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Southwest Airlines

Is It OK to Save Seats on Southwest?

Is It OK to Save Seats on Southwest?
Ariana Arghandewal

I don’t know about you all, but I Love Southwest. Almost everything about flying Southwest is awesome, from the crew’s quirky sense of humor to the comfort of their seats and their rewards programs. Southwest’s egalitarian model is really impressive and makes for a pleasant travel experience, in my opinion.

But there are things about flying Southwest that aren’t so peachy and that’s the seating situation. Sure, you can pay for A-Group boarding, but if you’re a cheapo and forget to check in on time, you’ll get stuck in an undesirable boarding group. Which begs the question: When you’re flying Southwest, is it ok to save seats for travel companions with lower boarding priority?

Full disclosure: I have saved seats before. I was in A-Group boarding and saved a seat (I know, shoot me) for someone traveling in the B-Group. I simply put a coat on the seat and yes, several people shot death-stares at me that were well-deserved.

I guess that wraps up the question of whether saving seats is ok or not, right? Actually, it’s not that simple. According to a Southwest Employee, saving seats on Southwest flights isn’t against the rules. A few folks have rejected this notion, stating that Southwest policy entitles passengers to “any unoccupied seat.”

However, in a Flyertalk thread from a few years ago, a Southwest employee stated that while the airline does have an “any open seat” policy, they also do not have a policy for or against saving seats. So Southwest is basically leaving it to passengers to figure it out amongst themselves. Very democratic.

Since Southwest is essentially letting us decide, I’m going to give my two cents on the saving seats issue. I don’t think it’s a big deal if you’re saving a seat for someone who is no more than one boarding group higher than you. It’s kind of screwed up when an A-Group passenger saves a seat for a C-Group passenger. Another thing to take into consideration is which seat you’re saving exactly.

If you’re saving a seat on Southwest, it’s probably because you just want to sit together. In that case, I don’t think saving a seat near the middle or back of the plane is that terrible. Chances are, nobody will claim it anyway. You may even want to claim a window and aisle seat – few people will ask you to get up so they can sit in the middle. Or the window, especially if there are more easily accessible seats nearby.

What I would absolutely be opposed to is saving multiple seats. I’ve read about A-List members complaining about non-elite passengers saving multiple bulkhead seats. Now, bulkhead seats are as close to business/first class as a Southwest seat gets, so it is indeed screwed up to save a “premium seat,” let alone multiple. As I said, Southwest is pretty egalitarian and one of the few ways they up-sell passengers is with priority boarding. Denying those passengers the benefit they paid for (i.e. bulkhead seats) is just inconsiderate. And I should know, because according to my own example, so am I. 😉


I want to hear from you: Do you think it’s ok to save seats on Southwest flights? Why or why not?

View Comments (11)


  1. ewok22

    December 21, 2017 at 7:16 am

    No it’s not ok to save seats IMO…..put’s you into the same category of those who put their towels on chairs around the pool at a resort to save the best spots and then don’t return for hours.
    What would happen if everyone not just you saved seats? It would be a mess for sure and really just because your in A boarding group dosen’t give you the privilege of deciding who else can sit where including the other A’s. Just my opinion but I think it’s wrong..

  2. EbonyTatas

    December 21, 2017 at 7:26 am

    No never

  3. Michael El

    Michael El

    December 21, 2017 at 8:22 am

    I think it’s acceptable to save middle seats in the rear of the plane. NEVER in an exit row though.

  4. Proudelitist

    December 21, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Everything you like about Southwest is everything I hate about it. The chummy, camp counselor-esque, cornball jokes are, to my ears, undignified and tiresome. The open seating program removes the safe knowledge pre-flight that you have managed to make yourself more comfortable by getting a choice seat in advance. The reward program gets you nothing but an economy seat. There are no lounges. No first class. No ability to use miles to fly internationally on code share carriers. I liken the airline to a McDonalds of the skies. It is TOO egalitarian. TOO democratic. Why, it’s practically communist.

