Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Southwest Seating

Looks like Southwest is seriously considering doing away with its open seating policy. Currently--for those of you lucky enough to have been spared the Southwest experience--the airline doesn't assign seats; customers choose their seats once on board, and the first to board are those who arrive at the airport earliest. On a three hour flight from Baltimore to San Antonio two years ago, I arrived at the airport ninety minutes prior to my flight and yet still ended up in Line C (essentially the caboose), which meant a cramped middle seat with my backpack underfoot (as there was no room left in the overhead bin).

Starting soon, however, Southwest will begin a trial run of assigned seating in one of its busiest cities--San Diego. The article doesn't state precisely how the airline will assign seats, but given the implication that Southwest is becoming less "maverick," I assume they will follow the legacy carriers' suit and give priority to those who purchase their tickets earliest (whether frequent Southwest passengers will somehow be awarded, I'm not sure). For those readers who fly Southwest for vacation and leisure purposes, this should come as good news. If you fly it for business and book at the last minute, well, you might be screwed. You might consider switching to a legacy carrier, where your frequent travel can earn elite status and give you priority seating even when booking at the last minute (most airlines reserve bulkead and exit row seats for preferred customers).

In other seating news, Northwest no longer boards by zones. The airline now lets customers board at their leisure no matter where they sit on the plane (first class and World Perks/Skyteam Elite members still go first--egalitarianism has its limits). Turns out, this unorthodox approach has trimmed five to 10 minutes off of boarding times, making Northwest more punctual during the hectic and notoriously delay-ridden summer travel season. We shall see if other airlines follow Northwest's lead.


Anonymous Patrick R said...

Does this mean we will see Ben flying SWA?

1:59 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

I'm afraid not. Unless I have a hankering to be treated like a cow--in my case, a mad cow.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Evan said...

Remember the time we were forced into line B (or was it even *GASP* C) when I took a last minute trip to the bathroom in Norfolk after hanging out at the bar for a few too many beers? I believe that was the same flight that carried a plane full of Navy men who just came back into port on the GW...the guy in front of us who was drunk and the flight attendant asked to call him a cab once at the gate. It seems to me that every flight I have had with you, Ben, has been somewhat memorable.

8:19 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Yes, your fragile bladder forced us into Line B--and we ended up sitting at the back of the plane behind inebriated Navy men whom we were compelled to lionize. That's what you get when you fly from Norfolk to Jacksonville (or wherever the hell we were going). Classy!

11:00 PM  

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