I just returned from Dallas on a Southwest flight (well, series of them actually) and I was again reminded just how special this airline and it's people are. Having flown literally millions of miles in my lifetime, it is always refreshing to be on a Southwest flight.
I am an executive with Starwood Hotels and travel a great deal. Whenever possible, I travel on Southwest. There are several reasons why, but at the end of the "why" chain is always the fact that because your team so clearly enjoy what they do, I enjoy it as well. I also like watching people who do their jobs so consistently well - which the travel industry is so sorely lacking.
I have often been amazed at how effectively and simply you are able to execute against a very complex schedule and service process. More impressive is how no other company in your space has been able to do so.
Like many, I urge you to keep your open seating policy. As a business traveler, it is critical to me. This may seem somewhat counter intuitive, but when forced to change schedules (which is often), if I am traveling on any other airline, I am guaranteed a center seat, and a Y fare for the pleasure. With Southwest, I am assured of a fair and simple process of changing schedules, and a better than even chance of a great seat.
Changing this boarding process will change much about the way your airline works and I think you vastly underestimate the experience it generates. People actually chat in line, share stories, etc. The boarding process is clearly much faster, and because there is no first class it is a very democratic and "equalizing" process. On other airlines, you are either a "have" or a "have not", and they go out of their way to point that out to you at each possible opportunity. At Southwest, everyone is part of the process, and contributes.
I know that you will do what you must do, but please don't kill the goose that laid your golden egg. One more miserable aluminum tube filled with miserable passengers and an even more miserable crew is not what the world of travel needs. Best of luck to you and to your amazing team.
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