Sunday, May 21, 2006

Southwest to reconsider its open seating policy

Earlier this week, it was reported that Southwest Airlines is considering assigned seating on its flights. Southwest, of course, is currently the only major airline in the United States that does not assign seats to flyers. Instead, seating on the plane is provided on a first-come, first-served basis: the sooner you get your boarding pass and get to the gate, the better your pick of seats will be. The so-called "cattle call" has been part of Southwest's business model since its inception, but current upgrades to Southwest's reservation system will allow them to assign seats in the future, if they so choose.

I've never had strong feelings, one way or another, about Southwest's open seating policy. I've always accepted it as part of flying Southwest. Apparently, however, a lot of people do feel strongly about it. As the almost-300 comments regarding the topic on Ben Mutzabaugh's Today in the Sky blog on indicate, there are a lot of people who refuse to fly Southwest expressly due to the open seating policy. There are others that prefer Southwest due entirely to that same policy. A sampling of the comments:
I would kill myself or retire before I would ever fly Southwest. When I see the cordoned lines of persons standing for ages to position themselves, all I can recall are lines of cattle in feedlots waiting to be slaughtered!
(I want to meet this guy with a vial of arsenic in one hand and a Southwest ticket in the other and see if he's serious about killing himself before flying Southwest. As for the "cordoned lines of persons standing for ages," has this guy ever been through security screening?)
WN is a cattle car operation airline which I never fly because of the no assigned seating. If they opt to offer reserved seating and treat the passenger like a person and not cattle, I might consider flying them.
(Uh, which airline doesn't treat you like cattle these days?)
The open seating policy is the reason I fly SWA over any other airline - over and over again. I am a firm believer in their policy. It works like a charm and SWA employees are fantastic.
(Well, all of them are fantastic except for that one clumsy flight attendant who tripped in the aisle and made me knock my beer all over myself. She wouldn't even get me another drink to replace the one that she made me spill!)
I used to fly Southwest out of Manchester and couldn't stand the cattle call. There is always a loser camped out in the front of the A line. Get a life!
(Yeah, and that guy probably thinks you're a loser because he's going to get a better seat than you...)
Southwest has the coldest beer of all the airlines I've flown. Who needs a seat assignment?
(Can't argue with that logic.)
I love the Open Boarding system. I hope that they never change. Most who fly SW do so because of cost and understand the system. The wonderful thing about competition is that you have choices. Those who want assigned seating have other options.
(True. If you don't like Southwest, then don't fly Southwest.)
You people who cling to your precious assigned seating can continue to fly your legacy carriers, even as they hemmorage money, dump their pensions, cut service, charge extra for pillows and blankets and exit row seats, stick you aboard aging MD-80s and cramped RJs, and treat you with contempt all the while. Meanwhile, I'll continue to suffer the traumatic indiginites of standing in line and will continue to fly Southwest, a profitable, courteous, reliable airline will be around long after your unprofitable, arrogant, elitist legacy carriers with their sancrosanct assigned seating have all shriveled up and disappeared.
(Wow. Somebody really has it in for the legacy carriers. Of course, discounters like AirTran and Frontier assign seats, too, so it's not just a legacy carrier thing.)

Southwest probably won't make a decision on assigned seating anytime soon, and although I don't think they need to fix what isn't broke, I really won't care what they decide to do. Judging from some of these comments, however, I'm one of very few people who don't care.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the last comment was something you wrote, Thomas. Or it sure sounds like something you would write.