I have traveled with my ESA dog for over 5 years. I travel several times per month. REcently, there seems to be some confusion with SouthWest employees and policy on boarding. My ESA is roughly 23 -24 lbs and due to her long legs does not fit under a seat. To travel with her and keep within regulations, I require to have a bulkhead seat which then she fits in front of me comfortably and does not take up any additional space for other passangers. I arrive always at least 45- 1 hour prior to boarding and go by procedures, check in with documentation at the service desk and then go to the gate agent and request bulkhead due to limitations described above- here's where the policy is not known. I am told that if I need a special seat, then I would board before others. I am told that if several people need special seats, it is who was at the gate first (I understand that), which is why I arrive early. Other gate agents- tell me policy is all wheelchairs board first. Which then if they do not require a special seat, may sit in bulkhead along with their passanger carrying the belongings, taking up room for those who DO need a special seat. I had this happen on 2 occasions and it was very uncomfortable to ask the flight attendent to accomodate because the gate agent never relayed the info. I recently have filed a complaint to SW for another incident where I was told that SW makes NO special accomodations for ESA/Service Animals and I boarded last in preboard, even though I was third to arrive. I am waiting to hear back from the incident. TO avoid awkward situations, that futher elevate my anxiety- I am requesting someone clarify the boarding procedures. Is it first to arrive? Is it those requiring a special seat? Is it those who first arrive and require a special seat? Is it wheelchairs that do not require a seat but go first for convenience because they need a airport employee to push them? Is the gate agent responsible for communicating with the crew to reserve a special seat if they push the chairs first? Corporate states to me at the time of my complaint that "preboard" is first come first serve all equal and those needing a special seat would be first to board and it is also first come first serve. HOWEVER this procedure IS not followed at many airports. Look forward to your response SW.
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