Woman Uses Bags Of Donuts To Save Whole Row Of Seats On Southwest Airlines

A passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight from Washington DC to Dallas snapped a photo of an entire row of seats blocked off using bags of donuts. The passenger who did it wasn’t even seated in the row but nearby, saving those seats for their family.

On Southwest Airlines, which has ‘open seating’, there’s no rule one way or another about seat saving. You line up by boarding group and number, which is assigned based on the fare you pay, your elite status with the airline, and the time you check in. People who request wheelchairs get better seats, whether they need the wheelchairs or not.

For Southwest’s passengers, it’s a free for all, everyone for themselves when it comes to the ‘cattle car’ rush for seats. And everyone has their own technique for securing the most space on flights that aren’t completely full and will have an empty seat somewhere (so it might as well be next to them) or to ensure their group sits together – even though only one person paid for earlier boarding

People place crumpled tissues on the seat and act sick. They act like they’re fighting with the other person in the row. They spread themselves or their stuff into the seat beside them signaling that it’ll be uncomfortable to sit there. Or they place their stuff in the empty seat to make it look like someone is seated there. Sometimes Southwest Airlines passengers look intentionally creepy to scare off potential seatmates.

But bags of donuts is a new one?

Woman saving an entire row of plane seats behind her with donut bags.
byu/Hog_Fan inmildlyinfuriating

Imagine paying for earlier boarding and finding that the seats are already taken by passengers who aren’t even on board yet, with a lower boarding position, who did not pay. Then the plane fills up, only middle seats are ‘left’ though a whole row is empty?

If you’re overweight you can have a whole row to yourself and you don’t even need to use donuts, though eating the donuts might help position you for that row to yourself.

I actually do like the way Southwest Airlines seats are divvied out first-come, first-served as someone who books last minute (good seats may not be available anymore on other airlines) and as someone who sometimes changes flights on the day of travel. They also offer an inch or two more legroom than other airlines in their standard seats. And I like that you can help control your own destiny over whether someone sits next to you or not – when the flight isn’t full. Just pick your strategy.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Regarding pre boarding and wheelchair access, we flew recently across country and again from WA to Denver. My husband CAN walk but is very slow and unsteady. Has dizzy spells as well but not all the time. He cannot walk to entire airport to the gate without much difficulty and I feared for his safety. So I signed up for wheelchair access on all flights, but he was able to walk from the gate to the plane. He just has to go slow. So we pre boarded, even though it APPEARED to everyone around us that he is not disabled. We paid extra for the first row seats, which we probably didn’t have to but I wanted a guarantee of that extra legroom as well. So all is not as it appears people, remember that and be kind!

  2. I can only respond to the comment about not needing wheelchairs…with a lot of work and a bit of luck, you too will grow old! Then you will be judged by a youngster as not needing the wheelchair to get you to an airplane. Do you think anyone enjoys being pushed through an airport in a chair?? I’ve loved traveling all my life, but needed to curtail it in my 70’s as airports just keep getting bigger, my COPD keeps getting worse and my shoulders are both useless for dragging luggage around. My only option when traveling is to ask for assistance and suffer your judgement. Thankfully, Southwest offers assistance and respect! Youth is truly wasted on the young.

  3. Always Judged-But Dont judge a Book by its COVER!
    I Don’t look disabled at all-However, have had to obtain two “Temporarily” Disabled placards due to Spinal Stenosis complications.
    I am able many times to walk distances intermittently-But had I not had the service assistance on my last two Travels, I would would have “MISSED” my Flights (especially) since the airlines changed my gate at the last minute which would have caused me to have to run, or walk briskly with luggage!

    Not a Good Position to be in or faced with when dealing with Constant Pain of “SPINAL STENOSIS”

    Thank God for “SERVICE WORKERS”❤️

  4. I’m sorry you’re experiencing health challenges; I, too, am older and have several invisible disabilities. Thankfully, I can walk and board on my own. I am not upset about people who need a wheelchair or extra time to board. I’m infuriated because of an overheard conversation on a cruise ship where a (self-described) non-disabled individual was bragging and laughing about gaming the system to get a good seat “for free” and suggesting others do the same.

