Are you planning on explaining the other "change" regarding ticketless travel funds? It is my understanding that starting early next year unused TTF amounts will only be allowed to be used for future travel for the named passenger on the funds. For someone who books (and pays) for family members, this change is not customer friendly.
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Guys... no different than the old days when BoardFirst was in existence -- at least this alternative is legitimized. Gary Kelly mentioned that Southwest's commitment is to not charge any new fees for things we ALREADY get for free. So far, this appears to be within line of that. If you don't like it, then you could always rush in at the 23:59:59 mark as you always have. Let's face it... the days of guaranteeing yourself an A boarding pass are long gone. With Business Select and A-List... I've had cases where 23:59:59 yields me a B boarding position!
The front half of the plane still gets there just as fast as the back half. If some people want to pay $10 each way for an advantage, who am I to begrudge them... at least I know that the price of my ticket gets me two checked bags and a seat. Who knows? Perhaps there might even be cases where I opt for this additional service myself.
Note: I was a big critic of the last change in the boarding policies in regards to the impact to families with SMALL children. We adjusted and learned new ways to still achieve our objective. Have flown several times and have never found myself in a situation with the kids where I couldn't sit together. If you are a parent flying with a toddler, then make it a priority, plan ahead and get online 24 hours in advance to get that spot.
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I agree with Jo-Ann. The main "awkward" moment is in the fact when it comes to lining up if I have a lower number than the people in front of me, I am either forced to try and politely navigate myself in between. Honestly, it isn't worth the hassle or the potential confrontation (a sacrifice made by the passenger that I'm guessing Southwest considered and is willing to overlook with this new policy). So to make it best work, there are those with manners who are passively lining up behind those who don't care.
I will congratulate WN on one smart move that has not gotten any press. I noticed that the company is finally installing changing tables in the lavs. Too little too late for my family.. but nice to see there is a better option now for those with kids. I guess that's the token consolation for eliminating them from the preboard. Family preboard not an issue for us as we aggressively pursue A boarding passes. Traveled a couple of times and felt bad for the other passengers who were crowded next to us in the line up. Carrying the car seats through the aisles without bumping anyone was a bit problematic though.
Lots of changes in a short period of time -- most of which are positive for only a select few. I'm waiting to see if WN will still be the airline of choice for this year. Since other airlines appear to be actively offering other amenities on board for the benefit of ALL passengers (wi-fi trials come to mind), it is going to take a lot more than new seating in the gate area and some drink coupons to keep my business. Tighter fare specials out of PHX isn't helping their case either.
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Old argument Scott. First of all.. those of us with legitimately small children (I am talking under 4 here) are just trying to get the FAA car seat on board and in a window seat (faa required) out of the way fast enough so we don't hold you up. We always sit beyond row 15... so we aren't your problem. I'm tired of the over generalization that we are doing this because we deserve some sort of preferential treatment. Of course, Southwest appears to be saying the same thing with their policy changes which is disappointing.
When we flew a couple of weeks back, we are in the A cluster... kids were fidgeting and everyone was huddling together... which invariably caused bumping of people in front and behind us. We got on board and I have to hold the kid and car seat above all the seats to move to the back of the plane (moving to the back of the plane isn't the problem).. but additional apologies have to be offered to those sitting in front aisles are getting bumped along the way.
Just trying to be a good fellow passenger by getting on board and out of YOUR way as quick as possible without minimal impacti to you. Plus, I would think you'd prefer seeing where my 1 year old and 3 year old are situated so you can then choose to avoid that if at all possible. I understand the overall frustration with the preboard abuses. The larger families... with older children... by all means... you are right that was ridiculous. The same can be said for the protected classes that abuse the preboard privilege as well. However, realize that there are those of us that this negatively impacts more than for the sake of the simple convenience of being first.
I guess we'll wait to see how the profits pan out. As it is, I know that a lot of the A-listers out there are flying under the same internet/ding fares that I am snagging for my family. However, while the A-list frequent flier may be flying lots of ding fares... they are essentially only one consumer. The system is certainly not rewarding those of us who foot the bill for the family (4 consumers vs 1). Let the race begin to see if the revenue from these changes offsets any loss of volume.
