Please stay with the Open Seating. However, the change will not cause me to change airlines as the main reason I fly SW is due to the easy flexibility changing travel times - A benefit no other airline comes close to.
I do relatively agree with one of the replies that anybody that flies often enough to qualify for a companion ticket should at least be guaranteed an A ticket if not first boarding privileges. In order to qualify, the person should be required to provide RR number when purchasing the ticket. Guaranteeing an A ticket would probably be an easy programming change.
No RR blackout dates and limited available seating vs a 2 year window to use tickets - I would prefer the 1 year approach with no blackout dates but fully understand the revenue value of having the blackout dates and limited seating. If this is needed to help keep prices reasonable then stay with the change.
The biggest complaint that I have is on the reservation web site, it seems there is a bug that causes the pre-reseervation price to not equal the real price. It appears the US taxes do not include the segment fees but all other U.S. taxes are included in the base ticket price. As you know the number of stops and all of the other fees, you could easily list the full ticket price as well as the base ticket price for each segment reserved though I understand there may be minor errors that reduce the final price if more than 4 takeoffs are in the itenerary. I am sure the customer would not be too upset if the final price is less than the posted price and SW revenue would not be affected.
Finally, I would suggest that you post both the SW receipts excluding all taxes along with the full price before booking so people truly recognize how much of their ticket goes to the government vs. SW.
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I love the open seating arrangement but do understand that it can be a hassle for larger families or for late arriving passengers with children. Generally somebody will make way to keep families together - especially children and parents.
I would suggest that for families with children or for groups of 3 or more that you offer limited assigned seating and board these families first. The time lost would be made up by assigning these families seating starting at the rear of the plane and filling forward. Remaining passengers will then have available open seating.
This will minimize delays related to having passengers seated at the front of the plane taking additional time to be seated. This also takes advantage of the high probability that seats in the front of the plane will be taken in open seating prior to the rear of the plane.
Additionally, preassigned seating may be used for special needs customers. that must be placed at the front of the plane such as mobility impaired. I would consider boarding these passengers last and have the crew mark the seat with a card as pre-assigned before open seating occurs. This will be more comfortable seating these customers and reduce time pressures getting these customers seated. It would allow support for the limited population where it is important these customers not be bumped into for medical reasons.
Likely with the few number of passengers that will need pre-assigned seating, this could be handled at check-in on-site at the airport or in the boarding areas.
One other suggestion, at small congested waiting areas such as certain St Louis gates, I would extend the demarcation of ABC lines to provide a more orderly boarding area.
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