  5. Always fly Southwest love the pre.board for disabled or wheel chair people including elderly people. My husband has a heart condition. Cant see it but it’s there. Gets winded easily. I am bone to bone in both knees. We are bothid to late 60s and know we don’t look out age. We generally flip a coin as to who gets wheel chair help. It benefits both of us for this service. Got to our gate before Thanks to the porters. We always get there early and actually have helped gate agent line up special needs people. I know they appreciate it. At one woman who yes am glad she was in a wheel chair but had to be first one with her non support little dog . She even bragged not a service animal. Later she upset flight attendant wouldn’t watch it while she went.to bathroom. Ok I get it then the wheel chair brigade comes. Must have been 20 people and.several were bragging how they know how to scam SWA to get better seats. A few had entire families of at least 6 with them. What is amazing is how Jesus heals in mid.flighr. 15 wheel chairs.lines.in jet way upon arrival for people to get off and only 5 were needed. These wheel chair people were the first ones up when plane shut down and ran down the aisle..
    Same can be said on early bird seating. We have paid for it in past thinking that was how husband with heart issues could get in with minimal difficulty. He was in A20 group, not bad. Always must have a window seat, me I don’t care for a 2 hour flight just get me there. I was A28 back a ways. So he goes on grabs his window seat and who wants a aisle seat so puts his jacket down. No says a thing as it’s early yet. I come on sit in my middle seat. B group people love me as there is a aisle seat for them and.most prefer the aisle. Or at times I had the better board number and went on sit.in my middle seat and.leave window seat open. In A group who wants to crawl over to grab a window when when they can have that preferred aisle seat.

  6. Another reason I will never fly that airline. It’s bad enough that the fatties can take your paid seat last minute.

    I always pay extra and let the airline know ahead of time not to bump me out of a seat closer to the bathroom and in the aisle because I have epilepsy. Some of us with disabilities really get screwed when we try to board. One time I got bumped for a middle seat so they could place a fat person in my extra paid seat with another airline. Flying is such torture.

    Stop the madness.

  7. If SW is going to allow preboarding which I’m ok with put them in the back. This will also allow them all the time they need to deplane. Getting row 1 with extra room should be for those who earned or paid for it. This whole disabled thing is being abused.

  8. I think the seating on airplanes should be like seating in a movie theater. If you’ve bought one seat then you pick your seat, if they were to put the people who paid the most in certain areas they would get to pick their seat, but they can only pick one, if that makes any sense to y’all. It seems easier if you buy three tickets, then you can get three seats but the tickets should have to be in your name. So if I bought one for me and my two children, then I could have three seats in a row.

  9. The only problem I have is the miss use of wheelchairs in the airport. Many people use them just to board early. How I know that is there may be 25 wheelchairs waiting to board the plane. However, when you disembark from the plane, you will see at least 15 of those wheelchairs sitting outside the plane empty. I usually get off the plane last because I don’t like standing in the aisle for a half an hour waiting for them to get the doors open and I see all of those empty wheelchairs that were necessary for getting on the plane waiting for the people to use them but the people are nowhere to be found. The airlines know how many wheelchairs got on the plane and they have that amount waiting when everyone disembarks the plane.
    It’s very obvious that they did not need them in the first place.

  10. I recently flew through SW and they were so professional and awesome. They upgraded my boarding to ensure I was able to get a good seat. I didn’t ask for it but they did it for me. Thanks SW for looking out for your customers who need the help.

  11. Wheel chair bound passengers should be allowed to board 1st. However, just because they are sitting in a wheel chair, doesn’t give a person the right to steal the boarding position that someone paid extra for. There needs to be a handicap area with Southwest open boarding policy, preferably at the back of the plane. If someone is truly handicapped they generally take longer to get situated and longer to disembark which slows the whole boarding and unloading process. If a passenger payed for premium boarding, handicapped or not, they should get what they paid for. As far as saving seats with donuts or whatever, shame on them, and I, 100%, support the southwest staff to intervene and tell the selfish, it’s all about me, person to move their donuts. On other airlines, if you pay for 1st class or better seats, passengers are not denied or stolen their seats that they paid for.

  12. I had a problem with his assessment of Southwest. I use a wheelchair because of my COPD. If I didn’t, I would have to stay home. I just did a round trip from Louisville to Denver and did not sense any saving of seats or mad rush. The attendants kept things moving in an orderly fashion and helped passengers get their baggage stowed overhead to avoid bottlenecks. Let me just add that my flights were the Wednesday before and the day after Christmas, two days that were very busy, but Southwest handled them expeditially! Gary Leff may be humorous but I question his veracity.

  13. The comments here just reinforce the discrimination of disabled individuals. Calling us fatties and telling us we deserve to be at the back of the bus. Disgusting.
    But sure, let’s make travel more difficult for disabled. I know, let’s make them navigate a long, narrow plane aisle with a disability so that people who are healthy aren’t inconvenienced by us. Yes, surely us second class citizens have infinite amounts of time to run (ha!) through an airport because an airline moved your connecting gate to the other side of the airport.
    I further love how the aim is taken straight to the disabled, not the airline too afraid to make policy changes to address those who fake disability.
    Just once, I would love to plan a vacation that didn’t involve massive planning around my circumstances. That I wouldn’t get the side eye from people wondering if I was truly disabled. And, just once, I’d love to travel completely by myself. From parking to picking up luggage. Imagine feeling like such a burden, you are afraid to ask the person assigned to get you to your next gate to stop at a restroom, or to stop and buy a bottle of water, or food. That’s what travel is like for a disabled person.
    Personally, I’ll trade places with anyone that feels they are slowed down by us. I guarantee those extra 15 minutes you are inconvenienced are a dream to us.