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I appreciate your willingness to offer a little more background on the family preboard comments. Honestly, this was not handled very well a few weeks back when we pushed for such an explanation on the original announcement. I think that many of us would also like to know why there seemed to be this need to roll out these extensive changes at the start of the peak travel season. Also, Southwest tends to be overlooking the fact that the changes do indeed negatively penalize those with lap children. When the preboard changes came out, Brian advised us that WN knows it to be a problem but that ... honestly... there is no timeline for a solution. Fortunate for you that those of us that are immediately impacted will most likely grow out of the problem before you introduce a solution. I can only say that I am greatful for the fact that our plans for once won't require us to fly this year. It really seemed a bit inconsiderate for everyone to be implementing all these changes during the busiest time. Here's hoping you can iron out the kinks without making it a miserable holiday for your staff as well as the public.
What I don't quite understand is how the company feels that all these particular changes are what were the priority to help with revenue. I question even the capital costs of the revamped gates ... not only for the line ups but all the new furniture. While the lounge concept is intriguing, it seems like the gate area will still be a mess whenever you have a schedule slide... which most of us can forgive because the gate area is not really our priority.. but rather the comfort and safety of the actual flight service. All the airport upgrades seem to really be a boon for the entire traveling public. After all, I am sure there will be nothing to stop passengers traveling other airlines at nearby gates from sqautting in the area. I find it hard to believe that these upgrades are where the company expects to see a serious return on investment.
On that note... there seems to be lots of general talk about inflight amenities (e.g. internet access). Nice idea and I hope it is still a priority for you. You want to compete and catch the attention of business travelers? Then how about investing the money in your fleet instead of the gate seating? The paint job and leather seat upgrades on your livery were nice touches a few years back to freshen things up. However, there have been lots of great innovations introduced by your low fare competitors (in flight tv comes to mind). I've been able to give Southwest the excuse for the lack of additional amenities by rationalizing that they have the philosophy of setting the expectation low (to match their fares) and then always exceeding it (on time schedules, friendly service, not to mention the complimentary snack boxes). However, now that there appears to be a class differentiation, I see that the company has elected to try to cater to a select group at the cost of their general consumers.
What has always impressed me about Southwest is that they found a model that allowed them to be profitable while treating everyone with equal respect. Whereas the legacies have always had the mentality that their bread and butter was the business traveler, Southwest managed to find a way to do it differently. However, with these announcements, it seems like the company has felt that their can't offer the same level of service to all their customers. Messing with that expectation means that you risk the danger of raising some folks expectations while disappointing others. I hope that your new strategy of going after business accounts work. Of course, isn't this now 2007 and not 1987? I know the company I work for watches every dime of travel expenditure and isn't necessarily going to be willing to let me spend an extra $15-20/leg for the perks -- we must be in the minority if your market research is showing different.
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Thanks for the response.
I'm a little perplexed by your comment about the "answers aren't what you want to hear". I see that I have communicated my concerns rationally and in a professional and engaged manner. I have taken the time to research this new change of policy and maintain an open mind. However, I am interpreting your response to be that while our comments are being observed, that they appear to not be carrying any weight on the issue. I'd even go so far as to say that I'm feeling that you would prefer that we NOT engage in the dialog on this matter any further. I hope I've misread the comment, but have to say that I'm feeling put off by this process and the half hearted responses.
The main articles on this blog do nothing to address the concerns about the family preboard process. In fact, they don't even do anything to publicize the change of policy. I've never posted comments to a blog before. Why this time? Because I do indeed feel deeply about this. Southwest is a great character and has always done things that make sense. I'm guessing that if you checked the e-mail addresses of all the posters you've received, you'll see that a lot of the same folks here have probably never posted before either.
As you've indicated, there really isn't any need to continue to monitor the conversation here and I won't be checking back for a response to this post. You have my e-mail address if you feel the need to address my comments.
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SMF Jeff has a good point. I'd also like to point out that you've mentioned Susie's prior post as Southwest's way of communicating the new process and the "good things" to come of it. What I find telling is that there is NO MENTION in that post (just a month ago) about the preboard changes. So... obviously this policy was either still in debate or Southwest really didn't want to open it up for debate with their customers.
Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to get a survey on the options and since the satisfaction survey is not for public consumption, I really don't see any evidence that the preboarding portion of the policy involved any customer feedback.
Here is what I'm seeing:
1. Quick shift in policy (preboard implementing 10/2 instead of along with the overall new line up policy).
2. Odd implementation time frame. There seems to be this sense of ugency to do this 4Q2007. Right during the Thanksgiving and winter holiday rush.
3. Southwest is saying that family preboarding is a problem for them. Not sure how the legacy carriers have gotten along for so long.
4. No consideration for lap children -- as evidenced by the earlier response you gave that a solution is being worked on but honestly no ETA on it.
5. "A" boarding group will be 1-60. Was it 60 during the San Antonio tests? Or did you all go with 1-45 there? More PAX on the plane before those families with small children who didn't have a chance to log on EXACTLY 24 hours earlier.
6. No more official word from Southwest. Your comments have been nice to see, but I am not feeling assured that this feedback is actually being considered... but rather controlled so it doesn't get out of hand.
I mentioned early on that I would appreciate hearing more details about this policy from the decision makers of the company. Many of us know who Colleen and Gary are and honestly feel that their past messages have contained a sense of rational empathy. A lot of what is going on with this policy just seems counter to the culture we've all become accustomed to.
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NSX... I asked gate supervisor about adding the Infant after check in and she told me that the current system won't let them modify the PNR to add the PLS INF without checking me out, adding it, and then checking me back in. I'd lose the A. Now... this same supervisor also said that they have seen internet boarding passes that had PLS INF. So... Southwest themselves is really confused on whether you can indeed check in online if you have a PLS INF. I know that the call center says you can't... and honestly I haven't flown recently with my PLS INF to know if you can indeed do it (first time next month after this all kicks in!).
One lesson learned though... my wife and I are flying under separate PNRs. That way she can check in online and board with our 3 year old... then I'll take the hit if I can't get an A boarding pass.
Lots of good comments here. Hopefully this feedback is being considered. Though, I'm guessing that we aren't going to see any changes prior to roll out. Honestly, I'd still like to see some details from Southwest on how this will be rolled out. Some cities are going to come online with this before others. Why on Earth WN would transition to this just as the holiday season is ramping up is beyond me. Do they feel like there needed to be some more stress travelling this time of year?
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Hey! One thing I just noticed from reviewing your Boarding School demo. A boarding group will now consist of 60 passengers instead of 45???? That is what the demo is showing. So, let me get this right. Southwest is going to allow preboard for wheelchairs (and other pax with assistance)... which I'll conservatively say is 5 people. Then they are going to board 60 people. Then the preboards if they weren't fortunate enough to have an A card. Let's say the flight is a through flight with 15 to 20 passengers on board. Before you allow any preboards with small children, you could conceivably have more than half the plane full of passengers!?!?! That's not right. I thought this was tough with the current 45... but adjusting that upward to 60? This can't be right... can it?
I've appreciated reading all the feedback on this site. Has Southwest really thought this all the way through? Even your passengers travelling without children have expressed some valid reasons for letting the families get on first ... if for no other reason than to then be able to avoid choosing a seat near them! Who is this benefiting? I'm beginning to think that Southwest is shifting the policy in response to a minority that has perhaps been complaining the loudest ... at least up until now. Very disappoointing.
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Brian, thanks for continuing to lend a voice and respond to comments on this site. It is nice to see that the company is dedicating effort to reading and attempting to respond where appropriate. After reading messages from the CEO and COO in the past, I have no doubt that the concerns and feedback are being listened to and while we all won't agree with the policy... at least the debate is allowed to continue. I'm hoping that a more formal message from Gary, or preferably Collen (let's face it... she has a really disarming style to her writing) will be forthcoming on the blog to acknowledge the conversation.
I see that a lot of the comments here are the same... we all agree that the "cattle call" had to go and "bingo boarding" has its merits and I know I would have ranked it such if I had experienced it and had a chance to participate in the survey. Changing the family preboard at the same time just seems to be too much too soon. They really are two different issues. And let's be honest... family preboard is actually being changed prior to bingo boarding... so that still leaves open the question that Southwest is saying that it feels that family preboarding has been a problem.
