Southwest Airlines doesn’t have pre-assigned seats. It’s first come, first served. That means how early you board the plane matters – being one of the first on the plane gets you a wider selection of seats to pick from.
Frequently, once a passenger picks their seats, the games will begin.
- If the plane isn’t going to be full, passengers will try to keep people from sitting down next to them, hoping for an empty middle seat beside them when the door closes. Crumple up tissues and put them on the seat, spread out into the middle seat to make it look like an uncomfortable choice, or place your bag or jacket there to make the seat look already occupied.
- Some men, especially, will be open to certain passengers over others and try to game who their empty seat looks welcoming to. An attractive female boards and suddenly they clear out that middle seat! But it’s obvious they’re doing it and creepy.
- There’s no rule about saving seats. Southwest doesn’t say it’s ok, but they do not say it isn’t ok. One person with an “A” group boarding pass and Noah’s Ark full of two of each type of passenger with a C boarding pass may wind up with aisle seats or seats together at the front of the aircraft.
The thing about saving seats for people with a lower boarding order is that it removes good seats from the available pool for those who paid for an earlier boarding number (such as a Business Select fare) or who earned it through loyalty to the airline over a year’s worth of ticket purchases (A-List and A-List Preferred).
We regret any disappointment during the boarding process today. All Southwest flights are open seating, and we don't have a specific policy for or against saving seats. Still, we apologize for any frustration and hope for smoother sailing in the future. -Jhericca
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) September 21, 2023
So holding 5 seats on a full southwest flight is allowed now? Flight 20 heading to Houston.
— Taylor (@TayTaySwift1103) September 24, 2023
Open seating on Southwest Airlines means Lord Of The Flies… or sometimes Thunderdome. That doesn’t work for everyone, but I actually like it.
- I tend to buy tickets late – close to travel – and on many airlines that means the best seats are already gone. But with Southwest they’re still available.
- In fact, when changing flights on the day of travel or getting rebooked due to a delay or cancellation, all of the seats on the plane are still available.
- And you can play games to increase the odds of having an empty middle seat next to you, which is the difference-maker in having a great flight in coach.
Flying Southwest is different than flying other airlines, but is it funny that I actually like it? Not least of which because their seats have a couple more inches of legroom than standard coach on most other airlines, too, which means I can open my laptop on board without difficulty.