I fly Southwest Airlines very regularly between northern California and southern California and have flown ya'll on severl long distance flights as well. I've also flown many of the other major carriers. And in almost every case, open seating works for me--even if I end up in the "C" group because I can't check-in online or have a paper ticket (now, issuing those to your customers with vouchers given out on overold flights is outdated!). Sure, the other airlines often let me assign my seat online, in advance, and I've rarely gotten a bad one at the airport, but why the hassle?
Now, the lining up early, especially the "A" group which will uexcept in extremely unusual cases get the seats they want is annoying. And the solution isn't assigned seating! Just board in smaller groups of, say, ten. It really won't really matter whether you're 71 or 79. And if you're 82 or 83 you can just stay comfortably seated in the gate area and just about as likely get the seat and carryon space you want. No one will cut the line to be 84 or 85--and in the rare, stupid cases your customers get a bit competitive, your usually friendly empolyees can remind them that it doesn't really matter.
Really, with a tweek, a bit of civility, and a bit of friendly coaxing for any obnoxious customers open seating almost always works fine. It's not worth the hassle to change!
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I remember the days ending shortly after 9-11 when Southwest Airlines checked in everyone at the boarding gate one hour before departure and gave out the plastic numbered boarding cards first-come, first-served. Inevitably, there were always those who arrived more than half an hour early to start lining up just to get number 1. No matter what the system, there will always be those who will try to beat the system. And, really, if some want to make a profit doing so let them.
Beating the system and making a profit doing it is how Southwest Airlines got its start, I thought. Instead of getting unhappy about it, Southwest Airlines ought to come up with its own system and charge for it (though that would be petty) or just offer it for free to customers with a www.southwest.com log-in (for the price of some occasional e-mail spam, uh, I mean marketing).
I've flown regularly with Southwest Airlines for the past year and some, and I've found that what actually matters in getting a good aisle or window seat isn't so much your boarding pass group so much as where you are in your group's line and how clever you are about finding that overhead bin when you first get on the plane. Only once since the lettered boarding passes was I in group "C" and get a middle seat against my choice (and that was one of the handful of times I flew stand-by on a full, delayed flight).
Really, this is all much ado about not very much. Oh, did I mention that while I'm following my group in line and stowing my bag overhead I'm using a white cane because I'm blind?
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