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Old Apr 26, 2007, 12:37 PM
nearperfect9 nearperfect9 is offline
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1
Default Fly Southwest - your first time will be your last time!

This is a story about the first and last time I flew with Southwest. I will never set foot on a Southwest aircraft again, and I recommend that you do the same.

My fiance and I flew from Chicago, IL to Providence, RI. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 4:30ish and we arrived at the airport at 1:45pm. We returned the rental car, obtained our boarding passes, checked our luggage, made it through security, and were seated at our gate by about 2:20pm. This was over two hours before our scheduled flight, and 1-1/2 hours before airlines recommend you be waiting to board at the gate. It's also important to mention that there were almost no other passengers waiting at our gate to board our flight. Why am I telling you all of this? You'll see in a minute.

Since we were at the gate so early, as we usually are, we had some lunch and I played games on the laptop. Around 3:00, other passengers started to filter in. By 3:30, the seating at the gate was considerably more full.

At one point, I looked at my boarding pass. I saw that instead of a seat number, it had a big letter "C". I asked Jason what that meant (since he flew Southwest recently - the time he flew out to see me for the weekend in August). He explained that Southwest doesn't use assigned seating - they board according to the letter on your boarding pass... A, B, C, etc.

Damn! I thought, we'll get crappy seats. Then, I reminded myself that I don't really care where I sit (aisle, window, rear or front of the aircraft). I had no idea about the fiasco that was about to take place on board.

At 4:00, the gate attendant started preboarding. He then made three lines with stantions, and told us we could line up to board, according to the letter on our boarding pass, "A", "B", or "C". I started feeling dejected when I noticed that the "A" and "B" lines had close to 50 people in them. Our little "C" line had no more than 15 people.

When we finally got on the plane, it was already very full - naturally, about 100 people were seated, and the 15 or so of us were the only ones left. I was disappointed, because there were only single seats remaining. We checked the entire cabin - no one offered to switch seats so we could sit next to each other, so Jason and I reluctantly took our seats separately in different parts of the plane.

I asked a friendly-looking flight attendant, Jana, if I could be seated with the rest of my party. She looked at me for a second, blinked, and hissed, "Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis!" I was in shock that she was so nasty, but I replied, "We were at the gate and ready to board in plenty of time, I think that is ridiculous!" "What's ridiculous about it?" she scoffed, "Our seating is on a first-come first-served basis! Take your seat!" At this point I was not going to argue with her (this was just after the London incident & liquid ban), so I sat down.

I was stewing with anger during the entire flight. I just couldn't make sense of it. We checked in more than two hours before the flight. We were one of the first ten passengers waiting at the gate. How much more "first" could we have gotten? It wasn't our fault our boarding passes said "C" - couldn't they at least keep parties together?

I wasn't being a princess, demanding that I sit in a certain row, or by the window, etc. My only request was to sit next to the person I was traveling with. I would even understand if they had to split parties of 4 or more into 2's. Luckily, both Jason and I are seasoned travelers and have flown frequently, and have no qualms about it. What if Jason was a 5-year-old? Ha - but seriously, if I were traveling with a child, there is no way I would have taken my seat when that woman demanded it. What if I hadn't flown in awhile? I know plenty of people who are uneasy flying, or even flat out scared, and would simply not appreciate being separated from the rest of their party.

Based on our experience, there are two major problems at Southwest Airlines. First of all, their seating process is flawed. I'm not disagreeing with the first-come, first-served policy - but I think it should be administered differently. For example, they could consider putting groups of three or more passengers traveling together in the "A" boarding group, two passengers in the "B" group, and passengers traveling alone in the "C" boarding group. That way, the odds would be much greater that people would not have to split up. Or, heck, they could even assign your "A", "B", or "C" boarding group based on when you check your luggage and receive your boarding passes - that way it would truly be a "first come, first served" program.

The second problem at Southwest Airlines is the way customers are permitted to be treated. I know that Jana was just one flight attendant out of many, and I do work in retail, so I'm generally very forgiving of tense, terse service industry employees. But - not only was she awful, every interaction I've had with Southwest afterward has been bad. Their website states that they don't take e-mail or phone calls about questions or concerns. That tells me that there have been so many complaints, they restricted it to snail mail to cut down on the apparently significant volume.

Oh, and by the way - If you've never flown Southwest, you might not know they're the Ed Debevic's of airlines. The gate attendant made plenty of sarcastic jokes while we were waiting at the gate to board. At the time, I found his cynical sense of humor amusing. But by the time we were deboarding, I had had enough of the fun and games. The crew was beyond annoying with their little quips and cracks, especially on the PA system. I'm not a "stuffed shirt" in any sense of the word -- so since it was too much even for me, that's definitely saying a lot!

