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Disappointment with Misleading Middle Seat CoVID Policy

New Arrival

I have flown almost exclusively Southwest airlines for the past decade, and have high respect and loyalty for this company. For the first time, this company has taken actions that makes me question them as a company, and whether I should look into a different airline. They have been misleading about their middle seat policy during the CoVID pandemic, demonstrating customer preferences and more importantly, safety as low priority.


In August, I was apprehensive about flying but hadn't seen a military family member in two years so I booked a Southwest flight regardless. I was very pleasantly surprised--with the middle seats vacant and other cleaning and distancing measures in place, flying felt no more dangerous than going to the grocery store.


Fast forward to December around the holidays, and multiple guidances from CDC were issued about restricting traveling. Rather than cancel trips or prioritizing driving, I continued to feel at ease having already flown and feeling safe. However, Southwest sent a message to me three days before my departure date that the middle seat might now be occupied. At that point, it was too late to make alternative arrangements. The flight was extremely uncomfortable--I was seated between two strangers, and I felt guilty and anxious about having flown and exposing family members for the remainder of the holidays. I had two more legs of travel before returning home, and Southwest sent an email three days before those flights as well about the changed middle seat policy.


It seems they are doing this last minute change to many of their flights. I planned a backpacking trip with my significant other months ago during the pandemic as an outdoors, CoVID friendly chance to get away. The flight takes off tomorrow, and I was again informed just yesterday that the middle seat would be occupied.


This is unacceptable. While some may feel okay with this "small" last minute change, to others it can make the difference of whether they choose to fly or which airline to fly. It feels like a lack of integrity from Southwest, that they are unwilling to be upfront about this middle seat policy until it is too late for customers to back out. Over the years, I have come to expect much better from this company. Southwest needs to return to  putting the customer first, which is the guiding principle that resulted in their enormous success as a company. I certainly will not be flying with them again until they do.


Re: Disappointment with Misleading Middle Seat CoVID Policy

Top Contributor

When Southwest was not selling middle seats they clearly said that middle seats would remain open "through November 30".  Then in October they announced that after November 30 middle seats would be sold and occupied.  If you purchased the ticket before the announcement in October it's true that you did not know if seats would be open or not, but you had zero guarantee that middle seats would remain open.  Southwest never said that middle seats would be open in December.  Perhaps you assumed that since seats were open at the time of booking they would remain open at the time of your flight, but that was a poor assumption on your part.  There was no last minute change, in fact there was no change to December flights because there was never a promise that December flights would have open seats.


The only airline currently leaving middle seats open is Delta.



Re: Disappointment with Misleading Middle Seat CoVID Policy

Top Contributor

You are mistaken about when the airline notifies passengers about filled middle seats. I refer you to my response to your other post on the same topic:



Re: Disappointment with Misleading Middle Seat CoVID Policy

Active Member

I got an email last Friday that my Monday flight was booked to the point that they couldn't guarantee an empty middle seat next to me (still got one). 

Re: Disappointment with Misleading Middle Seat CoVID Policy

New Arrival

I too was surprised by this news during my flight to Phoenix just last night. I'm not a frequent traveler, and in fact had not flown since before the pandemic. I had heard on the news of the extraordinary lengths airlines were using to promote safety for their passengers, including leaving the middle seats empty. On the second leg of my trip, the attendant announced the flight was fully booked and all seats would be occupied. When I asked her about that, she confirmed the company changed it's policy in early December. This shocked me beyond belief! The audacity to change this sort of policy at the height of the pandemic in the US just astounded me. Luckily for me, the attendants were very nice and accommodating. She confided that there would actually be 11 seats not taken. She suggested sitting in the very back row next to the window as that seat is the least likely to be taken. I was very grateful at that time. 


However now I have concerns about my flight back to Little Rock in a couple of days. All it appears I can do is to keep checking on how full my flights will be, and possible reschedule should the get overbooked. I found out the only airline now that has extended that policy is Delta. If I'd known that, I likely would not have flown with SW. I hate that because I'd always enjoyed flying this airline before. I think this was a big mistake on their part, and the only reason I can think of them making this decision is greed for the holiday season. 


Very disappointed....

Re: Disappointment with Misleading Middle Seat CoVID Policy

Active Member

Greed?   I didn't know that losing millions of dollars a DAY is considered greed.   If so,  I'd like to see your finances.   I suspect you're more greedy than they are. 


I get your fear and disappointment.   You've been spooked by your media.   We get it.   That still doesn't change the FACTS the airlines have financial realities and air travel is NOT likely to spread the virus.   Period. 


You can choose not to fly.   You can also choose to stay home and not associate with other people.   The latter is more likely to give you Covid.  Trust me...I speak from experience that matches the science. 


Ps... and none of their policy is "misleading".  It's completely upfront and understandable.  If you can't grasp it,  I can't help you.