Southwest Airlines has ‘open seating’. You line up to board based on your ticket type (“business select” fares are first), elite status, whether or not you purchased a spot in the queue (early bird) and check-in time.
There’s no assigned seats. People may already be on the plane from an earlier flight segment, but otherwise it’s open season – the earlier you board the better your selection of seats. Savvy travelers early in line head for the exit row window with no seat in front of them, but otherwise it’s usually an aisle seat towards the front.
I ask at the gate how full the flight is. If it’s not booked to capacity I’ll take an aisle closer to the back and lay out some of my stuff in the middle seat. I hope to get a that middle seat next to me empty, though I do not go as far as some people who crumple up tissues and stick those in the empty middle.
There’s an exception to ‘first come, first served’ though with seat choice: saving seats. Some people will board and save seats for others in their travel party with lower boarding numbers than they have. When my wife’s parents fly Southwest I have one of them pay for Early Bird check-in, and then save a seat for the other one. There’s no reason for them both to pay.
Southwest Airlines has no policy on the practice of saving seats one way or the other. It’s entirely up to social customers, and always struck me as something that could lead to conflict. Although most people saving seats are successful, and most people just skip on by the seat when they’re told it’s saved for someone else.
Still, the practice of saving seats can be taken to extremes. How about saving three rows of seats for a travel party? That actually takes some skill, almost like a boxer – ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ moving around and covering a large area of blockage.
We regret any disappointment during the boarding process today. As you may know, all Southwest flights are open seating, and we don't have a specific policy for or against saving seats. We apologize for any frustration, and hope for smoother sailing in the future. -Hannah
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) March 28, 2022
It seems to me that it is one thing to save a seat or even a row, and other thing entirely to save multiple rows. Still it is not against Southwest’s rules. I’m not sure how a passenger trying to save a row behind them would block a passenger from sitting there, but social custom seems to make it a plausible strategy.
Is saving multiple rows of seats going overboard? Would you honor someone’s claim that they’re saving seats in a row they aren’t physically in?