  14. Well, since we’re talking about AMERIKAN passengers… I’m waiting for the story where a SW passenger uses fake vomit or fake dog doo to “reserve” seats!!!

  15. I am shocked by the use of the word some fatties by a person who is themselves disabled. Now , i would have told them I paid for 2 seats and specifically chose them for a reason and would not give up my 2 seats. If they forcedthe issue, i would ask tbem if the flight was overbooked. If they said no. They can go movd someone elsd. If they said yes , then they need to ask for volunteers and pay them in accordence with the rules. If they still made me give up my seat. I would demand to be compensated for involuntary denied boarding.
    Ow being a fatty myself, i can still fit within the seat.if found out you paid for an extra seat, I would told the flight I wasn’t taking your seat you paid for.

  16. Well…. I read these comments about the wheelchairs so I don’t need to say why I need one, I have a list of reasons first one is breast cancer so please don’t judge people.

  17. We Americans always look for an opportunity to scam the system all of us know people who fake an injury just to get time off from work and still get paid,people who scammed the system to acquire handicap parking permits so they get the closest parking spot to the mall or supermarket even those with police family members who were able to get special police parking permits where they could literally park in front of a hydrant and not get a ticket now the newest scam is everyone is now saying their dogs are service animals this way they don’t have to pay for the animal to fly, the airport wheelchair scam has been in full bloom since 9/11 you get to go thru TSA security as fast as having global access and just like an earlier comment you see 15 wheelchairs boarding the plane but when you get to your destination now only 2 or 3 need a wheelchair the airlines know of this situation for years but won’t address it

  18. Reading this article and these comments convinced me to never, ever fly on Southwest. I travel a lot and fly a lot. I love traveling but I despise flying, mostly because of the ridiculous behavior of other people. I can’t even imagine having to compete for seating. I buy my seat, in advance like a civilized human being and if I book late, the consequence of that may be that the premium seating that I usually pay extra for is gone. Southwest sounds like a nightmare situation. People should be embarrassed by some of these comments shunning disabled people or people who are overweight. And as far as people scamming the system by “pretending” to be disabled, nobody should judge, just because someone may not “look” disabled, but if you are scamming the system by pretending to be disabled you’re simply a horrible human being. End of story.

  19. People who try to save seats on an airplane should be thrown from the plane mid flight.

  20. Having worked for an international airlines back years ago, there was no such thing as save a seat…you sat where you were assigned, and no you did not put stuff on seats to hold them…if it wasn’t your seat assignment, well flight attendants promptly told you to move your stuff either under the seat in front of you, or to the overhead compartment, no exceptions! And seating was done in an orderly manner, with rows called according to the planes configuration…. not willy nilly crap of today. Passengers were treated as paying guests and did not act like the entitled hoards of rude, overbearing, demanding sub-human species many of today’s flyers do.

  21. People will always look for an advantage over ” the other guy” and boarding first and making sure there’s room in the overhead bin for your carry on is that advantage not to mention going thru TSA security on a special line where you zip thru the screening process there’s nothing worse than being told there’s no more room in the overhead bins so they check your bag at the gate and if you have a connecting flight this could spell disaster to me its not as bad as bringing your dog on the plane and claiming it’s a “service animal” so you don’t have to pay for the animals flight that’s outright stealing and if I pay several hundred dollars for a seat I certainly don’t want to sit next to someone’s dog

  22. Replying to Char: You are absolutely right flying in today’s world has become a truly “cattle car” experience

  23. Best one I personally saw was a woman who went to early boarding when they called for children to be boarded.
    She brought her almost adult children up and said they’re my children I demand to be boarded.
    White crew inform them NO they weren’t even having it.
    She tried to argue with them but they just dismissed her and went on with what they needed to do

  24. It’s really, really simple. Board all wheel chairs needing passengers first and to the rear of the plane. They are forbidden to deplane until last. I’m guessing they will rethink their scam.

