As a frequent traveller, my wife and I are both Rapid Rewards Members. I LUV SWA for the fact it flies non-stop to many of the destinations we frequent, which is a nice thing, anyone who has to make connections in a large airport knows what a pain it is. This is even more important for my wife and I seeing as we are near a smaller airport which SWA serves. Other airlines board us on a very small commuter jet first and then we switch planes in a larger city. Those small commuter jets are horrible if you have carry-on luggage. So, for the pure low cost and niceties of direct flights, we LUV SWA. I do, however, understand some of the complaints about the open seating policy. While my wife and I are devoted and well-versed travellers, making sure to get our priceless "A" boarding passes, we do get annoyed with the need to sit in the "A" line in order to ensure our favorite seats on the plane. I think that SWA boards quickly and efficiently, which is nice, but I think there is a way to compromise, eliminating the "cattle call" feel, and making the gate area seem less like a camp-out and more like a relaxed environment. First, Keep the underlying policy of open seating. More times than not, this HELPS the frequent traveller who sometimes makes last-minute plans, and also HELPS families. Even in the B line, I have never seen a situation where large groups of people travelling together have not been able to sit together. Most people who fly SWA are kind enough to switch seats to make other people happier. However, the change you should implement is to actually ASSIGN a number to the boarding passes for A, B, and C. (Or at least A - we are the ones who show up so early). If you did this, the people who got "A" passes would know the order in which we were required to line up. You could also insitute a gate check-in where A pass people got a number in order of arrival at the gate. Then, when A line was close to being ready to board, an announcement can be made to line up in order of numbers. Most people are not idiots, we can handle this on our own. What this accomplishes is keeping the open seating policy, but eliminating the need to "camp out" on the floor at the gate. I think it will make for a less hostile environement, and completely eliminate the complaints of the people who hate having to get to the airport early. You make it THIER choice. You can assign numbers in order of online check-in or in order of arrival at the gate. Either way, you make it the customer's choice if they want to arrive early (for gate assignment) or to be diligent about checking in online quickly and early. You can even give passengers a choice when they check-in online. One option is to get a regular A pass with no line number, making these people still motivated to show-up early for a better spot in the A line, or, for those people who HATE having to show up to the airport so early, they can opt for the "place in the A line" number during on-line check-in.
In short, I think things can be done to make open seating more fair, and for it to work better, but the underlying concept is still wonderful, and I am never afraid of arriving at the gate too early myself, I just always bring a book or other diversion.
Keep up the good work!
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