Southwest (apparently) to Assign Seats


I just heard on the radio that WN is planning on assigning seats sometime in the near future. There’s supposedly an article in today’s Washington Post about it; I’ll look to add a link shortly. Apparently, the company has already spent $5 Million updating its website to allow for the change. This is all due to increased customer complaints about the herding, err, boarding process.
As someone who’s never flown Southwest, I have no personal experience with the airline. I have seen the T.V. show, and I’ve heard numerous personal accounts about the boarding procedures. Heard some pretty wild stories; some funny, some outrageous. Feel free to share your thoughts on the change, or any horror/funny stories you may have had w/ WN.


Found it for you.

Google Finance is a great place to find stories like this quickly.


Dammit, pika. I just registered w/ the Post for nothing!! :wink:

Anyway, I screwed up the poll (imagine that). I changed the question w/out changing the wording of my answers. “Yes” should be “Good,” and “No” should be “Bad.” Also, ABC radio news made it sound like it was set in stone; obviously, it’s not (yet).


From the Washington Post (WP):

To get a preferred seat, passengers have to arrive at the airport hours before their flight to be among the first group to board. Or they have to remember to check in for their flight via the Internet at least 24 hours before to earn a spot in that early-boarding group.

The first part is not true. Even before the Internet check in, as long as you got to the airport an hour or so before the flight, you could get a boarding pass in the first group. Hell, the check-in counter didn’t even open for a given flight until one hour before departure.


With a herd of passengers stampeding onto the aircraft to find seats, some travelers have likened the airline’s boarding process to a cattle call.

This, based on my experience of over 100 flights on SWA over the past years, is just not true. Every flight I’ve boarded has been orderly, even at the height of the Christmas* holiday period.


“Southwest has to do this to stay competitive,” said airline consultant Mike Boyd of the Denver-based Boyd Group. “They’re going to be pushed out of markets if they don’t.”

I’ve seen Boyd quoted in many articles about commercial aviation and most times he seems to be just plane** wrong. Southwest has been doing pretty good without assigning a place for passengers’ butts. What other airline has been consistently profitable for over three decades?

*Note to easily offendable and politically-correct people: This is also called “the holidays.”
**Pun intentional




I think the weakness in keeping the status quo is having to check on-line
as close to 24 hours before scheduled departure of your returning flight
plan to get your “A” pass is an area where there are possible issues. It seems many are using Southwest on vacation and don’t want to pack a laptop, many are asking “Do you really have to get my rear-end to an Internet Cafe on the day before I go home and check-in to get a good seat?” I think an increasing number are saying no and are calling I800IFLYSWA and letting them know. If there wasn’t a good amount of this feedback coming to their call centers they wouldn’t consider
spending the money to get themselves flexibility. The earliest date that was said for starting “assigned seating” is during 2008. This is a company
that has spent 35 years carefully listening to their customers.


I don’t mind the “choose your own seat-adventure” style, but what makes me mad about it are the idiots that ruin it. I’m one of those people that gets to the airport early so that I can sit in the front, simply because I like to be able to make connections, get out quicker, etc. Southwest places their seats in a logical fashion to form the three lines, so people sit there. Then one idiot will come along and “cut” in front of everyone that is sitting, which then causes a mass panic and all of a sudden every single line is filled with standing people, 45 minutes before the airplane boards.

I liken these folks to be the same people that see a mile long line of cars that are stopped on the interstate due to an accident and sees that one lane is open on the side, so they drive there and cut in front of the mile long chain when they “realize” that the accident is in that lane, and all of a sudden they should get priority.

It’s not a bad system, there’s just enough people who make it not work that it annoys the crap out of the rest of us and would just rather have assigned seating.

The other thing is that, on nearly every flight on SW I’ve been on (about a dozen), there are maybe 10 people in the B line and a couple in the C line, and the rest are in A. What’s the point of having three lines if you’re not going to evenly divide the people among them?


The other thing is that, on nearly every flight on SW I’ve been on (about a dozen), there are maybe 10 people in the B line and a couple in the C line, and the rest are in A. What’s the point of having three lines if you’re not going to evenly divide the people among them?

Logically, the A line should fill up first because every flight will always have people in the A boarding group. The people in the B and C groups are probably sitting elsewhere in the boarding area.

It is possible for a flight not to have any B or C groups if the flight has fewer than 45 or 90 passengers respectively. (Each group contains approximately 45 people, i.e. 137 seats divided by 3.)

Think of 3 ponds in a row. The first pond fills up first. The overflow goes to the next pond and finally, if there’s any water left, it goes to the 3rd pond.


Hmph. I would think that dividing the flight up evenly among the lines would make it easier. Say you have a flight of 60. That gives you one really big line and one really small line. I figured the optimal way would be to divide that into 3 groups of 20 (24 hours before the flight calculate how many people at that point are on the flight; give the first 20 an A, second 20 a B, third 20 a C, and anyone who purchases tickets between the calculation and boarding would be randomly assigned a letter). I mean, the entire point of the letters is to form groups so that you don’t have one gigantic line of people fighting to get on the plane, right?

I’m not debating you, I’m more just thinking aloud on why SW decided to go with that…


It’s all based on the previous system SWA used before being forced to go to boarding passes with the passengers’ names on them.

If you were the first passenger to check in, you were given a plastic boarding card with the number one. If you were the second one, the number was two. If you were the last one on a fully loaded 737-300, then your number was 137. Passengers were called in groups of 30. When your group was called, then you gave the boarding card to the agent and went on board.


Regarding the Interstate remarks: AMEN. Those people are just stupid enough not to realize that THERE WOULDN’T BE NEARLY AS LONG OF A LINE, AND IT WOULD MOVE MUCH MORE QUICKLY IF IT WEREN’T FOR ASSHOLES CUTTING IN FRONT OF IT!!! It’s the modern hardass “I’m far too important to wait in YOUR line” mentality. People suck.
Re: All the “A” list folks: This is intentional; it’s all part of the “No Passenger Left Behind” Act. :wink: Or maybe Southwest doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by making them feel second/third rate. There’s probably an emotional distress lawsuit waiting to happen on that one.


The sentiment there seems to running in favor of keeping things
as they are. I’m curious what the flight attendants and pilots
actually prefer regarding seating policy.


I guess SWA doesn’t like other people herding cattle for them…