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Is It OK to Save Seats on Southwest?

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?

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11 Comments
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pointchaser December 22, 2017

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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IntlRabbit December 21, 2017

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

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zitsky December 21, 2017

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

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5202flyer December 21, 2017

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.

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eng3 December 21, 2017

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.