Southwest Sticks With Open Seating

Southwest Airlines announced Wednesday that it will continue its open seating policy – but with a change that ought to reduce the time passengers spend in line, waiting to board.

Starting in November, passengers will get not just an A, B or C pass when they check in. They’ll get a number, too. Gate agents will board the first five numbers in A, then the next 5, and so on. No need for everyone to line up at the gate in a push to board first.

Used to be, I hated Southwest’s cattle call boarding. Then two things happened. First, some legacy carriers came up with even worse seating schemes.  (Yes, assigned seating can be used for evil.) And then I learned how to get an A boarding pass on Southwest by checking in online as early as possible.

I still prefer assigned seating, in the reasonably democratic form it used to take. But I’d rather have open seating than assigned seating that’s been manipulated to suck more money out of coach passengers – see Northwest’s Coach Choice  and United’s  Economy Plus.  And I think this refinement to Southwest’s boarding process is a good one.

Whether you think Southwest is a good airline or not, it may actually be a better airline than it was five or six years ago. What other airlines can you say that about?


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