    However, the seat saving issue in particular really bothers me. It was always a problem, and is tantamount to line cutting. This was all made worse when Southworst rolled out Early Bird Checkin. For extra money, they would sell you the cure to the problem that they themselves created with boarding positions. Now, you could buy the security of knowing you would get a marginally better boarding number. Most of the time, that is.

    What really happened was that people in groups would buy 1 EBCI, and then save the rest for their companions with C passes. Because Southworst has no policy either way, their neglect devalued the product they were selling. What value is EBCI if other passengers are going to save seats? Southworst refuses to do anything about other passengers gaming the system and devaluing what other paying passengers purchased.

    It’s not too bad if someone saves a middle in a regular row. However, people do this with emergency exit rows and bulkheads as well. And seats nearer to the front. But even if someone is saving a middle near the back, that effectively moves everyones BP behind them up one. It removes 1 choice from people who are obeying the rules. Each save amounts to 1 line jump.

    I have ignored people’s insistence on saving an exit row seat more than once. I didn’t pay for EBCI to not sit there when it is open. I have no problem with the angry person attempting the save being angry at me for the duration of the flight. Any open seat means I can sit there. No reserved seating means exactly that..NO RESERVED SEATING even if by another pax. I certainly don’t expect support from the camp counselors..oops. I mean FA’s.

  5. Mr. Vker

    December 21, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Saving seats is one thing-as you mention-non-premium seats specifically. However, WN has created a system with Bus Select and A-List, and buying up boarding positions that include the benefit of earlier boarding-and better seat selection. IMHO, WN has an obligation to protect that benefit by stating that saving is not allowed if someone requests that seat. In other words, “holding a seat” is ok but you cannot turn someone away to give to a spouse 40 positions back. On more than half my flights, the exit row has a seat being held for someone. That’s not reasonable.

  6. monalisa1506

    December 21, 2017 at 9:12 am

    I have no problem with people saving seats on SW flights, regardless of where the seats are and regardless of what group boarding the friend is on. It’s no different than saving a seat at a restaurant, theatre or, whatever. But, but… what about the people who paid for early bird boarding? They are going to be just fine as well. All early bird passengers board the plane early enough that there are plenty of decent, suitable seats still available. As a society, we have to relax a bit and stop being so hostile towards one another. Be a mensch!

  7. eng3

    December 21, 2017 at 9:39 am

    I think it is certainly OK to save the middle seat next to you. Now if if it is any more than that, it gets greedy. What is “OK” really depends on how comfortable the person doing the seat saving is with death stares. If they don’t care, then it doesnt matter. Now, I never fly WN specifically because I can’t get an assigned seat. It is a bit of a slap in the face to loyal frequent flyers. Sure you can get an early A group so you dont have to remember to checkin early, however you still are forced to board early. On other airlines, I like the flexibility to board late if I want. Maybe I’m eating a quick meal, maybe I want to spend more time in the lounge. Also, I have always found it ironic that one of the benefits of WN’s seating is that kids can have fun in the back away from the parents, where on any other airline, I’ll have aggressive parents ask me to switch seats so they won’t be separate from their kids.

  8. 5202flyer

    December 21, 2017 at 9:54 am

    I have no problem when boarding and encountering someone who is saving a seat. I would do it also if there was a gap in my seat position and my wife’s. There are bigger things to get upset over. Some people just need to “get a grip”, as they say.

  9. zitsky

    December 21, 2017 at 11:55 am

    No saving seats. It’s inconsiderate. The author seems pretty pleased with herself.

  10. IntlRabbit

    December 21, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Sure glad I’ve never had to deal with this craziness. Southwest, you are, and remain, on my “no fly” list.

  11. pointchaser

    December 21, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    Interesting perspective, guys. You all make good cases both for/against it.

    @zitsky she certainly is!

    @intlrabbit give it a shot. It’s really not that bad – and this is coming from someone who has vowed never to fly Ryanair.

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