Go to assigned seating. I'm a Rapid Rewards member and am on board a plane half a dozen times a month for business. Another 3-4 times a year for personal reasons. I left Southwest because of what I hear termed the "cattle call." I even canceled my credfit card that was linked to Southwest miles. And I live in a city where Southwest is the most frequent option to get to anywhere.
While I respect the perspectives of my fellow passengers (and learned about many of them for the first time here), I honestly don't see many people just walking on board at Southwest gates. I see the necessity to arrive at the gate hours early because a few people will start a line at the door long before boarding begins. The policy brings out the worst in people, as they jockey for position. Most of us stand during that period. A few will take seats if they are near the door, and standees are supposed to honor their place in line, I guess.
As a businessman, I can see why Southwest would want to keep the open policy. It gets people to the gate on time and ready to board. But it also means that getting a decent seat remains an open issue for this businessman right up to the minute I board. On United, Continental, etc., I reserve a seat and forget about it until I walk on. When I think about other airlines, I don't think about them as typically "late" starting or arriving, so I'm not sure that some reasonable additional volatility in that stat is going to turn off a lot of business customers.
I think you'll find price elastic, too, especially among those of us getting reimbursed. If there's a solution that allows "open seating" in part of the aircraft but allows business fliers to reserve coach (that's all my company will pay for) seats, too, I think you could get a modest premium for that.
I'd like to be able to make Southwest my default airline again. Glad you're listening to all sides. Good luck with an interesting management challenge.
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