I think I may have thought of a solution here...
Why not keep the paper boarding passes with a printed check in NUMBER on it. The number would be assigned "1" for the first person who checks in online all the way down to the last number being the last person who checks in at the ticket counter before the flight. Let's say that is passenger number "120".
Then go back to the way it was done in the old days with the plastic boarding cards. Call boarding 1-20, boarding 1-40, boarding 1-60, boarding 1-80, then boarding all passengers.
The customers could eat, shop, relax or REMAIN SEATED in a civil manner. They would not need to move to the door until their number is close to being called.
Once called, you still have open seating.
I left some other comments above and will be checking in by phone, I think that is great. Hopefully i will get a "A" pass, but I am still dreading that line. I would consider flying SWA more often if your boarding could be arranged similar to what i described.
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I found this website by searching for tips on flying Southwest Airlines for an upcoming trip. You see, I can count the times I've flown on SWA during the past 25 years on one hand. I am a happy and regular AA flyer. I am only flying SWA ONE WAY because their NONSTOP lax-sat arrives when I need to be there. AA's arrives too late. I am flying back NONSTOP on AA, however.
The reason I "never" fly SWA is because of the open seating policy. Here is a typical trip on AA. I arrive in the terminal typically one hour before flight time and have something to eat or drink, walk around a little, then sit, relax and (depending on the airport) people watch the SWA customers either standing or sitting all over the dirty floor and wonder WHY???? Then I sit until my group number is called. I wait until the last few people in my group are boarding before getting up to make my way to my assigned aisle seat in the front of the plane. I generally have nobody sitting next to me as I have selected or manipulated my aisle seat to go with someone who has selected the window seat. Unless the flight is at capacity, nobody selects the center seat, and if they do, when they see two people sitting in the row, they find an open seat elsewhere where it is less crowded.
From reading this, I have discovered why people fly SWA. Their customer is the last minute customer who books a week or two in advance. AA = lowest fares and best seats in advance, high fares and poor seats last minute. SWA = decent fares ( but not the lowest) and decent seats (but you've got to work for them).
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