Southwest Airlines Reaches Decision on Boarding Process

“To assign, or not to assign,” the Southwest Airlines blog reads. “That is the question.”

I’ve always been a fan of Southwest for two reasons: they’re generally cheaper than other carriers in my neck of the woods, and I enjoy the open seating and boarding process. Why? Because it rewards those that make an effort to get a good seat instead of randomly assigning them. Why should Joe Blow get the emergency exit row? He showed up at the airport late, held up the security line with his 18-hole boots, and made it to the gate in a breathless, mad dash. With Southwest, because I’m dedicated (read: anal) to being a part of the elite “A” group, I’m rewarded with the first pick of seats. I like that.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried as I read Southwest Airline’s blog post this morning stating they had reached a decision. Would they adopt the standard assigned-seating boarding process? Would they do away with open seating? The tension was building.

“Southwest has decided to keep open seating, but to adopt a new and improved boarding process,” writes Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines CEO. [We wrote about the improved boarding process here.] “These decisions were based on the input we got from you, our Customers, through this blog, written correspondence, and surveys taken during the tests. While a substantial majority of our Customers prefer the ability to select their own seats onboard the aircraft, many of those folks have told us they don’t like our existing boarding procedure that sometimes has Customers doing everything possible to be at the front of their boarding group.”

This is perfect. No longer do you have the line sitters (okay fine, I admit it — I was one of them), the people who cut in line (never did that, of course), or the people who stand in the “B” line even though they have a “C” boarding pass, hoping the ticket agent will say, “Oh, sorry you have a ‘C’ boarding pass… but that’s okay, come on through!” Thankfully every time I saw this happened, the agent kindly sent them to the line they belonged in.

Anyway, good job Southwest. To read the details of the new boarding process, visit the Southwest Airlines blog.