20 September 2007

Update to Southwest Airlines Boarding Procedures

Well, it's said and done. When I opened up the Tampa Tribune this morning at my office and read through the business section I noticed that starting in November Southwest Airlines will be implementing a revised boarding policy.

This is how it's going to work:

You check in for your flight starting 24 hours in advance at the Southwest.com web site. As soon as you are checked in you will be assigned two boarding items: First is your boarding group of A, B or C as we Southwest veterans are used to as before; second will be a number right after your boarding group letter and that number will be your place in line. Sound simple?

When you get to the airport you won't have to worry about staking a place in line at the gate for your flight. While at the airport you can enjoy all the amenities offered like getting something to eat or sitting down and using your laptop in the terminal. When your flight is called the new procedure will be for a given boarding group five at a time. For example, if you are assigned into Boarding Group A and you are 4th in line - this will show up on your boarding pass as A-4 - the gate agent will call Group A, 1 through 5 and that's how you will board.

At around the same time this new boarding policy at Southwest takes effect the preboarding policy is going to change as well. Presently in addition to disabled, unaccompanied children ages 5 through 11 and those customers needing a second seat families who had a child younger than 5 got to wait in the preboard line. Not anymore under the new policy. Instead, if the family group is assigned to Boarding Group A they will board according to their position in line; however, if the family group is assigned to Boarding Groups B or C they will be able to board after the Boarding Group A has boarded the aircraft. In my opinion, restricting preboarding to disabled, unaccompanied children ages 5 through 11 or those who have had to purchase a second seat is a better idea.

Southwest has an informative and educational page on their new boarding procedures, which you can read simply by clicking on this link.

As I mentioned in a previous post here at the Edward Ringwald Blog and in replies to posts on the topic of possible assigned seating on Southwest's blog I think the new boarding policy and procedure as well as the revised preboarding policy will be a win-win situation for everyone. I know, not everyone will be pleased but let's give this new boarding procedure at Southwest a try!

I cordially welcome your feedback on Southwest's new boarding policy and procedure anytime.

04 September 2007

Southwest Airlines Boarding Procedures

While I was vacationing in Los Angeles over the Labor Day weekend and after I checked in for my return flight to Tampa via Southwest Airlines I went over to their blog. I found an interesting article where Southwest is testing a boarding procedure in San Antonio where not only you are assigned your boarding group you are also assigned a place in line.

I think this is a very splendid idea. Here is a comment I made on Southwest Airlines' blog on this topic recently:

I think this is a splendid idea of not only assigning the boarding group, also assigning your place in line in that boarding group. However, if Southwest wants to implement this boarding procedure systemwide its computer systems need to be secure from these so-called “automated” web services that claim to promise you the coveted A boarding group. After all, being a loyal Southwest traveler myself I would not - repeat not - spend any of my hard earned money to pay one of these web services claiming to get you an A boarding group boarding pass when you can do this online at Southwest.com for free. Besides, I would save that money towards a rental car and/or a hotel room.

Additionally, if someone wanted a specific seat on the plane (such as a front bulkhead seat, for example) I would not mind paying Southwest for the privilege of doing so. This would be a lot better than purely assigning seats like the other airlines do.

Not too long ago I did a web search for "Boarding Group A" on Google and I found a few services, one which will get you a Boarding Group A boarding pass for free and another which promises to get you a Boarding Group A boarding pass for a fee of $5.00. Sounds good? I don't think so.

It's my understanding that Southwest painstakingly secures its systems to make a fair playing field for all passengers like myself when it comes to checking in and getting your boarding pass for your flight, whether it may be online or at the airport. Moreover, from what I have read elsewhere Southwest has shut down these so-called automated web services that claim to promise you a Boarding Group A boarding pass.

As I mentioned in my post on the Southwest Airlines blog I would never pay one of these so-called automated services to promise me a Boarding Group A boarding pass nor give out any of my personal information such as my PNR number to one of these sites. Instead, you can save that money for a rental car and/or a hotel room as well as a lot of aggravation by checking in for your Southwest flight at Southwest.com and receive your boarding pass there. After all, nine times out of ten if you check in beginning 24 hours prior to your flight's departure you should get the coveted Boarding Group A boarding pass. After all, Boarding Group A is your ticket to finding a seat that you like on Southwest.

By the way, the term PNR stands for Passenger Number Record. This identifies you in Southwest's computer system as a passenger on a given flight. You get this when you make your reservation online, by calling Southwest and speaking to a reservations sales agent, or by going to the airport to purchase your tickets.

From what I also understand Southwest wants to switch to assigned seating in the future but I think what is being tested in San Antonio plus the opportunity to get the seat you want for payment of a small charge would be the ticket rather than purely assigning seats. After all, Southwest's open seating policy is what makes Southwest stand out from the other airlines, which means flights are turned around faster. Besides, Southwest's open seating policy plus their legendary customer service made me a loyal Southwest customer since September 2000 when I flew my first Southwest flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Tampa; before then in 1998 my mother and I flew on Delta from Tampa to San Francisco (as my graduation present for getting my associate's degree in legal assisting) but the customer service I have experienced on Delta was very substandard (in fact, when we landed at San Francisco and I was helping my mother get off the plane as she was disabled the flight attendant got very abrupt with me for no reason at all). My experience on Delta in 1998 is what caused me to go to another airline. Sadly, I lost my mother in March 2000 after three weeks in the ICU unit due to a heart attack and I took a trip to Ft. Lauderdale in September 2000 as part of the healing process.