. Most of our flights are to Boston, for his care at Boston children’s hospital. So if we have the choice of taking all precautions to ensure he has the best chance of not getting sick, you sure as hell better believe we are going to. Even if it means upsetting people who are going on their vacations who are so upset about waiting an extra 5 minutes that they have to come on this forum and vent about how people with a disability should sit in the back of the plane, etc... This is really sickening to me. Obviously the person who posted that is either uneducated about disabilities, has had no experience of being with someone with disability, or has no empathy whatsoever. How selfish.


I understand that there are people do take advantage of the pre board and it can be annoying, but please don’t lump us all in the same group. Unless you were to talk to my family, you would probably think we took advantage of the system. Every time we fly (and we’ve flown many times) people point at us, we hear people talk about how it’s ridiculous we are wearing masks and that we must be OCD, and judge us the entire time. It’s just a really crappy thing to have to go through everytime we fly, when all we are trying to do is keep our son safe. Please remember when you are ranting on here about people taking advantage of pre board, just because someone is young and seemingly in good health, that gives you no right to place judgement on them. There are so many people with hidden disabilities.

Re: Pre Boarding Out of Control

Explorer C

I'm a frequent flier who normally fliers other airlines and thought I would give Southwest a try. I didn't like the idea of not having an assigned seat so I bought a business select ticket, for over 2X the cost of a regular ticket so that i could board first. I had position A1. When they announced pre-boarding I was shocked at the number and type of people that lined up. While there were some obviously legitimate ones and I'm sure there were some with hidden disabilities there were several toting large carry-ons that were not. So when I boarded all of the aisle seats were taken for the first 5 rows. While I don't think people with disabilities should be disadvantaged I also don't believe they shouldn't take advantage. If they just need extra time according to SW they are supposed to board between A & B. But even if they board before everyine else I don't see why they should get their pick of seats. Why not restrict them to the sections they would have gotten if they boarded in their normal place. For instance, if they had a boarding pass of A they could chose any seat, if they had a boarding pass B they could only sit in sets 20 and higher, C 30 and higher... or do like they one person mentioned and restrict pre-boards to the back. which is probably better since they should be last to get off. As far as disabilities that people can't see goes: one needs to ask if their disability really requires them to board early or are they taking advantage of the system.  Not trying to be mean but should your disability entitle you to sit up front? 

Re: Pre Boarding Out of Control

Explorer C


I'm a frequent flyer with most all the major carriers. The abuse of preboarding and companion pets is an issue with all. I, as do many of my collegues, fly almost every week. It is a weekly discussion among my team of how many people now are "gaming" the system, to the extent it is almost laughable. We've all seen the passenger "rolled to the gate in a wheelchair" with four family members as "companion boarders" in tow, only to see the individual get out of the wheelchair, walk to the bathroom, go five gates down to Starbucks, or go shop in the local shops. Then, when boarding is announced, dash back to their chair to be wheeled down the jet way. I saw one lady in Atlanta Hartsfield look like Usain Bolt with the speed at which she dashed to her chair as her daughter yelled "hurry Momma. They're about to board...."


The notion of "letting it go" is a okay. But tell me, how does that SOLVE a problem? Simple. It doesn't. The very ones being hurt the most by this are the ones with legitimate medical/disability issues that need the preboarding process. Same is true with the "support animal" policy and people abusing the handicap parking placards. No one in their right mind has an issue with a person with a legimate medical/disability need using the preboard process/support animal policy.


I think at some point SW will have to at least entertain the notion of assigned seats. It won't stop the issue, but it might slow it somewhat. My thought is that some of the abusers are doing its not so much to gain better seating but to be able to "carry on" most of their worldly possessions. Maybe if 1) Preboarders (and companion boarders) were required to check carry ons (with any applicable charges-which would still be free with SW). 2) Then allowed person item (outside medically necessary item(s) ie: canes, crutches, etc) that MUST fit underneath the seat in front of them.


Just a thought.

Re: Pre Boarding Out of Control

Frequent Flyer A

Perhaps the solution to the alleged preboard cheating is to have a new boarding group made up of high-stress passengers. If a passenger can provide written proof from their doctor that allowing any other passenger to board before them will raise their blood pressure and pulse rate to dangerous levels, they will be allowed to board first. Southwest could call this group the "Type-A" Listers.


All kidding aside, in 47 years of service, Southwest has never had assigned seating and has always allowed preboarders. Of those 47 years, they've been profitable for all but the first three. Southwest is not going to change a business model that has worked so well for so long just because some passengers are disturbed by a few passengers breaking the rules (and honestly, it is only a few).

The last two times I've flown Southwest I had A-46 and A-21 respectively. Both of those flights had preboarders but I didn't notice how many because I didn't pay attention. At no time did the number of preboarders, legitimate or not, stress me. On both flights, I still got a seat that I wanted and, more importantly, safely reached the destination that I had purchased my ticket for.

Life is short people. If you just can't stomach the idea of somebody possibly cheating the system, then fly one of the airlines with assigned seats so that you will have less stress. I've found that those other airlines find different ways to stress you out.

Re: Pre Boarding Out of Control

Aviator A

I have to agree with rtbarron on several points.


1) There probably is some gaming the system, but not a huge amount. I've flown Southwest for ovr 40 years, have been A List since the program started, and regularly fly my 30-35 SW flights a year, and I just don't see a huge amount of it. People cheat at everything, speeding, rolling stop sign stops, 20 items in the 15 item grocery check out line. I've sure they cheat at preboarding -- but not to excess. Any attempt at Southwest's trying to control it further will likely cause issues with federallaw.


2) Southwest uses it's boarding system because it allows the company to turn aircraft around faster - more flights per plane per day. It produces more reveneue and profit for the airline. SW has puplicly stated an intent to keep the system, and most passenger seem to like it. It's not likely to change.


3) If SW were to go to assigned seating, then pre boarders would still pre board taking their luggage with them. That would not solve the "problem" of cheaters getting good place to put their carry ons.


4) Life is too short to worry about relatively minor things. My practice:  stay seated in the gate area until after preboarders have gotten on board and after the line associated with my boarding position has started moving. Then I get in line - unbothered by what has happened before that point.

Re: Pre Boarding Out of Control

Explorer A

The idea of putting the disabled at the back is not a good solution. The flight attendants usually sit in the front. If you put a handicapped person in the back and there is an emergency to exit the aircraft the flight attendants are around at the front to help them off. If they are in the back it may spell disaster.. 

Putting restrictions as to where they can sit is put in place. (No exit rows).  Some people may be taking advantage of the pre boarding rule I agree but in my experiance (and I do fly a lot) I do not see that many taking advantage.  I even have friends who can claim a "Medical" issue and they prefer boarding with the normal group because they do not want to be "pointed at".