Southwest Airlines is one of the most popular carriers in the U.S., known for its friendly service and free checked bags. But its policy of not assigning seats has at least one major downside.
For those unfamiliar, Southwest gives passengers on each flight a boarding group (A, B, or C), as well as a boarding position (1-60). At the gate, everyone lines up at little posts and then boards in order. Those at the front (like A5) get those prime window and exit row seats, those at the back (like C43) get those unloved middle seats. Order is determined by when passengers check in online (at 24 hours ahead of departure *on the dot* if you don't want a C), and of course — because this is flying in 2017 — anyone who pays extra can get a prime A number.
Inevitably, every flight has some passengers saving seats for people they’re traveling with who are stuck in a later boarding group.
According to AZ Central, passenger Stu Weinshanker was boarding a Southwest flight to Las Vegas with his wife (after paying $15 each to board early in A) when they found that one of the exit row seats they wanted was being saved by another passenger in a middle seat.
Weinshanker mentioned the open seating policy, according to AZ Central, then asked the woman saving the seat for her boyfriend to move her belongings to the window seat on the other side of her, which she did. When her boyfriend came on board, however, she cried, saying Weinshanker had intimidated her into giving up the aisle seat.
(Is anyone else already asking why she didn't sit in the aisle and save the middle, then move over? Like has she done this before? Everyone knows that's how you save a seat on Southwest.)
Weinshanker told AZ Central that he ultimately diffused the situation by buying the woman some drinks as a sort of apology.
Seat saving is a small issue to some. After all, there are far better things to worry about than being a few rows (i.e., inches) away from your companion for a few hours. But for some passengers, it's about fairness.
But since Southwest has yet to put a policy in place to crack down on seat savers, it’s up to the passengers to sort out how to resolve these issues — relying more on social pressure rather than hard and fast airline rules to discourage them.
In the end, it might just be easier to find another seat. We’re all going to the same place.