  25. Reply to Gavin: What if a wheelchair passenger has paid for a seat that’s close to the front or even a first class ticket I have more of a problem with people who bring dogs and cats on the plane and claiming they’re service animals so they don’t have to pay for the animal that’s stealing what’s next, will people be allowed to bring a monkey on board, when will airlines draw the line

  26. Similar things happen on the airlines that have reserved seats. I saw a woman intimidate a young man who was next to her husband until the young man moved to a middle seat in another row that belonged to her. She wanted to sit with her husband who immediately went to sleep (2 hour flight). Since seats are often selected and PAID for at booking how can you ask someone to move because you either booked late or didn’t want to pay for your seat. Also front vs back – how much extra time does it take to deplane from the back? I prefer the back because I am fine with waiting and might reap the benefit of open seats if the flight isn’t full!

  27. I don’t look disabled. I do have a permanent disability plaque. I have bad arthritis in my lower back and legs. So for me it depends on the distance I have to walk and how long I’d have to stand. So to be safe I do request assistance at airports. Gates are too far from security and standing to wait to go through can be difficult and painful for me. And to stand in line at the gate under your required boarding letter can be long. So I’m sorry everyone that judges others. Just be thankful you are not healthy and be kind to others. It’s really not that difficult to do

  28. I think for people that have a disability and need a wheelchair, should get a legit doctor’s note. It may or may not work. The crazy thing is, Karma is a Bitch. Those who play with having a disability won’t like it until they need a wheelchair. And, it will happen.

  29. The ones with actual disabilities need to understand there is no ill will against you. It’s the ones who are miraculously cured at the end of the flight who don’t require a wheelchair.

  30. @JP: You wrote, “I have more of a problem with people who bring dogs and cats on the plane and claiming they’re service animals so they don’t have to pay for the animal that’s stealing what’s next, will people be allowed to bring a monkey on board, when will airlines draw the line.”

    Good news, JP. Airlines have drawn the line. Monkeys can’t fly in the passenger cabin. In the United States, ADA regulations from the DOJ state that dogs are the only species permitted to be service animals, with the single possible exception of miniature horses. As with their canine counterparts, miniature horses must be individually trained by someone to perform a specific task for a person with a disability.

  31. To Ken A: I’m glad to hear that as of now monkeys can’t fly but it’s obvious BS that some little dog that can fit in a woman’s purse is any service dog people know airlines don’t check for state certification and if they did people would make one up online it’s gotten out of hand, I love dogs all my life but if I pay several hundred dollars for a seat I certainly don’t want to sit next to someone’s dog

  32. Southwest absolutely does have a policy about seat saving, you can’t. Whether you put donuts, bags or any other item in the seat if there’s not a person sitting there it open. If I want the seat and your stuff is there it will be moved.

  33. Service animals are not registered or certified at a state or federal level, because no such certification is available in the US.

  34. To Sally: so there’s absolutely no oversight so anyone can bring a dog onboard and not pay for the animal and claim it to be a service animal the airlines have given a green light to scammers meanwhile we have to pay $40 to check our bags and Jetblue charges for your carry on

  35. That’s correct. There is no state or federal oversight or requirements for registrations. Most people don’t realize this. It’s also true that service animals are NOT required to wear identifying vests, collars, or leads, much less specific types of vests, etc.

    Here is information from the US Department of Justice (https://www.ada.gov/topics/service-animals/):
    Generally, businesses and non-profits that are open to the public as well as state/local governments must allow service animals to go most places where the public can go. This is true even if they have a “no pets” policy.

    About Service Animals
    Service animals are:

    Any breed and any size of dog

    Trained to perform a task directly related to a person’s disability

    Service animals are not:
    Required to be certified or go through a professional training program

    Required to wear a vest or other ID that indicates they’re a service dog

    Emotional support or comfort dogs, because providing emotional support or comfort is not a task related to a person’s disability

  36. It is a bit odd that there really people who use wheelchairs to preboard, even though they don’t need them. NO Airline requires a wheelchair to preboard, so why tie up the chairs and attendants who push them?

  37. To Michael: While it may not be a requirement it is certainly a guarantee that wheelchair passengers will be pre bordered before all others the person with a cast or sling on their arm may very well not get the courtesy of pre boarding

  38. To Mark Redd: What if someone is saving the seat because the occupant had to use the bathroom touching and moving someone’s stuff can lead to a ” beatdown” be careful

  39. I find some of these comments to be inappropriate about peoples abilities or disabilties, size, gender, race or circumstances. We are ALL human and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. What happened to just being kind. We are all trying to get from point A to point B. We are not in other passengers shoes and we don’t know why each individual chooses one thing or another and should mind our own business.

    As for the seat saving, I do believe SW should make an announcement at the beginning of each boarding that seat saving is prohibited. They are losing revenue and people that paid to board earlier are losing the option of a good seat for the money paid.

  40. Someone explain how breast cancer is a disability and prostate, skin colon or thyroid isn’t?

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