Thank you for taking the time to read about my experience with Southwest. I hope this will help you make a decision about what airline you choose to fly - I'm going to stick with Northwest, where you can sit with your traveling companions, and don't have to be snapped at, and listen to stupid jokes.
Old Jul 21, 2007, 9:17 PM
ryskalchick ryskalchick is offline
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 3

Actually, the A B C assignments are based on the time when your boarding pass was printed. people that fly southwest alot usually check in early, like the day before so there group can sit together.
Old Feb 8, 2008, 9:49 PM
Corbel Corbel is offline
Airline Employee (NOT OFFICIAL REP)
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 214

and with the jokes, its what southwest does. my friend flew them and she loved it. I can understand when your trying to relax and they start talking over the P.A system, i get kind of annoyed with that on any airline
Old Feb 29, 2008, 11:08 PM
MikeL71 MikeL71 is offline
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 3

It sounds like to me your friend didn’t want to sit with you because you said he has flown Southwest before. He would have known about the boarding pass procedure since they have been doing it that way since the Airlines started in 1971. Maybe next time you fly an airlines you’ve never flown before you should do a little research if sitting with your friend is so important because there are other airlines that do the same thing. Second, when I’ve flown Southwest I’ve seen the gate agents let groups that had both A & B boarding passes board together in the A group, you just have to ask.
Old Feb 29, 2008, 11:12 PM
MikeL71 MikeL71 is offline
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 3

Another thing just looking at your user name I can imagine your pretty high maintenance so an Airline like Southwest would be beneath you anyways.
Old Apr 24, 2008, 5:50 AM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 5
Default Southwest Airlines Corporate Goon Squad

Ever wonder why you never read anything nasty about Southwest in papers or see it on TV? Southwest has a group of goons who police all of it and do their best to delete it or trash it. If, for example, you scratch the surface of the recent plane inspection debacle, which started with Southwest Airlines, you find bigtime under the table dealing on the part of Southwest. See below articles:

Whistleblower: FAA Co-Workers Spied On Him During SWA Inspections
NBC 5 Dallas Fort Worth Mon, 10 Mar 2008 9:50 PM PDT
According to two Federal Aviation Administration inspectors, corruption, backroom deals and computer snooping jeopardized safety at Southwest Airlines.

Southwest may have missed rudder checks, too
The Salt Lake Tribune Sat, 08 Mar 2008 2:11 AM PST
Southwest Airlines Co., already under scrutiny for failing to check jets for fuselage cracks, may have flown 70 planes for at least a year without rudder-control inspections, a congressman said.

The media are more afraid of losing ad revenue than they are about our safety.

Is Mike one of these goons?
Old May 4, 2008, 12:05 AM
MikeL71 MikeL71 is offline
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 3
Default I'm not one of those goons

Actually my airline of choice is Continental. I normal donít fly on Southwest, and I wasnít defending Southwest as a great airlines. I think they are mediocre at best. I was commenting on her complaint about Southwest which I thought was stupid. I donít think you can fault an airline for your own ignorance because you donít know their boarding procedures. The high maintenance comment was referring to the girl making the comment not Southwest which we both know isnít high maintenance.
Old Jul 30, 2008, 2:31 PM
HawkeyeDJ HawkeyeDJ is offline
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 4

I've experienced the same treatment as the OP from SWA. Their boarding procedures are terrible. And I've printed out two boarding passes AT THE SAME TIME from the same kiosk and had different letters on each pass. When I brought this problem to the attention of gate personnel, they looked at me like they could not see a problem, at least it was not their problem. I'm going to avoid SWA until they stop treating their customers like cattle at the gate.
Old Jul 30, 2008, 3:22 PM
abutterfinger25 abutterfinger25 is offline
US Department of Transportation Employee
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Washington Metro Area
Posts: 197

Southwest has had the "cattle call" boarding practice since they stated. And yes, if a party has multiple letters, the whole group can board with the highest letter.

In regards to children: Southwest allows families with children to board after group A and before Group B.

If you are a passenger who needs a specific seat assignement to accomodate a disability, then Southwest is required to allow you to board the aircraft before Group A.

Edit: There are many people who refuse to fly Southwest, solely because of the boarding practice. My father being one of them. But as long as you are aware of it and check in early on line and print out your passes, you should be able to sit with your travling companions.

Last edited by abutterfinger25; Jul 30, 2008 at 3:24 PM.
Old Apr 2, 2009, 10:49 PM
rudybjr rudybjr is offline
Airline Employee (NOT OFFICIAL REP)
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 37

It is first-come first-serve, you just weren't aware that you can check in online 24hrs prior to your departure date. Get over it. I'm sure you both "survived" not being seated together.
Old Apr 4, 2009, 3:53 PM
HawkeyeDJ HawkeyeDJ is offline
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 4

Originally Posted by rudybjr View Post
It is first-come first-serve, you just weren't aware that you can check in online 24hrs prior to your departure date. Get over it. I'm sure you both "survived" not being seated together.
Nope. Not gonna "get over it". I'm a customer, and I have choices. I choose not to fly SWA because this CUSTOMER doesn't like the way they treat me and my family at the gate.

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