Most of the voices here appear to favor the new line up concept. They are just opposed to the change of preboards for family. Personally, I would have liked to have seen the company express some consideration to keeping some accommodations for passengers that are flying with children 4 and under (age verified of course).
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Again.. thanks for the follow up (and honesty) regarding the PLS INF. At least it is recognized that it is a problem that needs to get fixed. Chances are it will be after my son turns two... so at least it will be better for those in the future.
What is the logic behind removing the Family Preboard earlier than implementing the new line pass system all at once? It is my impression that the new "bingo system" (yes, that's a nod to Cranky Flier 🙂 ) will be coming online all at once at some point in November. Or is the line system being phased in?
Reading some of the more recent comments, I hope that what works in SAT can work everywhere. I too raise my eyebrows about how you will address high through counts (which I'm assuming that SAT fit that bill). Also, those stations that handle a lot of small children traffic (MCO). Southwest has pretty much made sure that families with small children HAVE to check in online early to avoid the issue.
As I said, I understand the intent. I do feel that the pendulum swung a little bit far in the other direction regarding the preboard policy though. Perhaps that was necesary to curb the abuses out there. I agree that 12 years old (or even 5 years old) does not necessarily define a "small child" appropriately in the spirit of what the policy is meant to serve -- basically give everyone a little more time to get on board and get equipment situated. Lap children and those with infant seats though??? I find it remarkable that your experiments have shown that the new preboard process does not slow down things midstream. I've experienced your famous 10 minute turnarounds. It is hard enough to get passengers to get themselves with their wheelie bags on board. Now you are asking parents travelling with small children (truly small children) to step it up. It would seem to add stress.
Honestly, I speak from experience on this one. I've flown another carrier where we were unfortunate enough to get zone 8... which placed us in the last boarding group. This carrier (ATL based) does NOT observe any family preboarding. We were the last on the plane, the kids were crying (2 year old didn't understand why everyone else was getting on and not us)... we then had to get the seat installed and everyone calmed down. To make matters worse... no overhead space available for the diaper bag. We're seasoned travelers and found the whole experience very discouraging and made me thankful that WN was still family friendly.
I know you have a lot of interests that need to be met and the devil is in trying to strike a good balance for the convenience of all. I think that new "bingo method" is intriguing overall. It just seems to me that Southwest was overzealous on their revision of the preboard policy and is removing something that a lot of us felt was truly something that added a lot of value to the brand for basically no cost. Flying these days is stressful enough. Messing with small children under the auspices of "saving a couple of minutes"? That's a tough argument to make.
Did Southwest ever consider the idea of preboards only beyond Row 15? A lot of the complaints about small families has to do with getting off the plane. Even when we are near the front, we tend to hang back ... recognizing that it will take us a little longer to get out and we don't want to clog the jetway waiting for our stroller equipment. I hope that the kinks on the new policy will get worked out. Fortunately, we're experienced enough at flying to adjust accordingly. However, my fear is how much additional confusion this will cause with the less experienced fliers and the stress and delays that could result?
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Thanks for the follow up. The problem is that your press conference was dilluted for the evening news. Here in Arizona, many of the local stations simply announced the change effective 10/2.. but did not mention the new boading pass concept or give the story any depth. Your message was abbreviated and honestly it didn't do much to help clarify things. Southwest.com has the Boarding School which is novel. However, the fact that this change affects a significant population of your passengers, I think that more details should be available to quell a lot of concerns. I, for one, would like to hear some background on how the SAT tests were conducted. I still question whether this is smart for Southwest to be implementing so close to the holiday rush. It would seem more prudent to let these changes digest over time (early 2008 or even over the long summer season). I'm happy that I won't be flying at all this holiday so I won't have to feel your pain.
I know that doing the talk show circuit may not be the most practical idea. I think though that having the Company put more information on their web site and keeping the topic alive here on the blog would go a long way to helping us understand the changes.
Like I said, this has been in the rumor mill for a while. I hope that Southwest keeps an open mind... and I'm promising to do the same. Thanks.
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Brian -- I appreciate the post about the age verification (and believe that might be as the result of my PLS INF qestion). However, I am curious to know how age verification resolves the PLS INF issue? When I call to add my infant son, Customer Service never asks for his name or acct#. Rather, they just note my PNR and tell me that I have to check in at the airport. It would be nice to see some way to have this age verification done in person at the airport the first time so I don't have to go through all the hassle of mailing in documentation -- seems kind of antiquated for an airline that uses technology to solve a lot of their problems.
