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A MESSAGE FROM OUR CEO – OPEN SEASON ON ASSIGNED SEATING

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I’m new to this whole blogosphere thing but I have really enjoyed reading all of the comments and am humbled that so many people are as enthusiastic and nuts about Southwest as we are.

I wanted to address some of the recent comments about Southwest’s seating policy. There’s been quite a bit of buzz both in the media and on this blog about our current open seating policy and my recent comments (at Shareholder’s Day on May 17) about our consideration of changing to assigned seating in the future. So, as the saying goes, here’s the scoop “straight from the horse’s mouth.”

At Southwest, quick, efficient operations and our desire to give the Customer what they want have been the keys to our 35 years of success. Everything we do at Southwest takes into account maintaining the delicate balance between operational efficiency and providing the Positively Outrageous Service that our Customers have come to expect from Southwest. One of the most common requests for change from our Customers is to add assigned seating. Obviously, many of our current Customers enjoy the open seating, so it’s not a unanimous request. However, we do listen intently to our Customers and do our best to give them what they want so it only makes sense to extensively research and evaluate this possibility.

Open seating has allowed us to build a highly efficient operation by keeping the time our aircraft are sitting at our gate to a minimum. Aircraft on the ground don’t make money! But it’s no secret that all airlines – even Southwest – are facing extensive cost pressures due to the rising price of fuel and we have to find ways to generate additional revenue.

Our Customer Service technology has evolved to the point that assigning seats may prove to be an efficient way for Southwest to board the aircraft. Our computer reservation system is undergoing an upgrade and, while we are in the “remodeling” effort, we are adding the technical capability to assign seats. This does not mean we will; rather, it means we will be prepared to assign seats, if we so choose.

We are currently conducting extensive research and if our research and testing (which some of you may be involved with) proves that we can bring in more Customers (without alienating our existing Customers) and increase overall Customer satisfaction, but at the same time not increase our boarding times or our costs, then I don’t see a reason not to do it. I haven’t given any time frame – just that it won’t happen next year.

I know that several of you have commented that you don’t want the current seating policy to go away because you see it as a part of what makes Southwest “Southwest,” but I’ll remind you that many people felt the same way when we transitioned from plastic boarding cards to electronic boarding cards. Things change and we can’t ignore that fact. One thing that will never change, however, is our dedication to you – our Customer – and we will always make decisions with your best interests in mind.

So, stay tuned…we promise to keep you informed of this and all of the changes at Southwest. And keep telling us what you want, we LUV hearing from you and we appreciate your business!

653 Comments

  1. Not sure I want to see open seating change but one thing that shouldn’t change are your seats. I just got off flight 3598 from SMF to Denver and your “New Seats” remind me of regional airlines in China. I asked the flight attendant why and she says Gary our CEO thinks they are great. I am a small guy and hated them. You gave more isle room and less seat room. As a long time flyer on SW, PLEASE don’t do this!!

  2. I am a frequent traveler. I don’t fly southwest all that often. After this past weekend I realize why I choose not to fly southwest very often. It has become my last resort airline. The whole lining up thing to board??? What is that? Are you really suppose to ask each person in line if they are in the right spot? Line up and call you number off. I had a lady tell me she was in front of me and to move in behind her. When I asked the ticket person what was the system…she said, ” oh, just peek at other’s boarding passes and see where you should get in line. I said “really”, that’s your system? She said, “just be aggressive”. Honestly? You’ve got to be kidding me. Can it get any less professional? Again.. Southwest my last resort to fly. Maybe this could be a new logo for them.

  3. I’ve only flown Southwest once, and honestly would rather pay a higher price and go to an airport out of my way than to ever fly Southwest again. This airline, for some reason unfathomable to any intelligent person, combines the narrow, uncomfortable seating of air travel with the stressful, irritating ‘grab a seat or lose it’ style seating of a bus.

    Please, start assigning seats like other airlines…you’ll probably get more customers if you do, rather than chasing customers away.