Is Southwest Finally Considering Assigned Seating?

by SharonKurheg

Southwest’s open seating. Either you love it or you hate it.

For years, the system seemed to be relatively fair. You logged on 24 hours ahead of your flight time and “your” time to get onto the plane would be first-come-first-served, based on when you checked in.

EarlyBird Check In was introduced in 2009. You could skip to the front of the line for a relatively small fee ($10 at its introduction). “With EarlyBird Check-in, you no longer need to watch the clock or set your alarm to be one of the first Customers to check in for a Southwest flight. EarlyBird Customers can relax, and let us do the work for them,” Kevin Krone, Southwest’s Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Distribution, said at the time.

Over the years, Southwest introduced even more ways to get to the head of the line, until it reached the point where, just like any other airline, if you had status or somehow paid, you could get onto the plane first.

Well, except for the people who began to learn that if you requested wheelchair service, you could get onto the plane even before the “beautiful people” (I’m not talking about the people who genuinely need extra help or time because of a visible or invisible disability. I’m talking about the fakers; we all know there are fakers, even if we don’t necessarily know which people in the wheelchairs they are). Everyone else could expect a spot in the “High Bs,” if not Boarding Group C. But then, hey, you might get free checked carry-ons.

a sign in a airport

PC: Southwest Community

And then, since Southwest doesn’t have a policy about saving seats, people who get onto the plane earlier wind up saving entire rows for their flying companions who may not get onto the plane until later. And that gets peoples’ dander up too.

Meanwhile, a reader wrote to us the other day – they said that they recently got a survey from Southwest, via email. Questions included how they would feel about them switching to assigned seating, options for seats with extra legroom, options for priority boarding, stuff like that. So their question was:

Is Southwest looking at switching to assigned seating?!?!?!?!

Our answer is a mixture of, “well, maybe” and, unfortunately, “probably not.”

This survey isn’t the first time Southwest has looked into the possibility of switching from open seating to assigned seating. They’ve asked their flyers about it in 2006 (they also experimented with assigned seating that year, too), 2007, 2019, and probably other times where I couldn’t find a link that suggested it.

They also said that assigned seating “wasn’t in the cards” in 2018, but the then-incoming CEO Bob Jordan said in 2022 that it could be a possibility in the future.

So there ya go…are they going to switch to assigned seating? Who knows? Southwest probably wouldn’t ever tell us for sure until the decision was firmly made.

Of course, if they DID do assigned seating, you know it would be just as expensive as every other airline out there…you’d be paying for those seat assignments, that extra leg room and any form of priority boarding. So then the only difference between Southwest and all the other airlines would be the 2 free checked bags. With all the other upcharges, even that might not make flying on Southwest worth it anymore…especially if they go through with these atrocities.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Patrick February 22, 2024 - 3:33 pm

But there is always the Companion Pass which makes it a no brainer… no matter what.

David Miller February 23, 2024 - 1:39 pm

I have been flying Southwest for over 35 years and have had several versions of their Rapid Rewards credit card – I did not receive the “survey” you say they sent – I call you saying this as “bulls**t”. Prove me wrong and post a copy of said “survey”.
(Comment edited by YMMV to remove NSFW language)

SharonKurheg February 23, 2024 - 1:47 pm

We didn’t receive the survey. But a reader of ours did (that’s why they asked the question that prompted the post) and we have no reason to doubt them. A quick visit to a search engine will also find a recent Reddit thread where someone received one. I’ve also recently read a couple of similar threads in some of the travel-related Facebook groups I’m in. So I’m quite sure that surveys were recently sent out.


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