With all the concerns from families being posted in the comments section, it would be nice to see Southwest be a little more vocal about these type of family policies and perhaps make them a little more visible (or publicize them better) -- in other words... let's at least see a blog article -- soon!
This change of preboard policy is not being handled very well. I don't think that you folks are doing a great job of communicating it. I'm reading a lot of the comments here and can feel for a lot of these people because I too had the same panicked reaction to it. Since I read about the SAT experiment, I have had more time to absorb it and figure out how it would work.
Honestly, Southwest moving only the family preboard at this time (especially when you haven't fully impelemented the new boarding process) seems to take a swipe at the fact that the family preboard has been a big problem for WN. Let's face it... a lot of the A boarding pass issues is because people want to choose their seat (which invariably is at the front of the plane!). I'm ok with the idea of allowing families to still preboard first and require us all to sit beyond row 15. This can be handled simply by having the exit row Flight Attendant wave people to the back. When we preboard we do that so that we can respect our fellow passengers and help Southwest by staying out of the way while the A group comes on board.
You need to get in front of this problem and be more visible. Hopefully we see Colleen or Gary on the Today Show soon. Don't let this turn into another "mini skirt" debacle.
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One other note...
This policy might eliminate "some" of the lining up. But make no mistake... even with assigned seating, the vultures hover in the gate area of the other carriers (no matter how many announcements are made about it). The issue is really more than just the seat preference. Let's face it... it is about space. Overhead space to be more precise. I travel with two kids and we try to limit our carry ons to the bare minimum. Yes... we check our bags!! Mid boarding (even in a B group), you can find yourself with 4 tickets passengers and there won't even be room above your seat to slide in the diaper bag. New Preboard slot puts us after the thru PAX and after all the A's. With all the roller bags, garment bags, shopping bags, etc... I see our odds dwindling and that we will have to stuff our items beneath the seat.
Getting on board is more than just getting the seat up front, it is part of the competition for overhead space. Personally, I have a seat down below and would like to think that my ticket gains me a little real estate in the overhead bin. But, let's face it.. that isn't always the reality and being first on the plane is the only way to ensure that to be the case.
How about a some sort of incentive to the baggage policy? Reward those who check bags for instance. You'll find that turn around times will imiprove if people who can barely walk aren't also dragging 50 lb bags down the aisle. Don't get me wrong... I'm probably one of the few who realizes how generous Southwest is with their current baggage policy (3 50 lb checked bags per customer?!?!?). However, that does not appear to be enough to convince some people.
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I must admit that I've been skeptical about hearing this coming. A couple of concerns that I'd like to see addressed:
PlS INF -- If I call and add a lap child to my ticket, I can't then do online check-in. Now, I realize that I can still get on board before the B's and C's... but you need to address the PLS Inf issue as it does put those of us who are willing to play by the rules at a slight disadvantage.
Sequential numbering? Is this really a good idea? From the looks of the SAT boarding area and "boarding school" videos... I see that you have zones for each in line. I for one don't really care... to me an A was an A. Now though if you have groups of 5 (let's say 30-35) and I just happen to be the first one standing in the 30-35 section with #34, I can see someone who has a #31 insisting to get in front of me so we are in numerical order. Does it really matter? No.. but it is a chance for a confrontation in the gate area. Please don't give your passengers that much credit to see reason. I've seen lots of arguments in Southwest lines as it is. At the risk of sounding like your competition, you would have been better with zones (e.g. A1, A2, A3) instead of A1-5, A6-10, etc.
I'm staying open minded. At least you still have some sort of consideration for families. There is another major carrier (the one that hubs in ATL and SLC) that did away with pre-boards all together. Trust me... it can be worse.
Now... if only you'd do something to better control the other pre-boards. 20 PAX needing assistance to board the plane .... but not needing any assistance on the other end... hmm... I know that one is going to be tougher. Thanks for at least trying to be innovative at solving the problem. Heaven knows the other carriers have a big problem with actually trying to change their processes. At least you are taking the risk.
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