I avoided SWA for a long time because of the open seating but lower prices, expansion to NH, and my wife's insistence changed that and I have gotten used to the idea.
I don't think assigned seating is necessary but I do think that open seating needs some adjustment. I'll point out three issues that matter to me as a customer.
* competition for the A group is entirely out of control now that people can print boarding passes so far ahead of time. Something has to be done to get some balance back there for people who are traveling on a return leg of a trip and are checking in at the airport. I have better things to do on vacation or a business trip than go to a business center to print out a pass in the middle of the night.
* speaking of groups. Have more than three groups... use six or seven groups so they are smaller. This seems like a way to make people less anxious about being in the front of the line for their group and might reduce the number of people camped out on the floor at the gates.
* we don't have kids and like other people who have commented above, I like to pick a seat away from small children if possible. The problem is... when a family is at the end of the C group and boards late the parents have to put their children into any open seat they can find so suddenly other travelers have to deal with that kid for the entire flight while the parents are 10 rows away. That is not fair to the kid, the parent, or the other customers... especially if the kid is scared or airsick or whatever. No one wins when this happens and I have seen it happen.
I'm not saying that they should just go into the A group but find a way to keep young children next to their parents. For example, two parents and two kids don't need four seats together but two pairs of seats solves the problem. That is really for the benefit of everyone else on the plane in my opinion.
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